A Letter To Myself, at 20

Posted on: November 1, 2017


Dear Younger Me,

Look at you. Twenty years old and feeling like you don’t have a care in the world. Your biggest worry is what to wear to class each day.

I see you there with your life all planned out in front of you. Next year you’ll be a Senior in college. You plan to audition for (and get accepted into) graduate school to study acting. You’ll move to New York City and start a successful acting career. Maybe, just maybe, if you work hard enough, you’ll even work your way onto Broadway.

Soon enough you’ll meet your future husband and be married by the age of 25. Five years later you plan to start having children. You’ll have at least one little boy and you’ll name him Giovanni, because that’s what you’ve always wanted to do. You’ll have a happy marriage and a wonderful life.

The world is your oyster and you don’t see any way things won’t go as you have planned.

Dear child, I’m here to tell you that things don’t go as planned. Life happens. Things change. Your life most definitely does not turn out the way you thought it would. Yes, you do get married by the age of 25 and you do have a little boy you name Giovanni. But, all those other hopes and dreams you had come crashing down around you as you grow. And it all begins your Senior year in college when you miss your graduate school auditions due to suffering severe second-degree burns while at work. You’ll cry yourself to sleep each night that semester as you wonder what you’ll do now after graduation. You had it all planned out; it was all set. But now, you don’t know where you are headed. You’re scared. More scared than you’ve ever been before because suddenly your future looks bleak.

Your friends will try to encourage you and make you feel better. They’ll tell you that “it’s ok, something else will come along.” “Just take a year off and go to graduate school next year.” But you know the truth. You know that once you take a year off, you may not want to go back. Then what? Do you move to New York City now? No job prospect, no place to live, no graduate school training under your belt, and all those other actors to compete with…the confusion overwhelms you.

Soon enough, before you graduate, an opportunity for an acting job in Pittsburgh will present itself. You’ll take it. You need to take it. And while there will be parts of the job that will most definitely challenge you, it will be for the better. It’s not what you wanted, it’s not perfect, but it works. For now.

It works until your contract ends and you realize you don’t want to do that job again for a second year. So what do you do now? The only thing you feel you can. You pack your belongings and move back home with your mother for a year while you figure out where your life is headed. This will not be an easy year. It will present many challenges, questions, and pressure. Some of the pressure results in you not eating. Or, if you choose to eat, you’ll take laxatives later to get rid of it. You lose weight. A lot of weight. An unhealthy amount of weight, in fact.

In this same year, you will work in a job you absolutely hate. You hate it so much it depresses you to get up each day and go there. But it was the best job you could find under the circumstances. Your cousins work there, so you thought it would be OK. But it’s not. It’s not where you want to be at all and you desperately wish there was a way out. But I’m here to tell you that out of that mess comes something wonderful. That horrible job that you despise is the place you will meet your husband. He makes all the long hours, getting yelled at by technicians and customers alike, working with people you don’t like, all worth it. And while your shifts only overlap an hour each day that is what motivates you to get to that last hour of your shift. Seeing him in that last hour gets you through each terrible moment before that you have to endure.

Then it happens. You get an opportunity to accept a job in Chicago. Chicago! Another city of opportunity for actors. More so than New York because it’s not quite as competitive as New York City. So, you take the job and move. The week before you move is when you’ll get engaged. It’s a proposal you’ll never forget. But, I won’t spoil that one for you. You’ll have to wait and see how that all plays out.

You move to Chicago and love your new job. A year later you get married and your husband moves to Chicago as well. Things are going so well! You’re working at a job you actually enjoy, saving money, getting to pursue acting, and are enjoying being married.

But life brings challenges, dear one, and things are never “perfect” for long. Soon enough you realize that job that you love is conflicting too much with your rehearsal and show schedules. You can’t audition for as many commercials and be an extra in movies because it cuts into your job too much. As much as it pains you, you know it’s time to quit. So you’ll quit your job to look for one that has a more flexible schedule. You will find one, working as a school receptionist. But it’s a big pay cut. A big one. Money begins to get a little tight, but you and your husband survive and make it work.

