Content: Depression and suicidal ideation
[Image description: Allison is smiling into the camera and holding a sparkler. They are wearing a gray shirt and tortoiseshell eyeglasses.]
Tomorrow is my 23rd birthday. And every year since I was about 15 or 16, I’ve written myself a letter around my birthday to reflect on the past year and name my hopes for what’s to come. I’ve decided to write this letter as a blog post, to also commemorate the fact that I made this website at 22 and that’s something I don’t give myself enough credit for.
Your 22nd year is coming to a close in a matter of hours. And while 22 was something with potential, that maybe would happen and you’d envisioned, 23 is entirely new territory. Have you ever envisioned yourself at 23, before these last few weeks? 23 is the first year since, what, 1996 without school for you. And there are many changes in store.
But let’s take a minute to reflect on all that 22 was. You rang in this new year with Lauren and Elliott in New Orleans – one of the first vacations you’d ever been on. And then went to Miami less than three weeks later. You got into graduate school (and let them know today that you aren’t going). You graduated college. You got a car two days later. You dated your best friend. You got your first job. You lived at home for the first time in three years. You were there for your family through struggles and milestones. You made a website and finally embraced the title of “writer.” You moved to a new state, by yourself. You got diagnosed with depression. You changed…a lot. And your life looks completely different than it did a year ago. It looks a lot how you’ve always wanted it to, when you did envision it.
And at times, that’s terrifying. The times you don’t feel enough are few and far between now, but they’re still present. The voice in your head has softened. If I have one takeaway from 22, it’s that you’re incredible. And I don’t mean that lightly, as something written in gold cursive on a placard in the dollar section at Target. But like, for real, think of everything that you’ve gotten through this year. And some things, you more than got through – you succeeded in. But perhaps one of the most dramatic changes you’ve made at 22 is realizing that success isn’t just achievement. Sometimes it is just simply getting by and recognizing that that’s enough. Personal success can include knowing when to quit. That includes people.
There’s something relieving about not envisioning a future for yourself. And I don’t mean that to glorify those thoughts at all. I’m not condoning or justifying them. Instead, what I mean is that in the past, you’ve been so concerned with having such and such goal done by whatever age (like having a license at 16, which you didn’t, or getting a job before graduation at 22, which you just barely did) that you didn’t do very much enjoying. Sure, there were moments of joy, but they were fleeting. In place of joy was determination. But now, what expectations do you have besides maintaining some of the parts of your life now, like living alone and being able to afford this car? Very few expectations can equal freedom. And that’s a good thing!
So overall, I want you to know I’m so proud of you, Allison. Considering that throughout 2017/22, you’ve said this was “the worst year” of your life, it’s amazing that you’re ending it feeling happy. Genuinely happy. And loved. And tipsy on a giant margarita. So cheers to 23, and to maintaining that joy.