Hey, Younger Me? Thank You. For Everything.
My 20s were a lost decade. I spent a lot of it stuck in an almost ouroboric struggle with my mental health and the demands of adulthood, unsure which challenge was causing which issue. It was a hazy blur and a prolonged period of instability marked by a poor sense of self-worth, a debilitating fear to try anything new, and barely any fixed income to speak of.
Only recently have I been able to think to myself that maybe I’m truly, finally out of the woods. After several years of settling for less in life, thinking that was all I deserved and all I was capable of handling, suddenly I was swimming in a sea of opportunities that I finally felt ready to accept. They terrified me, but only now I felt more confident that I could face the fear.
I had this beautiful moment of wonder where I just couldn’t help but marvel at how far I’d come. Today, as I think about the younger versions of myself that had to face some very difficult things to get me to where I am now, I want to take some time to honor them and recognize their courage.
She Who Chose to Leave
I worked a couple of jobs as an undergrad, but the one that I felt truly marked my entry into adulthood was my first full-time role as a copywriter for an advertising agency.
Unfortunately, it ended up being a traumatic experience that would create a lot of fears and influence a lot of my choices for the rest of my 20s. I was overworked and underpaid in a toxic workplace where a month felt like a year.
My mind went to some very dark places during that time, and to this day I’m amazed at how I managed to endure it. But I did endure it, and I lived to tell the tale. And I thank that version of myself for fighting to survive and for leaving a place that no longer served her. Because of her choice to prioritize herself, I am here today.
She Who Sought Help
I still remember when I finally went to seek professional help several months later. I took a cab with my closest friend at the time, and none of us in the car knew how to get to the clinic. The cab driver ended up having to ask people on the street for directions to “the mental hospital.” Scared and very much aware of the weight of the stigma surrounding mental health issues, I was stung by how sharp the words sounded and embarrassed to have my secret exposed.
But somehow, I would make it to the clinic. What would follow were various combinations of medications and a lot of therapy. It would be a very long journey that would often feel pointless and futile, until I would come to realize, as soon as I was finally in a better place, how much work it actually took. How each step was a necessary one toward progress.
I am so grateful to that version of myself for being brave enough to seek help, and then for putting in the work to get better. Because of her strength, I am much healthier and happier today.
She Who Took a Leap
There are many gaps in my résumé as a result of the loss of my self-confidence after that first job. I wouldn’t feel ready enough to accept another commitment like a full-time role until I was in my late 20s. By then, I had been in therapy for a few years, and one day, I finally felt that it was time to take a big chance once again on myself.
I put a lot of pressure on myself to learn the ropes at my new job. I had come from publishing, working with books, and now I was in content marketing, working with basically every type of written material a person could publish on the internet. I had to understand the differences between all these types of content, and then I had to understand what the content was about. And we had clients in every niche, so I had to know a little bit about everything.
The learning curve was steep, and I spent many sleepless nights teaching myself how to do my job well. As I gained further experience and expertise, my confidence grew. I honor that version of myself for taking that shot, honing her craft, and building her skill set. Because of her determination, I feel a sense of fulfillment today.
Many of these younger versions of myself didn’t deserve to endure what they had to. But, now I’m here, and I’m claiming every good thing that I’ve always deserved in honor of my past selves and everything they overcame.