Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Thomas,
Hi, this is your nineteen-year-old self. How are you? I want to start this letter by saying that, yes, you still write embarrassing super personal blog posts three years from now. You do not write as much on your blog, because college keeps you busy, but you still do. Congratulations: no admissions officers take the time to Google your blog and reject you because of it, so keep writing.
So I guess I will start on the whole college thing: you get in. You really, really do. You get into William and Mary, the University of Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania. All your hard work pays off. Almost three years ago, you wrote this post about optimism, about how you would not let a B- in Physics Honors keep you down. Guess what: not only do you end up with an A- in the class, but you graduate high school and enter the university of your dreams: William & Mary. This might blow your mind, so feel free to take a moment and listen to Lady Gaga (you later get super into Ariana Grande and her song “Break Free,” but that can wait) or read a book.
Even bigger news: you escape your mother. No, not 100%. You still have to go home and see her, you still have to put up with her mood swings over the phone. But for the most part, you leave. You highlight your hair, you wear whatever you want, you study all the subjects you care about, and you have your freedom. At college, you feel the happiest you have ever been.
But I want to tell you some bad news. It will not make sense yet, and you may not believe me, because how could these things happen to you, of all the people? You have overcome an abusive parent and an eating disorder, you have gotten your fill of undeserved karma from the universe. I have thought a lot about why I write to tell you this, even though it will not change a single thing. But that will come at the end. Take a deep breath.
Your first semester, you will someone whose name starts with J. Your friendship will start with a set of Facebook messages after you get into William & Mary, about random things like books and high school and getting ready for college. He will wave to you right after you move in, and you will get used to his pretentious taste in literature. You will live in the same freshman dorm, and one night, you will go on a walk together in colonial Williamsburg, where he will tell you about an insecurity that makes you want to help him. Over the next year and a half, you will get super close: you room with him, you do everything you can to make him happy, and you even share your deepest secrets with him. Even though you have your ups and downs, you always stay dedicated to working through things. You read short story collections with him, you Skype with him over breaks, and you even name one of your Pokemon after him. You love him.
On January 30, 2015, he breaks your heart. He tells you some horrible, awful things, and he walks out of the friendship without a second glance. You cry a lot, you spend days in a depressed haze, and you want to beat yourself up and cave into the world. You write a blog post about it. It hurts like hell, in a way different than your mom does.
Things get better and things get worse. You meet a couple of people who really help you, including a mentor at William & Mary who guides you out of a bathroom stall (yes, you still cry in bathroom stalls). But two of your closest friends – whose names both start with “S”- abandon you. I know, you never thought it would happen, but they do. Some days you feel on top of the world, and some days you want nothing more than to take a car and drive it to the other side of the country, so you can start over and forget about anyone and everyone, including yourself.
Sixteen-year-old Thomas: I am so, so sorry. If I could, I would stop you from going on that walk with J. I would scream at the top of my lungs for you to avoid befriending him, to never get close to him so he would never ever hurt you. If I could, I would tell you not to have any expectations of your “S” friends, because if you do, they will only disappoint you with their silence and lack of care. If I could, I would travel back in time and cover your heart with my own, so that your sensitivity and empathy would not have to go through the hell of your fourth college semester.
You will do great things, Thomas. You will maintain your blog, and you will receive quite a few compassionate messages from people you will never meet, every word of kindness filling your heart with joy. You will join a peer health education group and serve as the President of its Mental Health branch; you will develop an immense love and compassion for mental health, a topic that enthralls you in a deep and all-encompassing way. You will engage in English and Psychology courses that make you so happy and allow you to develop your voice and insight. Your sense of self will strengthen and sharpen, and you will hone your empathy and psychological knowledge.
Sixteen-year-old Thomas, I would give everything in the world to go back in time and throw myself in front of the train that will plow straight into your heart. I would sacrifice so much to protect you, because that is who you are, and that is who I am: someone who lives with the sole purpose of making other people’s lives better. But know that you will help so many people, Thomas, just in your first two years of college. And you will go onto heal more people too, including yourself, even if you do not know how just yet. As you always say to yourself, if you want it, take it. And you know you want to live with compassion, with an unending concern for others. So you will.
In the fall of 2014, tell your grandfather that you love him a lot. Also, always record what you write down on the sticky note apps of your laptop. Your laptop broke two weeks ago, and you lost all of those precious thoughts (you will find them again in time, but still, it sucks).
I love you,
23 responses to “Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Thomas”
Thomas, seriously you’ve always been an inspiration to some of your readers (including me) and you’ll continue to help people. I’m still so sorry about J and your S friends, but you’ll meet new people who’ll treat you so much better than them (and besides, you have us). Stay strong, I’m glad your somewhat recovering (it’s hard)! Even though you can’t reply because you’re busy, I know you read our comments! Have an awesome day, Thomas. Thanks for always sharing and updating us periodically. 🙂
Thanks so much for the support, Summer, it helps to know that what I write goes on and touches other people. I agree about meeting new people; the world has many folks in it, and even though we may feel alone at times, that feeling of isolation will pass.