You stay in this job for many years. But, despite how much you like your job, things begin to change. Eventually, you get promoted, which is wonderful but only lasts for a year. Due to circumstances out of your control, you’ll be put back at that receptionist desk. It will be agony for you and will change how you view your job from that moment on. Suddenly, it’s not as enjoyable as it used to be. You’ll find yourself not wanting to get up and go to work each day. You’re grumbling and complaining more than you used to, feeling depressed, and feeling trapped. Like there’s nowhere else for you to go. And, by the way, this is on top of the fact that your acting “career” hasn’t been going well recently. In fact, it’s pretty much taken a downhill spiral. You’re not getting jobs; you feel as though auditions are a waste of time. In fact, you’ll eventually stop even going altogether. Instead, you get your theater in through teaching acting classes for children and directing. Despite feeling like a failure as an actor, you feel much joy from teaching and directing. Unfortunately, that joy isn’t enough to overcome the overwhelming feelings of failure. And you’ll carry those feelings around for many years.

Before you know it, you’re pregnant with your second son (That’s right. You have not one, but two little boys! And they are the light of your life). It’s at this point, you stop working full time because you can’t afford to pay for childcare for two children. So you stay home and care for them yourself. Problem is this ends up putting you and your husband in a rough financial situation. Your husband has been struggling to find a full-time teaching job and you are living off of his teacher aide salary. It’s not a lot. You get by with help from family and even through winning some prizes from the Ellen show (Yes, that really does happen. As unbelievable as it seems). Most of the prizes you end up selling to help pay bills. Then you and your husband rack up credit card debt. A lot. And it’s taking its toll. Your condo goes into foreclosure and you both realize it’s time for a change.

Your husband finds a new job in South Carolina and you decide to go. You pack up your belongings, your children, say goodbye to your loved ones, and begin the drive to a new life. It’s an exciting adventure, but also a scary one. Even though you think you are prepared for the change, it turns out, you’re not as ready as you think you are.

After you arrive, you begin to have problems with anxiety. The move, leaving behind all you know, all your loved ones, putting your four-year-old in preschool for the first time in a new state, battling life-threatening food allergies with him as well…moving for your husband’s new job, not for you. You will feel lost and lonely. You’ll feel confused and like you’re not sure where your life is headed. Your husband has a job, a great job in fact. And you’re at home with your boys, which you love, but something is missing. You’ve left behind all you knew in Chicago. This includes those acting classes you were teaching; your beloved students. Suddenly, you feel as though you don’t know who you are anymore. It all comes crashing down around you and anxiety takes a strong hold of you. Eventually, you’ll realize the physical symptoms are more than you can bear and you see a doctor for medication. It makes you feel weak, but you don’t know what else to do.

Soon enough your anxiety meds will help you get back to feeling “normal.” Your family finds a church, gets connected, and you make friends. You’ll soon be going on play dates, girls nights and eventually, even teaching acting classes again. Your life in South Carolina will be good. But there are still bumps in the road ahead…

After a year of living there, you realize you need a job. You find the perfect work from home part-time job through a friend. It helps ease a little of the financial burden. But, you will still live paycheck to paycheck, without much margin. You take on odd jobs as well to help bring in money any way you can. But there will still be months you won’t know how you’ll buy groceries or pay all of the bills. Your savings account will pretty much be gone by this point and there will be months when you only have $100 in your checking account in between paychecks. You’ll spend many days and nights crying, unsure of what will happen and how you’ll keep on surviving living this way. You will find yourself on your knees asking God to miraculously provide for your family; to help pay for groceries to feed your family. And when all seems lost, the money will come. You’ll cry again, but this time in thanksgiving to God. And this is how life will continue.

Then one day you’ll reach the age of 37 and you’ll look back and realize how your life is nothing like you planned it. Not at all. In this game of life, you’ve gone up and down more hills and valley’s than you ever wanted to. You’ve experienced more pain and hardship than you ever thought you would. You’ve hit rock bottom emotionally, physically, and financially. But you’ve also risen out of the ashes of it all.

I don’t want to scare you, young one. That’s not my goal. As you look ahead to your future self at 37, you’ll see it’s a rough road. Nothing is as you pictured. But, I will say this. Keep going. No matter how hard things get, keep going. Because I promise you that all the pain, all the ups and downs, the feelings of being a complete failure, the loneliness, inadequacies…while it’s hard in the moment and you feel like giving up, you’ll come out better for it in the end. While your life at 37 is not what you imagined it to be when you were 20, it’s exactly as it should be.


Your future 37-year-old self


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