Submitted Date 10/29/2019

Dear me,

It's you from 1998! You should have opened this letter when you graduated from high school. I wonder if you're popular? Do you have a boyfriend? I hope you are smart and can go to college to be a veterinarian. Don't drink alcohol it's bad for you! Did you get to be prom queen? What kind of car do you drive, you really want a sports car. I hope you don't smoke cigarettes because they are gross. Don't forget that the Backstreet Boys are the best boy band. Also, you should be old enough to get a perm and dye your hair. I hope you are happy to be an adult.


Do you ever question which of your selves was more delusional? I wonder which one of my selves was the most grounded? In 1998 my bar wasn't set extremely high. There were boxes to check but nothing too serious. I wish there was a letter from senior year in high school to 30- year-old me, that had a general idea for my future. I have ambitions, goals, and way more boxes to check, but I am not that girl from 1998. As I grew up, I changed and evolved into something else that I feel proud of most of the time. Other times I feel like I'm grieving. I notice my path diverging and shaking my confidence. I mourn for the days when I knew right from wrong in an instant. This little girl in the letter had no idea what was going on, and I kind of feel like this girl doesn't either. I miss always knowing the answer to the question. Also, I miss the Backstreet Boys.

As I approach my thirties I am filled with anxiety and uncertainty. This lingering doom hit me somewhere around year 27. Honestly, I clung to my twenties like the neon pink plastic choker that would have to break before I took it off myself. This last decade of my life has been exciting and challenging. I have found a partner whom amplifies the joys of living. I've moved a few times and made a home in each space. I even invested in a college education. Although I'm drowning in debt, those experiences are some of my most influential moments. I've been completely alone, in a new city, without friends. I have been stupid and I have been mean. Year 30 is scary. I'm afraid it will knock me over and push me around. There are plenty of people that have made their lives by 30. They have a plan and achievable steps. They have this confidence that I had in the fourth grade.

I look younger, but I was warned those charms would fade. I have always been short and in some sense petite. My appearance has only fed my disillusions. While the years pass by me, I have begun to notice some changes. My memory function is slow and incorrectly organized. I find myself surprised that a movie came out three years ago when it felt brand new. I'm shocked to see a classmate graduate with another degree or know a doctor— because you played tetherball with them in the fifth grade. Many of these changes are brought on or amplified due to my role as a parent. Arguably becoming a parent has accelerated the rate of my age significantly. I feel too old for dance clubs, or parties, drinking or staying up past 10 p.m. My sense of time is impaired, which begs me to question what else is impaired?

My back for one thing. Every morning my back aches to the point of audible yelping if I move too quickly. My eyes are weak, and I have acquired glasses. I get headaches too often, but somehow not often enough to raise concern. I drink water more than once a day. A sentence that makes me laugh because there was a time when I wouldn't have a drop for months. A simple glass of water never quenched my thirst like a frosty can of coke could. These days if I go a whole morning without water I feel physically ill. My beautiful hair is thinning. I figured my Italian heritage would ensure the security of my gorgeous hair, but apparently hair is for the youth. I never dyed my hair because I was told it makes you bald. I never questioned my aggressive ritual of curling my locks every day. Frying my tresses on the hottest setting for 15 years. Ironically I have naturally wavy hair, which I never appreciated or cared for. I longed for perfect spirals, preserved in thick hair spray. My skin is beginning to freckle and lines seem to form more easily. Those silly beauty charms are beginning to rust.

I snap out of my trance in front of the bathroom mirror. Snap out of picking and prying, scrutinizing and pulling at my skin and imperfections. I take control. I start meal planning, monitoring hydration. I limit sugar and make sure to exercise. I go to yoga and moisturize my skin. I research vitamins and quit dairy. I journal, and pray the words I write muffle the cynical voices in my head. I feel great! I feel unstoppable. I grab that dress I've been drooling over, the one that's been sitting in my cart for weeks. It arrives, and it's magical. It's elegant, and sophisticated because it defines who I want to be. The person I feel I am inside, encapsulated in the fabric. But I'm in the dress, and the zipper won't zip. I rationalize that there's a thread jamming the teeth, so I step out for a closer look. The threads are sewn neatly, the zipper glides firmly across its trail. Why don't I fit into the image of myself? Rage settles in. Those numbers sink into my skin like claws on a kitten. Teenage me never appreciated her body, she didn't know that one day she wouldn't fit. She didn't know that her proportions would be blown out, and her dimensions wouldn't make sense. I curse at her, and her naivety. I become sick of her memory. While the visions of her fade, and I can't spend another moment pouting I decide I'm going to be fine. I am smart enough to know beauty isn't a size. I know I want to be healthy because health is important especially as you age. I rummage through my wardrobe and toss whatever doesn't fit because I am embracing me. I am creating space for the person I am. I don't have room for the 20-year-old that was blinded by the lights of freedom, and independence. I am going to be 30. A pill I've been staring at for a few years. I watch as others around me take the plunge, and I think they're doing okay.

Why is 30 so scary? When I really think about it… I can't define it. A new decade is beginning. I want to be the person that isn't intimidated by age, and time. I know that person is inside— somewhere. I feel excited to be 30 and to start a new chapter. I have no idea what's going to happen. I am working and fueling passions and interests with the most control and insight than ever before. I have a beautiful family, that might get bigger. I have so much to be thankful for. The most important thing for myself is to focus on my health. When I feel healthy, I am vibrant. I feel like it's 1998, and that Y2K bug sounds kinda cool. I'm going to be 30, and I'm going to love it— right?

Ashley Aker


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