Thomas, the funny and ironic thing is that you claim to be “The Quiet Voice,” but you have readers that are always here to listen when you want them to. Never forget that.
I know it sounds trite, but it gets better. Good people have a lot of pain in their lives. It’s something we must endure. The pain I went through in my university years was almost unendurable. Stay strong. Someday you will meet the man of your dreams and you need to be ready for him.
Even though those three words might sound trite, they ring true. Thank you for your encouragement and I agree that I need to prepare myself for a lot of healthy, reciprocal, and caring relationships in the future.
I just realized you are INFJ. That’s what I am. It’s very rare to meet someone like that. I think I read Mother Theresa snd MLK Jr. are like us. 🙂
Great sum up of your life over the past few years. I feel like in a way I have been with you throughout that, in the same way to get to know and live characters from your favourite TV shows. You should write a book about it all. Glad that you still keep the blog going.
Glad that you appreciate the (somewhat) consistent posts on this blog, Kev, and I have so cherished having you as a continued reader throughout my time here on this blog. Hope you are doing well and thank you for all of your words!
Dear 19 Year Old Thomas, You are on your way to an incredible life. Despite of, and believe it or not, because of all of the “J” and “S” people out there you will develop in to exactly the kind of person you want to be. As terribly painful as it is you are stronger than this pain. And this pain is going to give you empathy and compassion for many that you will be helping in the future. The J and S moments of your life, where once they were important friendships, now they have become valuable lessons.
Thank you for sharing this journey.
Thank you, Colleen, for your kind words and for putting things in perspective for me. As painful as it can be, life does go on, and with more years comes more experiences and happy times. The lessons I have learned from this will help me shape myself into the person I want to be, and it is so revitalizing to know that I have the support of people like you to accompany me on the journey.
You’re welcome Thomas. And with your ability to process and put things in to perspective and in to life time categories at such an early age….you are going to be amazing at helping all of the people you are walking towards in your life’s journey. Through personal, career, and just daily interaction pathways.
This is so beautifully written and I relate to it a lot. I think se would all vive ouro livres to protect our younger selves if we could. I certainly would. But, by reading this, i just know that your younger self would really be proud of who you are now, and maybe, would say that all those obstacles that you want to protect him from are important and that he wants to overcome them because they will make him stronger and turn him into a hero. My opinion doesn’ t count much, but I like to think that we are our younger selves’ hero since we are still alive after everything. We still enjoy life and make the most out of it and, if we could meet them, I guess they would say se give them hope.
Lina, thank you for your positivity and for helping me redirect my thoughts in a more compassionate way. I agree that these obstacles, while painful in the present, do aid in our development and our growth, and for me, I perceive a long and fruitful journey ahead full of mindfulness and kindness. The way you start your comment by saying that perhaps we would all like to shield our younger selves really gets to that common humanity we share and that desire we all possess to protect ourselves; and, in the end, we must move forward with what life has given us and what we have learned. Your words mean a lot to me, and I appreciate the time you put into placing this on this blog so much.
My job blocked wordpress for like 2 months, so I couldn’t read your posts or write my own unless I was at home and remembered to do so (a rareity, sad face). I’m glad you wrote this today even if the subject is a bit wistful and as others have said, it does get better even if seems like it will take freaking forever. When you get a chance, check out my new blog: http://hermionesknapsack.blogspot.com/ Here’s hoping for more posts in the future, for both of us.
Just checked out your new blog and left a comment! Thank you for your consistency in commenting and for always supporting me.
My first comment! Yay and it’s from you. I added you on FB and I still subscribe to your blog, you can follow me as well via email. I’ve been kinda crappy posting lately, but hope to have more soon. Real life makes posting complicated sometimes.
This is a beautifully written piece – you’ve told your younger self exactly what I was thinking. Despite these painful things it’s clear that you will continue to be the strong and compassionate person you always strive to be. It’s so inspiring to see, and I hope you inspire yourself too 🙂
I am working on practicing more compassion toward myself, and your support helps me so much along the way! Thanks for checking in.
This I literally the coolest thing ever! I’d totally appreciate it if you’d take a look at my blog and tell me what you think… even though it’s the super embarrassing, I’d just like to know that someone’s listening. I can’t wait to read more!
Just stopped by your blog, I look forward to reading more! Thank you for taking the time to comment on this post, I appreciate it a lot.
I’ve been reading through your entire blog and I’m amazed. Its obvious that you’ve had your share of trials in life yet each post has such optimism, grace, and hope. Thanks for sharing that! I look forward to reading more of your posts. 🙂
Thomas, you don’t know me, and in fact, it is my first time to visit your blog. But this letter is so… profound. I’m sorry to hear what happened with J. I haven’t been in the same position as you were but I know what it feels like to be rejected by the person you feel most strongly about. And I wish these things don’t happen but they do. And I’m happy you’re in a much better place now. I hope you continue striving to be more happy than not.
Reblogged this on Thoughts of a Brown Eyed Girl and commented:
This blog post… breaks my heart. But the man who wrote this inspired me to start a blog of my own, and has been an amzing friend to me.