A Letter to Eighteen

Dear Eighteen,

Here you are. Yesterday’s child is today’s legal adult, and yet, nothing has really changed. Trauma lingers, wounds fester, and all that you try to escape chases you down and pounces.

Those who try to help don’t seem to understand. How can they understand the depths of your angst? The highs are so high, they are golden and sweet. It’s the lows, oh so low, that bring terror. Were those offering solutions ever eighteen? It seems not. Their words fall on deaf ears.

You carry the weight of the world and your pain mingled together. You think about all of those times you screamed aloud when it was safe and in your head when it was not, “Just wait until I turn eighteen!”

Now what? Where do you go now? What do you do? What is there to prove?

Your forming brain craves escape and soothing. Plenty of substances offer you both. Breathe it in, drink it down, toss another back. Comfortably numb feels delightful in the moment. It helps you escape and recreate a reality that is too overwhelming to feel.

It always comes back. Reality gives respite for a moment. It pretends to be running up ahead, leaving you alone, offering space, only to freeze just as you build momentum and start moving forward. Then it stops suddenly, digging in heels before turning its head to bite, once again, sending you cowering.

Reality bites.

Oh, eighteen, your fate is not sealed.

Just because you have made poor choices, or allowed others to make them for you, does not mean that you have no other choice. There is always another choice.

It is usually the hard choice that begins to offer relief.

The choice to take an honest look at those eyes staring back at you in the mirror, and search deeply for a glimmer of recognition, can be a first step in reclaiming what was before eighteen. Facing the truth of your betrayal, abandonment, and pain brings clarity to your own actions of betrayal, abandonment, and pain.

It is easier to be the one in the driver’s seat, pealing out in a cloud of dust. Let those tires squeal and turn the radio up loud. Eighteen has seen enough heartache. Why wait around fighting and hoping for more, only to be left with unmet longings?

It is easier to believe lies and forge ahead on the track you have been placed upon, taking on your assigned role. The difficult one, the impossible one, the bitch, nothing but trouble. It might mean living life trying to make the best of your obstinate self, but somehow that feels safer than risking another fall. It is easier to let others define you than to redefine yourself.

Don’t do it, eighteen! Don’t let others define you.

You can redefine yourself. You can listen to those words that you use when describing yourself to others and respond with kindness for yourself. Kindness for yourself might bite. It might mean making hard phone calls to difficult places and asking for help. It might mean choosing to move towards your trauma by placing yourself in the care of capable hearts. It might mean having to trust when you vowed never to trust anyone again.

Oh, eighteen, you are not defined for the rest of your life by who you are in this moment. Do not fall for the lies that you had your chance and ruined it or you made your bed, now lie in it. There is always room for a second chance, and beds are made to be changed. That is the point. Here’s to second chances and changing things up!

I’m on your team, Eighteen!

Julie McClayJulie McClay lives in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley with her high school sweetheart (and husband of 24 years) and 5 of their 8 children. She is learning that while it can be painful to face the past honestly while living in the moment and looking towards the future, it can be healing and lead to the hope of a brighter future. She digs through these thoughts and feelings here.