Letter to my Past Self

Dear Eighteen-Year-Old Ellie,

First things first, you change your name to Ellie. It’ll take a while for you to figure out, but the person you’ve been to this point isn’t the real you. More on that later. In terms of the name change, though, it’ll be easier for you from a practical point of view if you do it before you go off to university. Getting people to call you your preferred name is a lot easier when it’s the one you introduce yourself as.

And speaking of university… I know you’re excited, but don’t study forensic science, it will kill all of the interest you have in the subject. Also, you don’t have enough knowledge about politics outside Northern Ireland to study criminology. Come to think of it, you don’t have enough knowledge of politics inside Northern Ireland, either. I know you have a lot of strong opinions, but most of them are ill-informed.

The world is not as black and white as you think it is.

I know this is going to come as a pretty huge shock, but you will lose your faith. You will make your peace with that. I promise it’s not the bad thing you think it is. Honestly, the change makes you less of a dick. Religion, as you’ll find out, is mostly a tool used by privileged people to hate and oppress others. You won’t want a part in that once you’ve seen the damage it can do first hand.

Try and minimize your own personal range of damage. Don’t hate on your own gender, or those who make decisions differently to you. Learn to listen instead of arguing ­– you are better than the example that has been set for you.

You are not your mother. 

There is a word for the way your parents treat you, and it is gaslighting. It’s a form of emotional abuse and it’s toxic. You need to get out of there. Don’t waste your breath trying to reason with them, it will only cause endless frustration. They aren’t going to change, so you have to.

Learn about yourself, please. All that homophobic stuff you currently believe is going to be pretty embarrassing for you when you discover that you’re bi/pansexual.

Google the word pansexual.

Educate yourself.

Sex is not a dirty thing you should feel ashamed of. You don’t need to feel guilty about having desires. They make you human.

Read about consent. You’ll need to know about it for later.

In terms of relationships, you’re probably best avoiding them until you figure yourself out. You’re more hurt than you realize at this point and it’s going to take a lot of healing. That’s okay.

Go to counselling.

Breathe. Really, it’s okay. I know this is a lot of stuff to throw at you, but you will get through it and be a better person at the end.

As for what you do in the meantime: your talents lie with words. Read all the books you can get your hands on and start work on that big list of books you want to write.

Do not share your poetry or fiction right away, it’s too raw, but do keep it all. Start a blog and don’t be afraid of taboo subjects. That said, don’t overshare all of your personal shit all over the internet. Like everything else, it’s a delicate balance. Don’t get frustrated with yourself when you don’t get it right, right away. Trial and error is a perfectly good process.

Nothing you do will be perfect and it doesn’t need to be.

Keep trying.

In life and writing, you will have some stumbling blocks but you’ll develop good friendships to get you past them. Appreciate those friends and don’t take it personally when they point out your flaws. They’re trying to help and, honestly, you need it. Your social skills are pretty crappy, but that’s not your fault. You can only be blamed if you don’t work on them.

On an entirely different note, you should know that you have dyslexia, dyspraxia, and something called Polycystic Ovary Syndrome. You will need a good GP who will listen to you.

Track down your cousin and build a relationship with your aunt. They will be there for you when your parents fail.

In time, you will find the love of your life who will be everything you deserve and more than you thought was possible.

Do not settle for less.

Do not buy any pets while at university. I know it’s tempting, but it’ll break your heart to leave them when you have to move home. There are healthier ways to feel loved than having a mini zoo in your bedroom.

Do not move back to your parent’s house after uni. Find a real home.

Travel while you are young and single. You have opportunities in front of you now that you won’t have when you’re thirty. Use them. Buy a railcard.

The prospect of turning thirty becomes less scary as you approach it. When you’ve come this far, grown so much, and started building a good future, you will look forward to the life that still has to come. Be excited for the future, not fearful. Though, if fear does grip you, don’t be afraid to go back to that counsellor.

You got this. You are not alone.

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