I’ve set a goal for myself to complete 1 writing prompt per day. Today is day 1 of I don’t know how many. The writing prompt said “21 year old you suddenly appears in front of you. What do you say to yourself? What questions or advice do you have?”

Dear 21 year old Courtney,

Are you surprised to see me standing on the deck, eating cake, wearing a crop top, dancing? I know it doesn’t seem like it but we are capable of feeling so much joy. You will find peace in your body. You will find happiness within yourself. And guess what? It’s in you right now! Some day you will hear a little echo of a voice, one you forgot even existed. It’ll be you, your inner voice that was buried under the rubble. Anxiety came in and tore everything apart. But she’s still alive in there, the real you. Someday she’ll uncover herself. She will stand up strong and push all the wreckage aside. Then you’ll hear her voice clear and strong. When you feel sad she’ll say “it’s okay to cry but don’t fall too far. Let out some of the pain, the frustration, but then pull it together and push through.”

You’ll have to go to therapy to find your inner you. It’ll be hard at first and you’ll feel resistant. Not because of the stigma — you know better than that. But because the darkness you feel is familiar and comfortable and growth is really hard!

You’ll meet a group of people you really like. They’ll eventually leave your life in a sort of messy way. It will hurt to lose them, but you’ll grow from it. You’ll understand the importance of having friends that have the same goals, the same maturity level. You’ll learn to recognize toxic behaviors. You’ll learn to forgive without an apology.

You’ll eventually go to a job interview in a windowless room in the basement of the College Union and meet some of the best people. There you will grow even more. You’ll find people who encourage and challenge you. You’ll learn all sorts of new skills and gain confidence in your writing abilities.

Remember those friends you swore you’d never lose touch with? You’ll talk to them less and less as time goes on. But it’s okay, you’ll still love them.

At first when you gain more confidence and courage people will say you’ve changed. And it’s got to be uncomfortable for the people who have known you for years to watch you change almost overnight. And it’s not that you are changing, you are just finally not ashamed to show people who you are when no one is looking.

Oh, also, you’ll actually love going to the gym! I know, who even am I? But once you let go of your fear and shame over your body you’ll realize how happy you can actually be. How healthy you can be.

College will be hard sometimes and you’ll change your mind a lot. When you graduate with a liberal arts degree, no real job prospects, and $50k in debt you’ll feel like it was a mistake. But I wouldn’t tell you to change it. Because despite the difficulties, the debt, the regrets, one small change might throw everything off course and we’d never become this. I can’t risk changing anything and not being who I am today.

So I guess all this is to say, hold on. Hold on to hope in the knowledge that some day we will be happy. We’ll be healthy. We’ll be in a really good place mentally, physically, and emotionally. Of course the anxiety never goes away completely and there will still be tough times, but you’ll gain the necessary skills to work through them. And when things get difficult in 2020 because you are quarantined during a pandemic don’t freak out when you feel yourself start to backslide. Be gentle with yourself and know that it won’t last forever.

And one last thing, stop waiting for inspiration to write. Just sit down and do it. Trust me, it’ll help me out if you just do some work now.

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