Monday, July 9, 2012

A Letter to my YA Self:

I recently wrote a letter to my young adult self, in a series of blog posts from my Curiosity Quills buddies, inspired by the DEAR TEEN ME series we'd seen on various other author blogs. Our letters were all posted on Krystal Wade's blog while she was away on vacation. We took over her blog and spilled our hearts out, chastising, praising, or laughing with our teen selves.  I highly recommend reading the other letters. All of them are so very touching, and the writers are so very strong for putting themselves out there in such a way. I'm incredibly proud of my publishing house buddies. 

So June 29th rolled around, and the blog post went up. There it was. My letter. Posted on the internet for all the world to see.  Except that, not *all* the world would see it. Chances were, no one I knew in my personal life would see it. So I knew it was safe. 

I knew I was safe. 

And that's how I was going to keep it. Tucked safely away in a corner of the internet that not many of my personal contacts would ever journey to. 

And there I was ... a total coward. 

Something happened this past week that brought the experiences of my own past right back up to the front of my mind. I was shocked to witness abuse first hand, and stunned at the casualness with which people justify it. Frankly, I'm appalled. But what this situation also triggered was a deep look into my own heart. I thought that though my past will always be my past, I had tucked it down deep. But there it was, fresh on the surface. Pain that will always be there; experiences that will never go away. 

When I witnessed what I witnessed - and obviously in the name of keeping people's private lives private, I won't delve into it - I got to thinking. How could I hide my story away if there's a possibility that I could reach even one woman?  Even. Just. One. If I can let that one woman know that SHE IS NOT ALONE, I should do that, shouldn't I? Because in limiting who I shared the letter with, I was limiting the people it reached. So I decided not to be such a coward. I told my teenage self how strong and stubborn she'd become, and then I hid from the truth of the letter, and from exposing the pain in my past. 

So here I am. 

As much as it scares me to do so, I am posting my letter here.  Many people who read this blog, knew me then. So when I share my letter with them, they'll know who I'm talking about, and they'll remember the chaos of that time. Or maybe they won't. Maybe they won't even know of the trauma in my life at that point, and it will be a shock. I don't know. Maybe it will get back to the person its about. Maybe it won't. Maybe it will reach a young girl in a similar situation. Maybe it won't. But by hiding it away from the people who know me most, and hoping that only a small handful of strangers would read it, I did the opposite of persevere. I became exactly what I want the sixteen year old me to never become. 

So here it is, in its entirety. A letter to this girl:

Dear Sixteen Year Old Me,

Your dad just died. You’re broken and scared and your emotions are so crazy you don’t know which way is up half the time. The pain is intense. But you have free reign now. Mom wants you to be happy, so she’s letting you do whatever you want for the most part. You’re taking advantage of her pain, going to parties, getting drunk, and trying to grow up way too fast.

You’re going to meet a guy soon, and he’s going to be gorgeous. You’re going to swoon about that. When you meet him at that party, and he teases you, your friend will say, “Wow, you’re so lucky – he’s never shown interest in any of my friends before.” She is an idiot. He is an asshole. RUN AWAY. You'll think he's so beautiful, and so strong. You aren't going to believe that he wants you. But he does. He wants you because you are broken and vulnerable and he can see that. He wants to break you more. And he will. If you let him.

When he starts to lie to you, you’ll think you are crazy. You are not.

When he starts to verbally abuse you, you will believe him. Please do not.

When he starts to physically abuse you, you’ll be scared and confused and you’ll stay with him. PLEASE DO NOT. You will wear the scars internally for the rest of your life. I can attest to that. When he abuses you in front of one of your friends, she will do nothing. This will confuse you, and you'll think maybe its no big deal. She didn't help you, or say anything, so maybe you're overreacting. No. You are not overreacting. She is not your friend.

When you try to end things with him – and you will, many many times – he will turn it around on you to the point where you are begging him not to end things. This is his mind-f*ck. He’s really good at it and he will do it to you repeatedly. You will fall for it almost every time.

I want to tell you to stay away from him, but I know you won’t. I want to tell you to run for the hills, but I know you won’t. I want to tell you to steer clear and avoid him at all costs, but you’re a fixer and you want so badly to fix him. So I am going to tell you this: One day, shortly after your 21st birthday, you will leave him for the last time. And you will mean it. You will never look back. Down the road, you will still be somewhat broken, and your scars will remain a constant reminder etched on your heart, but you will move on. You will meet a beautiful man and start a family. You will never look back.

You are 32 years old now. You’re going to publish your first book. Your husband is awesome. Your daughter is awesome. You still have so many of the same friends you grew up with, and a group of wonderful new friends. You are beyond blessed.

Your scars remain, yes, but they are part of what makes you the fearless woman you are today. You persevere. You are stubborn. You are strong.

So make your mistakes because I know you will – you’re far too stubborn to heed any advice I could give you. But make those mistakes knowing that everything you do in your life will bring you to this. A happy, healthy family of three, and a career that is only just beginning.

Continue writing those poems - its practice for what's to come, and therapy for what you're going through now.

Keep on keepin’ on, and know that you will persevere. Know that you deserve happiness. You are worth it.

Most of all, love YOU unconditionally.


You in 16 years. Slightly wiser, a little older, and a lot more comfortable in your own skin.


  1. Very proud of your courage, Jessa. I came for the buccaneer blogfest, and I'd read your letter on Krystal's blog, but i was blown away again. It's written from the heart, and I know how much strength that would have taken. hugs, fellow CQ writer.

  2. Way to go putting yourself out there like that. You are a brave soul. I can relate to a lot of this, though in my case this is the father of my son who I had way too young, but it's all good now. I love how you know your teenage self is too stubborn to listen. So true. Great blog.

    P.S. How did you get that confetti to rain down from my living room ceiling when I clicked "follow"? LOL. It's a party! I'm your 100th follower. Cheers :)

  3. You go, girl!! COnfetti party? I didn't get that:-( No fair;)

  4. That was a powerful read, thank you for having the strength and courage to share this with us.