If I could tell my younger self only one thing, it would be this: Don’t be afraid. There are no ghosts in your closet or monsters under your bed. Do not be afraid of wild things. You are a wild thing. Roar like it. Have a wild rumpus or two.
When you are learning how to ride a bike, you will fall down, a lot. You will get injured almost every time you try to play a sport. It will hurt, but you will survive. Don’t let your fear of pain keep you from trying. You will spend your whole life regretting the chances you didn’t take.
When you get a little bit older, you will be afraid that no one will like you. You will constantly fear with others think about you. When you aren’t included in something, you will see it as your own failure, and you will cry about it. You will try to be more like the person they want you to be. You will buy clothes and accessories that don’t suit you. You will beg your parents to get you what all of your friends have. You will play so many roles trying to impress them.
You don’t need to impress them. You need to be kind and compassionate. You need to care about their feelings, but you don’t need to worry about what they think of you. You need to worry about what you think of you. Don’t be afraid of yourself. Don’t be afraid to be yourself. People will like that about you.
Don’t remain quiet about things that matter. When you know something is wrong, speak up. When you know the right answer, say so. Always raise your hand when you have something to contribute. Don’t doubt the sound of your own voice. It is more powerful than you can imagine.
Later you will become afraid of your own body. It will grow and transform in ways that disappoint you. At times you will hate it. You will try to hide it, and to change it, and to beat it down until it is something you find beautiful. You will never find it beautiful. You will spend years chasing an impossible ideal. You will always fear you have failed.
Don’t be afraid of all that your body is and all that it can do. You can run. You can jump. You can dance. You can climb trees and swing from monkey bars and hold people in your arms. Do all of these things. Do them proudly and gratefully and often. You only have one body. Don’t waste that gift by fearing it.
You will be afraid of boys – that they will ask you out and that they won’t ask you out. You will be afraid that they will love you and also that they won’t. They will seem different and complicated and scary. Your heart will get broken a few times. The pain will seem unbearable, but you will survive. Don’t fear this pain. Don’t let it stop you from taking risks with your heart. Don’t close yourself off to love.
You will waste a lot of time in your life fearing that you are unworthy. You will be afraid that you’re not good enough, that you don’t deserve all that you want and hope for. Don’t do this. Please. It is silly and foolish and it will keep you from reaching for a great many things that were well within your grasp. You will look back and see that. You will wish you had stretched yourself a little. You will wish you hadn’t been so afraid.
I am older now, and I am less afraid of what you, younger self, feared. But I have new fears. Grown-up fears. I am afraid of never becoming financially stable. I am afraid of becoming too comfortable with silence. I am not afraid of being alone, but I am afraid of becoming lonely. I am afraid there won’t be enough time to say all that I want to say before the words in my heart die inside. I’m afraid of becoming a “real writer” and also of not becoming one. I’m afraid of not living my life fully, they way I want to, the way my younger self hoped I would.
I am not afraid of death, but I am afraid of losing those I love to death. I am afraid of the absence death leaves behind. I am afraid that no matter how many times I say “I love you,” it won’t ever be enough. I’m afraid of reaching my own death to discover there is leftover love that wasn’t spent on who and what mattered most. I’m afraid of losing sight of who and what that is.
But mostly, I am afraid of my own fear. I am afraid of what it has already cost me. I am afraid of the regrets that continue to form. I am afraid I’ll spend my whole life writing letters to my younger self, urging her, begging her, please, don’t be afraid. Take some chances. Leap. Your very life depends on it.