I recently stumbled across a letter I wrote to myself over a year ago. I don’t remember what prompted me to write it, but I couldn’t have rediscovered it at a better time.
Dear 2004 Jen,
It’s 2016. It’s been twelve years since you graduated from college. Six years since your last Writing for the Soul Conference, and nearly four years since you went to Mount Hermon.
Everything has changed — you’ve given up your attempts to find continued work in the publishing field. You’re living north of Portland of all places, working as an executive assistant for a nonprofit fighting to protect women and children from being sold for sex.
No, you haven’t found the love of your life. Fancy is still just a dream—one that seems to be collecting dust and is only brought out from time to time for a bit of polish so it doesn’t completely crumble away.
You’ve traveled through severe depression. You’ve wondered what any of this has been about. You’ve thought about giving up all together.
But you have endured.
Jennifer, you are a fighter. You may not feel that way most days, but when it all comes down to the wire, you are a warrior. It’s okay to get tired. It’s okay to be disappointed. You’re going to feel every scrape, break, and bruise…and you will find a way to rise from it all.
You’re going to discover your worth is not dependent on your independence. You’ll find strength in your brokenness. You’ll discover a Peace that holds you together when everything around you is falling to pieces.
You may not be the best seller or big shot editor you thought you’d be at this stage in life, but you will find new friendships that build you up in ways you could never imagine. You’ll discover, finally, that your love for things like Doctor Who, the Lord of the Rings, comic books, and super heroes is more than okay — it helps define the unique individual you are.
(By the way, by 2016 girls will be celebrated for their love of what was once relegated to the world of geeky man-boys living in mom’s basement.)
You’ve come a long way in your healing, Jen, but there is one thing you are missing in 2016. Your passion for storytelling. You’ve come to believe that your imagination is broken. The stories that once came so easily are often drowned out by the busyness of every day life.
My one piece of advice to you is this: Learn to dream again. Don’t get so caught up in learning about how to write to sell your work. All of that is well and good, but it does you no good if you lose sight of your love of words.
I said before that you’re a fighter. Remember that. Fight to reclaim what you’ve lost! It’s still there, deep inside. I know it because I can feel it. It hasn’t been driven from you fully.
Find your voice again. Dream. Write. Love.
I have no idea what the future holds for us beyond today, but I hope one day future Jen finds this letter and is reminded of who she was—and who she still wants to be.
When I wrote this letter I had no idea it would mark a turning point for me, or that in the not-too-distant future I would take my own advice: I’d learn to dream again.
I’m sharing this letter today as a public reminder to myself and in the hope it reminds someone else that their life matters, that their dreams are worth fighting for, and that regardless of life circumstances, we always have the choice to “Endure with Strength.”