A Letter To My 20 Year Old Self.

Dear Michelle,

First off - Breathe. It's gonna be okay. 

I know you feel trapped, in this world you think is going to be forever. You feel paralyzed by something that doesn't necessarily feel like fear, but it is. You won't admit it, it's okay. 

I bet you're setting up your camera on your tripod, getting ready to take another really artistically dark self portrait. You think it's just art (which it is) but holy shit, it speaks volumes about what you're dealing with. It is your emotional outlet and you have absolutely no idea. You will one day look back at these photos and be able to see every ounce of pain and anxiety and suffocating feeling you are feeling right now. It is awful but also incredible in a really weird way. It tells a story.

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I promise you though - it goes away. Soon you will see that nothing is a barrier for you and you are absolutely fucking limitless. Soon you will see that life can be so much more than your current routine. Soon you will see how much you are capable of achieving. Your worth is not defined by his definition of "love". That is not love. You will see. But first, you will have to learn how to love yourself without anyone else involved. You will have to learn how to stand on your own two feet. It's gonna be really fucking hard, but it's gonna be so worth it.

You will find peace in therapy. You will find out who your true friends are. You will become independent and self sufficient. You will also fall down along the way, you will struggle, you will make mistakes and hurt people but you will learn lessons. Learning - that's good. Just make sure you keep moving forward. You will take this whole awful experience and use it for good; to reach out to others. You will instill strength in people who were/are in your current situation. I know you may not feel like it now, but I swear to fucking god you will have a voice. You will find love. You will find happiness and you will no longer be a victim of abuse. 

But one thing you don't have to worry about changing... is you will never lose the passion to be creative. It may not be dark, but it's probably for the best that you can no longer channel those feelings anymore. You will still be creating and it will become your full time job. Remember in high school when we had no career future in mind, all we knew was that we wanted to create and it needed to involve a camera? We do that. We fucking do that. How cool is that?

Your future is bright no matter how dim your light may be at the moment. Your spirit will no longer be crushed. Your personality will no longer be hidden by fear. You will learn what real love feels like and you'll realize that when you are 24 and you meet a boy who asks to take your picture and makes you feel so beautiful. 

I know you're doing the best you can. I know it's hard for you to open up to anyone. I promise what you're going through will be heard. What you're going through will not define you. What you're going through will always be with you, but you will soon see it from a different perspective. This will not hinder your growth.

So just breathe, and repeat after me: This is not forever. This is just the pre-game of something great. These are stepping stones. This is just an unfortunate carnival ride we went on - but we get off of it. I love you and I'm so proud of you. You're gonna be so great. 

Love, Michelle