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Dear younger self: we have two lives

Dear younger self,

I am learning that there are two lives we have to work with.

The first one is the one we sculpt from the moment we learn to talk, the life we plan to have. Mine was incredible:

My plan was to have a book published by the age of fourteen (which I later bumped up to twenty-one). I planned to go to the University of British Columbia for my masters in Creative Writing. I would fall in love early, spend quality years with boyfriends I loved, until I met The One. Then we would get married, buy a house, have children, and own several unique and semi-expensive cars. In my planned life, all of this would happen by the age of thirty, for sure.

The second life we have to work with is our actual life, which never goes as planned. It is raw and messy and leaves us with more scars than trophies.

Instead of going to university, falling in love, and writing bestsellers before thirty,  depression ravaged my life. Instead of fulfilling my dreams I've spent almost thirteen years sitting in hospitals and therapists' offices, trying to figure out my compulsion to self-injure and what drove my suicide attempts. And why I'm get abused, over and over.

Now, I have trouble with comparisons. Comparing this ideal first life to the second realistic life and saying, "I did everything wrong."

I'm turning twenty-nine on Saturday, but I have no house to show for it. No car, no boyfriend, no bestsellers I've written. Just my zines, my buttons, my dog and my life. Yes, I'm still alive and although it mostly doesn't feel like an accomplishment, coming this far, it is one. A really big one.

I have a roof over my head, an apartment where I feel safe. I have someone to love (my dog, Digby), and something to do with my time, which is art and writing (and lots of reading). And those things are lovely. I wouldn't trade those very real tangible things for a dream life with a model family and lots of money. Because that, the dream life, could never work.

Hating myself only left me with scars head to toe, a body starved of nutrients, and on suicide watch. The only way I can stay out of that miserable place is to love myself, and when that's too much, I just like myself a little. Sometimes.

Liking myself has let me write and write and write, which is as close to my dream life as I'm ever going to get. It's allowed me to do art, which saves me daily. Liking me allows me to like others, it allows me to like the world.

All we have is today. We can fight our past and we can hate it and blame ourselves for fucking up so badly, but that keeps us stuck. All we have is the choices we can make today, right now, to survive in any way we can.

And, slowly, our methods of survival becomes the poetry of our days, the heart beating, pulsing us into life. Life hurts, it's unfair, and sometimes it's really fucking cold.

But other times we get to laugh, really hard. And spring comes after winter, every year.

So here's to avoiding comparison, here's to accepting what's real.

So here's to a birthday of celebrating my survival, because that alone is success. So many people are so scared of getting older, but as my dad says, it beats the alternative. I don't want to brush off this blessing.

So here's to rocking the last year of my twenties, because I'll never be this young again.