Dear 23 year old self,
I know things are rough right now. I know that your life is crashing down all around you. I wish that I could go back in time and wrap you in my arms and hold you tight until your tears dry up and your shoulders finally relax and you melt into the comfort of knowing that you will be okay. I know that right now it doesn’t seem like things will ever get better, but please trust me when I tell you, they absolutely do.
I need you to look me in the eye and please try to understand that he did not do this to hurt you. Yes, he was being selfish. He got caught up in his own lust. Besides, he’s not your husband, but he is your father and infidelity has an entirely different effect on a daughter. I know that as you stand in the bathroom at your job, trying desperately (but failing miserably) to hold back your uncontrollable sobs as your co-worker (who will become your best friend) tries to comfort you, you know that life will never be the same again. I’m here to tell you that you are right, it won’t be. From this point forward you will become a different person, your life is different, and the way you view your father and men in general has just been turned on its head the moment your sister texted you, “He’s still talking to her.”
I know that your heart is breaking at this very moment. In fact, it’s demolished. The hurt and the pain is almost unbearable. I can almost feel it all over again as I tear up just thinking about that day and the years that followed. It’s not going to be easy. You haven’t even hit rock bottom yet. I’m sorry to report that, yes, it gets worse, much worse. You will date a slew of assholes, jerks that weren’t ready for a relationship and losers that you had hoped would fix everything that really just wanted to use you, play with your heart and emotions, and use you to feed their own fragile egos. They’ll tell you what you want to hear, and for a while you’ll believe it. It’ll be a temporary reprieve from the emptiness you feel on a daily basis. Sadly, that gaping hole you try so desperately to fill and consequently cover up with fake smiles and trudging along like a good girl would, will not go away that easy. You’ve got to face it head on. It was never anyone else’s job to fix you. You’ll soon discover this. You will get yourself out of this dark hole. You’ll discover that you are much stronger than you once thought you were. You will get better, and you will come to love yourself. I know it seems like a long shot now even as you look in the mirror and feel disgusted at the person looking back at you. You will come to love that girl, flaws and all.
I want you to understand that this did not happen to you because you weren’t enough. He didn’t choose her over you or your sisters. There was never a choice that existed. That is how you’re rationalizing this now, but he is not your husband. I have to keep repeating this because it will feel like he cheated on you. She was in no way, shape or form better than you, your mother, or your sisters. She was just willing to give him something he wanted. A whore. Homewrecker. Low life. She is all those things. But you are his daughter. His baby girl. Do you remember how you were stuck to his side like glue when you were about 3 or 4 years old? You would grab unto his pant leg and follow him around with your thumb in your mouth, and he couldn’t shake you for the life of him. Where ever dad was, there you were. You loved him so much. Don’t lose that feeling, ever. Which is why this hate you have towards him right now needs to be dealt with. You have to let it go or the affects of which will continue to mangle your romantic relationships for years to come. He loves you in ways you can’t even comprehend until you have children of your own. He only lusted after her, but he would die for you.
I need you to work on forgiving him. That will be the greatest advice, and therapy I can give you right now. Forgive him. He did not go out and do this to hurt you deliberately. You are, and will always be his priority.
I wish I could take away that worthless feeling you have in the pit of your stomach that gnaws at you day and night. As if you will never measure up so you work harder and achieve more and block out the pain of never being enough, and being ignored until you erupt into bouts of depression and monthly break downs. I’m here to tell you that it does get better. You will grow and learn A LOT along the way. You will learn to forgive, and your relationship with dad will grow into a friendship even though that may seem pretty inconceivable right now.
Meditation will help you, and your friends will be your life line during this difficult time. Keep them close to you.
Take care of mom. She’s hurting the most.
Love yourself. Be kind to yourself. Stop looking for love in other people. Focus on being good to yourself. Go easy on yourself, and always, always speak to yourself in a loving way.
Don’t date. For the love of God don’t date. You are a hot mess right now and you are making some really bad decisions that aren’t helping your already fragile self-esteem. Please take some time to heal.
Don’t beat yourself up if you mess up, or feel like you are falling behind your friends that are coupling up and celebrating milestones in their lives. Celebrate with them! Bless them! Your time will come baby girl and its going to be extraordinary.
Don’t compare every man to your dad. Not all of them are the same. Sure, dad made a mistake but it’s ridiculous to think the every man on this planet is going to make the same decision.
Cry. Every chance you get to let it out, just do it. Don’t feel like you have to be strong all the time. It’s impossible. There is nothing wrong with being vulnerable and admitting that things fucking suck right now, but don’t get too comfortable in that little hole you like to crawl into so much. Things really, really do get better. Trust me.
You will get your happy ending. You just have to believe it’ll happen and that you deserve it, because you do. More than anything you do!
Don’t settle for less than you deserve. Don’t settle for half-assed relationships. Don’t wait around for a guy to ‘be ready’. Don’t settle for sparse communication. Don’t settle for boring. Don’t settle for less than butterflies in the stomach, passionate, exciting, real, committed love. Don’t you dare settle, girl.
Travel. But don’t go to Paris. You’ll thank me later.
The last piece of advice I am going to leave you with is to pay attention to your thoughts. You are constantly creating your reality. Don’t waste time re-living in old patterns of thought. Start creating your reality now. But first, you need to forgive yourself, and forgive dad. He loves you. And get to know him will ya? He’s actually a pretty funny guy.
You got this.
Love your future self,