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A letter to my 18-year old self about heartbreak

Dear Athira,

It’s been 11 years since I last spoke to you, and I know you’re probably dealing with heartbreak on some level. Hell, I’m here at 29 and dealing with heartbreak.

People assume, including you my dear, that heartbreak is only in the romantic kind of relationships.

But I’m here to tell you that there’s more to it.

I’ve been fortunate enough in the time we haven’t spoken to do a bit of learning on my own. A lot of learning actually.

I’ve taken a path into therapy over the last 5 years which has been transformational. This is all thanks to our 23-year old self, when she realized early on in her corporate career that she was burning out and sought help. We haven't looked back since.

It’s been a journey and a half since then, but there is no doubt in my mind, sitting here on my laptop and writing this from our garden in Malawi (yes, you still do go back and visit), that it was one of the best decisions that we’ve taken for ourselves.

So here I am, at 29, just having finished my journey with therapy. I believe I’m done, but who knows? I might go back.

One thing I can say for sure that I’m sitting here writing this letter to you from the most confident, self-loving and authentic place that I’ve ever been. And I’d like to believe that it’ll only flourish from here.

By now, you’ve probably experienced some level of heartbreak in a crush or two, and even in friendships. And yes, you can experience heartbreak in friendships - it’s acutely painful. I’m sure you’ve experienced it even if you haven’t realized it yet though, my wide-eyed naive girl.

And I’m not even calling you naive to dismiss you; you were naive and sheltered in many ways, and the next ten years in life is about to be a rollercoaster of a journey.

We don’t expect our friends to leave Athira, do we?

We swear with our pinky fingers that we’ll be friends forever and share everything with each other. From sleepovers to phone calls excitedly telling our friends every single detail of our lives, friendships feel everlasting.

I’m sure as you read this letter, you’d be adamant to believe I’m wrong, and prove even harder that your friendships will work out.

Spoiler alert: the harder you try to cling in your friendships the more likely you are to encounter losses in the same. Looking at you at 23-year old Athira, when this hit you like a ton of bricks.

By now I’m sure you’ll have seen that some friends will have let you down in ways that you couldn’t imagine. It feels hurtful, betraying and will seem like you’ll never go back to being friends with them, but some of those friends actually do stay, and some of them don’t.

You’ll learn to be honest and communicate in your friendships in ways that feel uncomfortable, but the friends that truly get you will go through the discomfort with you.

And one of the biggest lessons I’ve learnt is that our friendships don’t always last. Not everyone in our lives stay for the entire course of our lives, and that is completely okay.

This includes romantic relationships.

This also includes family relationships.

Oh Athira, there are some sort of heartbreaks that you’ll find it even harder to get over.

Friendships and romantic relationships I’d say are actually much easier. Perhaps easier isn’t the right word, but just… There’s a path to it in which you get closure. And whilst you can indeed get closure from death, I suppose I’m in a place in my life right now where the grief around death is still very heartbreaking to deal with.

These sort of heartbreaks completely wash you over.

Spoiler alert #2: your first tattoo will be one that you will choose to have to honor Muttachan, your grandfather, in his passing.

I write this with tears in my eyes as I think of the losses to come your way, and even though it’s hard, you’ve totally got this. There’ll be some people who won’t understand the level of depth and grief you’ll encounter in these painful losses, but trust me when I say this level is only testament to the amount of love you have for these individuals.

It’s also a testament to how whole and connected you are to yourself, and you have always chosen to honor your feelings, a choice I’m truly proud of you for by the way.

With the people you'll lose in this sense, there’s no doubt that they’re looking down on you, as you progress through life with fondness, pride and joy.

And then there’s romantic relationships…

Remember all those moments you dramatically flung yourself on the bed, pouring your heart out in tears, believing your life was over in the face of rejection? I mean, okay hold on - I suppose you don’t realise these things so let me take a step back.

Remember when you felt like your world was over because your crush didn’t like you back? Or when you felt like you’d never find love again because your long-distance relationship didn’t work out?

It’s all valid, I’m not here to dismiss your journey. But I am here to tell you that the amount of learning you’ll encounter in this is far more than you can imagine.

First of all, one of the things you'll slowly learn over time is that love isn't enough in romantic relationships. It'll take a fair amount of disrespect from another individual, healing, and loss of identity to get to this point.

Healing, ebbs and flows. Self-love as well, will ebb and flow for you.

You'd never believe the person I am today. You'd never even recognise her Athira! I'm shocked within myself, to see how much I've grown in the last decade.

Second of all, you'll learn to fall in love with yourself. And no, it's not selfish or arrogant.

You'll find your way to being brave, bold and beautiful.

I wish that I could hug you as you sit in your pain. I wish that I could wipe away your tears and tell you its all going to be okay.

Because at the end of this journey, you're connecting with yourself and it's been unimaginably wondrous.

So hang in there baby girl. Through all the tears, through all the heartbreaks you're going to encounter, you are a fighter. You've got fire in your feet and fire in your eyes, and you're going to take the world by storm. Spoiler alert #3: You're going to get a tattoo that...

I'm giving away too much. Enjoy your next ten years Athira! It's going to be a hell of a ride.

Lots of love and sunshine,

Your 29-year old self.

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1 Comment

So kind and compassionate to your past self! So well written!

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