fourteen.

Hey, you. It’s you. Well, it’s the you that happened because you made the decisions you did — including the ones that may have seemed like bad ideas in retrospect as recently as, oh, twenty. Or twenty-four. I need to let you know that it’s going to be all right somehow.

So, I know you’re copping a lot of shit from a lot of people over your sexuality and your religious leanings. Haters gonna hate, and also a fair few of them will Get Theirs because karma works. Your parents will love you regardless. In fact, they will beg you to keep loving them. You’re going to discover how human they are, and have some hard choices about forgiveness and love. You’ll make the right choices if you follow your heart. You have quite the moral compass, kiddo.

You will be devastated twice next year. Your first sadness will be lonely; your second will be felt around the world. I’m sorry about both of them. Try not to beat yourself up too hard, okay? There really is nothing you can do to fix this. It will get way worse before it begins to get better, but I promise you it gets better.

By the way, because there are other kids like you who will be bullied to the point of suicide, “it gets better” will turn into such a cliché. Spoiler alert: you survive. You will become disabled, and sometimes you will wish you hadn’t survived after all. That’s okay, because when you are me, you will have a Jessica to guide you through these awful feelings. In between, you will meet some incredible souls going through things that hurt just as much, and fight like hell to keep hold of the souls you’ve already met. Know that Google is your friend, and don’t be afraid to say “Hi, I was wondering if you could help me?”

You’ll spend a few years thinking you’ve found the right people. By the time you are me, you will know that only some of those people were good for you after all, but you wouldn’t be me if you had turned left. (That phrase will mean something to you.)

You want to be me. I think the disability stuff is all a genetic time bomb anyway, so if there’s really nothing I could’ve done differently, then I can tell you that you want to be me when you grow up. You want to be the woman who spends at least four and a half years in the deepest, most sickening, tragic, beautiful love with her darling man. You want to grow into your fashion sense. (Well, I’m glad I did.) You want to discover that happiness means giving, not just taking.

You’re going to love so well. Not just the one man, though he’ll be worth every second of your time. You’re going to love so many people, and they’re going to come away blessed. They will be all right.

I wish I could tell you AIDS would be cured. It won’t.
I wish I could say we had peace in the Middle East. We don’t.
I wish I could give you back what you don’t even know you’ll lose.

But I can’t do a thing except tell you, if there’s ever a way for the universe to give you these words, that you are a damn pilgrim, hardy and stubborn, finding purchase among the rocks on this unwelcoming shore. You are an immigrant and the child of an immigrant, even though you are a citizen here, and that status-out-of-status will make you wiser and more compassionate than if you had lived a simpler life.

Oh, and you cuss like a sailor.

I love you. I’m sorry I didn’t always show it. Please, please hang in there, and not by your neck (I make that joke, too). Despite everything that hurts, I am happy, and I want you to know my happiness, too.

— Twenty-Six (and Eight-Odd Months)

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