To Myself 20 Years Ago

You’re 14 years old. The world around you doesn’t make sense, and I’m fairly certain it’s not supposed to. There are a lot of people who are going to let you down, and not because they want to, or because they’re mean, but simply because they don’t understand you. They don’t know how to talk to you, and that will frustrate them as much as it frustrates you. You will be yelled at. The people closest to you will question everything about you, calling you any number of things as they try to label you, diagnose you.

They will tell you that you have an addiction to a television show or a movie, never understanding that your undivided focus is because you are studying the character, learning what motivates them, what makes them tick. And it won’t matter what you say to those around you, how you try to explain things, they won’t understand because they can’t. You don’t fit inside any of the molds that they had set aside for you, and the older you get, the more those around you will realize that you’ll never measure up to their expectations, and in many ways, that will disappoint them. And yeah, it’ll even turn you mean.

Just remember this: There is nothing wrong with you. Not a single thing.

You were born with a story in your heart and a pen in your hand. You are a writer, and you were always meant to be a writer. Nothing and no one can change that, though I promise you, many will try. Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s wrong, or that you can’t be who you want to be. Do you understand how lucky you are? Most people spend their whole lives searching for their passion and never finding it. But you? You were born with your passion singing in the blood in your veins, speaking to you in whispers from longer than you can remember.

You’ll get a job when you’re 15 because you want the independence that your own paycheck will bring you. Oh, but you will hate that job with a passion and every job that comes after. Even the jobs you get that you’re excited about at first will soon grow tiring, their novelty wearing off in weeks or months. You will spend a lifetime inside the customer service and tech support industries, and through those jobs, the only thing you will learn is that you have lost your faith in humanity. Over and over and over again, you will come to realize that people, by and large, just aren’t worth it.

But then, something rather magical happens, and I promise you it has nothing to do with work. You meet other writers. It takes forever, and at first, you don’t know what to make of it because for once your life, you’ve met someone who understands what it’s like to be you. To be a writer. To be born with a fire in your soul and a story in your heart, and the ability to control neither. Nor should you ever. Writing is as important as breathing to you, it always has been and I promise you, it always will be.

The ideas will begin flooding your mind this year, and it won’t ever stop. Trust me, you don’t ever want it stop. You will learn with every story you write. You develop your voice, and become so much better than you ever thought possible. You will study languages and cultures for the sheer enjoyment of doing so, and while you’re doing it, you will realize that you understand some of your most beloved characters all the better for it.

You will see the world around you the way that it could be, seeing the potential it has and all that it has suffered through to get to where it is. You will fumble through one failed relationship after another just trying to find yourself, only to realize that you have always – and will always – connect better with animals than you ever will with people. And you know what? That’s okay. Embrace that. Celebrate it. And whatever you do, don’t ever apologize for being you.

Life is going to throw you some curve balls. You’ll be filled with self-doubt, grief, more anger than you know how to handle, and you’ll spend a good deal of the time confused, too. Because that world you see inside your mind, that one that’s so real you can touch it, taste it – the one you dream about every night when you close your eyes – no one else can see that world. No one else understands it. And you know what? That’s okay, too.

You’ll meet some people who tell you that they’re a writer, too, and that it’s a nice hobby when they have time for it, and you will know in that instant that they will never understand. Writing isn’t a hobby for you and it never will be. Writing isn’t something you “make time for”. You write every second of every day, regardless of whether you have a pen or a computer handy. The rest of the world, that’s what you “make time for”, because in the end, it’s really not that important, and the true writers you meet. The ones who eat sleep and breathe writing – they get it.

Be weird. Make connections where you least expect to find them. Fall in love with a story and get your heart broken. Learn about two brothers who fight back the darkness together and always keep fighting even when it seems impossible, and take that journey with them. Meet a hanyou and fall into his world, and learn the story of a girl who overcame time itself. Stay up late and write until you can’t even see the computer screen anymore. Go on a road trip and write on napkins and the backs of receipts until your hand hurts from it.

But above all else: Always. Keep. Writing.

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