dear 11-year-old me,

You have had the chance to feel like there is nothing the world could possibly do to harm you. You can write and you’re smart and you’re just starting to learn to draw and your friends are few – always have been, always will be – but close. You feel untouchable. You feel loved.

Hold onto that feeling, little fieldfare, because things change fast for you and you won’t feel invincible for too much longer.

Secondary school will break you, because let’s face it: you’re weird. You’re just weird. You’re a little too loud and a little too close and your heart’s stitched badly to your sleeve. You’ll find that loving as hard as you do – whether it’s for a TV show or your characters or your friends – is too much for the people around you.

You’re going to cry on the bus home for weeks. You’re going to be scared of school for as long as you’re there. The pressure, the loneliness, the way you resort to lying and hiding to even begin to cope with how much you’re hurting – your 21-year-old self just got a ripple of anxiety just remembering the absolute dread that you’re going to feel. It’s going to be hard. I’m sorry.

You’re going to figure out some things and they’re not going to help you right now. You’re going to have a girl kiss you for the first time and you’re not going to be sure that you do love her, but you’re going to kiss her back and tell her you do anyway because it makes something that feels maybe like happiness bloom in your chest where it’s been gone for so long.

You’ll love her eventually, though, and she’s going to isolate you from everyone you hold dear and you’re going to let her, because you believe her when she tells you they don’t love you or care about you as much as she does. She’ll do things to you that you never thought you would let anybody do to you. She’ll do it for three years.

When she’s done, you won’t be able to sleep without waking up needing to vomit from anxiety for months, because you won’t even realise it’s happening until you’ve come out the other side.

Eventually, you’ll also figure out that you’re not quite a girl, and it’ll take you years to come to terms with that. That will probably be the hardest thing you’ll have to accept.

Little bird, it is going to be so hard to keep going. You’ll think about giving up almost every day. I know you’re young, and you think you know everything, and you’re brave and bold and fiery and god, I want to tell you you’ll be like that forever.

But you won’t.

Keep going anyway.

Keep going, because here’s the good news:

1. The art I make now would blow you out of the water. You won’t believe it’s come from your hands.
2. Your spark for writing won’t die for years. You’ll get amazing grades for it – and you’ll go on to study it at university.
3. You’ll find music that puts fire back in your soul and gives you the drive to get through the next few years. Let it. You’ll learn to play guitar and drums and bass and ukulele and you’ll even learn to sing better.
4. You will make new friends. You will make incredible friends. They’ll be few and they’ll be close, just the way you like it, and every single one will accept you and love you for who you are, not who they want you to be.
5. You’ll go to America all by yourself – I know! Not to Disney World (sorry to disappoint) but you will go to Oregon to stay with your best friend and it will be the most beautiful, breathtaking place you’ve ever been and the first time in your life you’ve felt completely, blissfully free. You’ll even see California and you’ll be with a new love, a girl who, if only for a short while, lets you feel the kind of love you deserve.
6. You will make a new home for yourself in Portsmouth. Not the city you’d ever expect, but the city you now can’t imagine not having chosen for university. It’ll be just the reset button you need.
7. When you’re 17, you’ll finally get a dog! He’s a big, fat, completely daft black Labrador called Blake and you won’t know how you lived without him. He’s your pain in the ass and you love him more than you’ve ever loved anything so far.

And, if none of that convinces you, this will.

One day, you will be 21. You’ll wake up next to a beautiful, brown-eyed boy with long, soft hair and a heart that inspires you to be the best version of yourself you can be. The sun will drift lazily through the curtains and cast him in soft golden light, and you’re going to watch the rise and fall of his chest and his peaceful face until he slowly blinks awake, sees your face, and smiles in a way that leaves you dazed.

You’ll kiss him, and he’ll kiss you, and he’ll tell you he loves you. You won’t doubt it. You’ll tell him you love him, too, and you will know in your bones that it’s true.

And in that moment, you’ll remember how it feels to feel invincible.

Love,
Brendon (21)

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