This weekend, I had so many overwhelming thoughts and feelings, as I have seen and lived so much over the past few years. After moving out to Los Angeles at age 17 (seven years ago), my life is incredibly different than I ever could have imagined. I decided to write a letter to that 17 year old me…not at all encouraging her to change or make different choices, but rather to brace herself for the wild, painful, and beautiful journey ahead. While writing, I wasn’t planning on sharing this, but I feel it may be for someone other than just 17 year old me. It is an imperfect and unedited rant, but it is my truth.
“Dear 17 year old Rachael,
That intuition inside of you that you’ve always had…it’s real. Trust it more. Internally and spiritually, you know SO much. But don’t get too excited…you also really don’t know a lot just yet. It’s okay. You’re allowed to have ideas. You’re allowed to be wrong. And you will be.
It’s okay that you’re going to grow. Change. Evolve. Some people are going to love you just the same. But you are going to lose so many people you love…some will not understand, support, or know what to do with your tough days. Don’t take it on. It’s okay. Because even weirder: some of them REALLY won’t know what to do with you when you grow into an even better woman. You might kind of scare the hell out of them, because you are a weirdo after all.
Many labels will be given to you. You’ll try to wear some of them for a while and make them fit. Some work for a while. Others only hurt you. Some of the people you love and trust most will call you “broken” and “damaged goods.” Remember not to wear those labels that truly do not honor you. You’ll know.
You will have worse days than you ever imagined…and better days than you could ever have dreamed. You will be appalled by your own behavior. No-I’m serious. You’re going to make mistakes. Shocker: you’re going to be incredibly human. All those judgments you carry about others are going to hit the floor along with your pride, and you will feel as if you are drowning. But don’t worry. It’s really just grace you’re sinking in.
The creativity in you will continue to blossom in so many different ways. Remember how stubborn you’ve always been about doing what you want? Not letting people tell you that you can’t do something? Keep it up. Art will come of it.
Speaking of stubbornness, it will save you at times. It is truly a gift. But be careful–it can also create barriers. You will continue to grow stronger, but you will slowly but surely collect this softness to you…this unexpected gentleness. Some days, when you think you’ve been making so much progress, you will hit another rock bottom. A deeper one.
You will have to drop the act…be authentic. This authenticity comes at a great cost…it means dying to your old ways and habits, daily. You will lose a lot, but you’ll gain integrity. It’s really cool, actually.
You really won’t view it all as “flaws” anymore, so much as this humanity in you that connects your wild spirit to so many others. Relating, breathing, touching. You’re safe there. And you’ll realize that the Rachael you were striving so hard to look like really wasn’t as endearing as the true identity you possess.
You will consistently battle with the fear that all love is conditional. But it isn’t. Genuine, unadulterated love is really just an acquired taste. You won’t be able to fully recognize it just yet. Give it time. You will realize over time that love cannot be earned. That no matter how well you perform and serve, it simply doesn’t work like that (thank God).
You will fight absolutely insane physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional battles. You won’t always have any answers. Peace and clarity will have to be an intentional choice on your behalf. Your body will feel like a war zone at times. Take care of it. Remember to treat it like a temple. And give yourself grace when you’re careless…because that does happen. It isn’t pretty. It will hurt you. But this really cool thing happens when you’re almost 25, and you will cleanse and honor it better than ever.
Boys have always been your thing. I know. You will have some beautiful relationships and learn a lot from them. There will also be some toxic interaction. You will get married. It won’t last. You will be devastated. Your ex will move across the country to New York City. You will essentially be homeless for months. You will be confused…for a very long time. Don’t waste energy searching for answers. Breath. It really is more than okay. You will be hurt deeply, but you will not be bitter. It is actually kind of miraculous.
Your heart will break 30 ways past Sunday. It will feel far more excruciating than any of the physical pain you have ever experienced. You will go days without eating…won’t be able to get up…will wake up in tears. But it will be a baptism of pain. Just as we learn to honor and cleanse the physical body, you will learn to nurture and guard your heart. This new protection will not be about walls. It will be about healthy boundaries. It still hurts at times…very deeply…but while it is a part of your story, the pain doesn’t define you.
After all of that hurt, wait, scratch that…
THROUGH all of that hurt, you are going to pick yourself up like never before. You will have your own business, but it won’t be all about you. It is literally focusing on others…photography. This will save your life.
Your friendships, relationships, connections, art, and business will become more in sync and aligned than ever. It will feel fluid. You will have a home of your own again. A new found gratitude and appreciation will consume your soul.
Mostly, just don’t worry. Each day really is a gift. The 10 year plan doesn’t work out. Being a perfectionist is no longer an option. But the real you…the real life you cultivate…it is everything. Breath. Try to enjoy it. It is quite a ride.”