Maggie Shafer Writes

A Letter to Myself at 18

Maggie ShaferComment


Dear Maggie,

Stop running.

It will never take you to where it is you want to go, and you will never know where that is unless you stop long enough to catch your breath. To look someone in the eyes. To see yourself. Besides, you’re skinny as shit and no, it’s not your genes. It’s because you’re slowly running yourself to death, doing damage to your precious and delicate and life-giving insides and you’ll still be paying for it 10 years later when you’re trying oh-so-desperately to have a period and keep your brittle bones from breaking. You’ll call these your lost years.

Don’t do things because you’re good at them. Do things because you enjoy them or want to enjoy them or believe in them. The good part will follow and if it doesn’t no one will care, not even you if you allow yourself, because you’ll be learning and growing and tasting and seeing and that, Maggie, really matters. That’s how you discover who you are and become who you are supposed to be. You can find joy and purpose in starting over.

Stop looking at what other women are wearing. You will never regret not shopping more.

You know that girl you met while she was throwing up outside a party on her black Vans, the same shoes you were wearing? You can trust her. In 10 years she will ask you to marry her and your friend Grant and you’ll understand who you have been to each other.

Stop choosing your friends by what they wear and listen to. None of your favorite bands will be together in five years and all the trendy jackets and jewelry are lining the racks of your local Goodwill. The people you will choose outside of these things are still by your side.

Everyone’s family is a mess and yours will become less and less of one in time. Remember that this is where you come from, and know that much of what embarasses you now is what you will come to be so proud of and grateful for.

Next year, when your roommates go home for the summer and you stay in town to waitress, you are going to feel very alone. Do not leave. That deep and chilling feeling is honest and true, and it is what will bring real meaning when you’re found. And you will be, later that summer. Hang in there.

When you were four and your sister was six you were both molested by your 16-year-old babysitter. You have chosen to ignore this and the shame any memory of it brings up. You’ve been throwing everything else out of the fridge hoping to fix the smell but it’s coming from this small dark container hidden in the back and it needs to be handled before it will go away and when it does, your strawberries will taste like strawberries again. Please believe me and be brave.

That boy you made out with last weekend is not texting you back because he does not care about you and never will. None of them do. You don’t really care about them, either, you just think you do. Very few lasting things begin over cheap booze.

In a few years, you will discover that you are loved beyond your wildest imagination, and that love will drive you to experience a lot of amazing and wonderful things. You will live in Europe and South America, you will hear the voice of God, you will meet people whom you feel safe with in places your parents told you weren’t. You will stop running. But you will also start to put people in two categories. Don’t do that. The complexity of life and the people that live it are not yours to answer for.

The acne will go away. Most of it at least.

Keep journaling. Reflection will get continually harder the more screens you own, and you will have to fight for this space. You will carry all those pounds of pages with you in a sack through six different moves and they will hold your story and it’s a good one in every sense of the word.

One day you will look through one of these notebooks and come upon an old entry about a young man with a lip ring you met at a coffee shop. You think you want to marry him or someone like him, but he’s not interested. So rather than try to make him interested, like every other guy you’ve ever liked, you decided to figure out who you are and who God is instead. As you read all this, you’ll be sitting on a bed the two of you share in a house the two of you own wearing a ring he gave you after 8 months of dating. Your tears will leave marks on the seven-year-old pages for the second time.

Maggie, I love you, I really do. You of all people know how much work it will take to be able to say that but I can and I will and I wish you would, too. It’ll come.