I turned 46 this year. If I could send a letter back in time to a younger me, this is what I’d write:
You’re about to turn 30. Strap yourself up in your seat belt because it’s about to get really tough.
You’ve already started to see glimpses of how difficult things are going to get.
The unhappiness. The general feeling of discontent. The loneliness. Feeling lost about almost everything.
All that gets worse. Much much worse.
Prepare yourself for a long period of darkness. You will feel like you are drowning. Every now and then you’ll find a straw, you will grab onto it thinking it will pull you back to the surface only to discover it’s a thorn. You will be pricked, you will have to let go of the thorn, and you will sink ever deeper.
Things will get so bad at one point that, for the first and only time in your life, you will briefly consider ending it. Breathe. Let the moment pass. It will.
You will call out for help. You will explain, using all the words you can find, what ails you. You will be clear that you need professional help. The people who matter, who can help, will hear you. But they will not be listening.
You will look around you and not know whom to trust. You will have many people around you, but you will feel as if you are alone in a stark, empty desert.
You will begin to doubt everything you once thought you knew: yourself, your general knowledge, your faith. It is when this doubt reaches its darkest place that you will begin to see a light.
Look around you. While you once thought you had no one to trust, you will spot someone. Another woman. Trust her. In her you will find solace and comfort. She will listen. She will not judge. She may be just as lost as you. She may not have answers. She may have just as much doubt. Put your hand in hers. In each other you will start to find strength.
Open your ears. Listen. Open your eyes. Observe. You will realize that you have not done this for years. You will discover that you had limited your sources for knowledge and awareness. Do not be afraid to seek knowledge from any one or any thing.
You will have to re-invent yourself. Not once. Not twice. You will discover that it is a continuous and ongoing process. You will fail many times. You will make unforgivable mistakes. Forgive yourself. Know that your life’s most important lessons will be found in those mistakes.
You will burn out. You will feel deep, inconsolable pain. Give yourself time to heal. Accept the pain and allow yourself to feel it. Accept the process. But know that just as one must lay low and rest in order to heal, one must eventually pick oneself up and build strength in order to become better. Learn to recognize that shifting point in the healing process. When it comes, grab onto it. It is like a wave that can push you back to shore if you work with it.
Things will get better. You will learn that they always do. You will also learn that they get really tough again. That’s just what life is about. There are good times. There are horrible times. There are even worse times. There are mediocre times. There are happy times. There is no constant. Learn to accept that. There is no constant.
You will learn that it is all right to feel lost. It is all right to have doubt. You will even learn to cherish your sense of being lost and your feelings of doubt. You will learn that it is only when you learn to question that you find a way to scratch at the surface of “truth”.
You will learn to respect most others’ “truths” and to find some truth in almost every “truth”. You will also find many “truths” are so twisted and so evil that they make you doubt your own truths. Don’t panic. It’s all right. Life and truth are confusing matters. Just keep scratching at that surface.
Nadia, your children will grow up into the most amazing human beings. You will have many failures, but you will also climb one of the world’s highest mountains and cycle on your own across a whole continent. On one of your adventures, you will meet the love of your life. And remember that woman? Your love for her will continue to flourish and your gratitude to her for entering your life will continue to grow despite large distances that will often separate you. You will not find all the answers. You might not find any answers. You may never figure out what your purpose in life is. But you will find that the journey of trying to find answers and of trying to discover your purpose, in and of itself, gives you purpose.
Nadia, you’re turning 30 and you’re in for a very rough ride. Hold on tight. You’ll be just fine.