Dear twenty-year-old me,
It’s forty-year-old me. Twice your age. We made it to forty! It’s so much better than you would imagine.
You’re in the middle of a pretty rough year – moving into your first apartment with your best friend at the time (we know how that goes), struggling in organic chemistry, realizing that engineering might not really be your thing, feeling scared that you might be going crazy, trying to find your way with your sexuality, and desperately wanting true love. Let me tell you how all of that turns out.
You freak out your best friend by being too needy. In fact, you go on to do that over and over again, until you gradually learn to take responsibility for your needs. You can now share your needs at forty, but almost never with that hungry sucky quality that freaks people the EFF out! You turn out to have great friends, by the way. Friends who get you, friends who call you on your bullshit, and friends who fill your soul with gladness.
You fail organic chemistry and lose your scholarships. It’s a pretty big deal. You’ve never failed anything before. You really want to take a year off to travel and sort yourself out, but being the responsible firstborn-child you are, you take your parents’ advice and carry on. I think that was the wrong call, incidentally, but I get why you made it. And you did do something great – you slowed down and added an Arts minor to your engineering degree. You discover that English literature and music are good for the soul. So is slowing down. You were in a big hurry then. Ironically, at forty, it feels like there’s more time to learn and be. Mostly. At forty, you also begin to feel your mortality.
Yeah, engineering really wasn’t your thing. You kind of sucked at the practical world for quite a while. Give you a math problem or a theory, you were happy. But engineers actually do stuff. You’ve come a long way with both those things. You don’t see yourself as a failed engineer anymore – you got that engineering degree and you do environmental protection work that you really care about, that provides financial support for your family and lets you follow your passion for learning. You went on to study naturopathic medicine, dream work, and body psychotherapy – each diploma bringing you closer to work that you love, and gets you more into your body and more connected to this beautiful planet.
You don’t go crazy. You have powerful feelings, some of them overwhelming. You struggle at times with anxiety and depression. At forty, you’ve tapped into a lot of resources, and your capacity to let your feelings flow while you hold space for them, or get help from other people, is so much greater. You rarely get stuck in the depression and anxiety anymore.
Turns out you’re pretty straight – you just really dig dudes – but you had a good time figuring that out. You kind of floundered with the sexuality thing for a while – dating people you weren’t really attracted to (as long as they were attracted to you), and ending up unhappy in love a lot of the time. I think one of the big problems with dating for you was that you were always looking for someone else to make you happy, and make you feel good enough. Spoiler alert: it didn’t work. You had to do a lot of work to take back your body, to make your sexuality your own, but you did it. And it’s good. You know what you want now. You’re a bright, beautiful light, and you feel better in your skin every year.
And love? Ah, love. Yeah, sorry about that. There is no knight in shining armour. There’s no one to make you feel whole. But you do feel more whole at forty. You have a good man – a willing partner in the hard work of love. You don’t feel in love all the time, but that’s not what you’re looking for anymore. Committed love is a safe(ish) place to see how you got messed up, to have all that stuff mirrored and stirred up, and to heal it. You wanted someone else to love you, want you, cherish you. You had to learn to do that for yourself and to really open so that you could let yourself love and be loved by your man. The journey was worth it, and it’s not over yet. You’re still in the middle of love. Not the beginning. Not the end. And although that’s what the songs and poetry are usually about, the middle of love is actually where a lot of the juicy stuff is found.
So, keep the faith. You’re going to make it. Fight the good fight. It’s worth it.
Love, forty-year-old me