Dear Julia

2014 was the year I was just beginning high school -- fresh faced and wide-eyed, I had no idea what the future would hold. That year presented some big changes for me, as I was attending an all-girls school for the first time in my life. I was beyond overwhelmed as my group of peers grew from 30 to over 200. While this would surely be a significant change for anyone, I was still healing from the passing of my grandfather only a short year earlier and was in a particularly vulnerable state. So, 3 days before my 15th birthday and about 2 months away from finishing grade 9, I decided to write a letter to myself.

Now, I could have listened to my younger self and waited until 2033 to open the letter, but curiosity got the best of me. It was a letter written by a girl—bear with me as I lament about my 15-year-old self—who had high hopes for what the future would bring. At the time, I believed I had the rest of my life mapped out. I dreamt that by 34 years old I’d be married, pregnant with my first child, and living in an old house on the East Coast. A short walk down the street would live my life-long best friend, Sally*. Life would be an idyllic cross between Anne of Green Gables-esque imagery and just about every romantic movie ever made.

While I may not be 34 years old, married, pregnant with my first child or settled in an East Coast beach house, things certainly have changed for me in the 5 years since I wrote that letter. Though in general my reaction was that of an endearing cringe, I must say that the last several lines really struck a chord for me: 

 

        “Most importantly, are you happy?

         I hope you are. You deserve to be.

         I was in a dark place for a while, but now I’m not. I want it to stay that way.

         I NEED it to stay that way.”

 

Those words hit me like a punch to the gut. The truth was, April 2014 didn’t mark the end of my dark place. In fact, those struggles continued to return with a vengeance. Adding fuel to the fire, I realized that my dream of the future was so far-fetched that it made the idea of unicorns or the Toronto Maple Leafs winning the Stanley Cup seem more convincing. Almost nothing is as I had expected: Sally and I are no longer in contact, let alone best friends; my career path has changed from being a marine biologist/forensic anthropologist to being an environmental and indigenous rights lawyer; I no longer want to live on the East Coast; finally, I’m no longer sure that I want my first child—or any subsequent children, for that matter—to be mine biologically. After taking some time to come to terms with all of these changes, however, I came to the surprising realization that it’s okay.

It’s okay that I am not still the same person I was at 15; in fact, it’s probably a good thing. This was put into perspective for me by a nickname that was given to me by someone who knew me extremely well in the years following that letter: “Hurricane Julia”. 

I can say with certainty that I wouldn’t trade a moment of the uphill battle I’ve overcome these last 5 years. So, though this letter may not have achieved its original purpose, it has given me something else: a newfound desire to reclaim the parts of me that I’ve forgotten and to honour my old dreams. 

I want to fall in love with writing again and to some day have a book published, I want to rediscover the passion for life that made me Hurricane Julia, and I want to accomplish things that would make my 15-year-old self proud.

I’m not entirely sure yet where these endeavours will take me, but I think I’m ready to pursue them—so here’s to being a hurricane. 

 

*name has been changed for privacy