A Letter to a Friend

Dear friend,

I’ve been thinking about you so much lately and how much I love you. There is no one in this world that I can be authentic self around quite like I can with you. I’ve always been someone that freakishly needs to talk through all of my feelings. Being able to text you whatever I am nervously thinking is such a blessing. I love that I can tell you all my worries, anxieties, and dreams; but also, my behavior that I’m not proud of. I’ve never had to worry about telling you something and losing your friendship. Not everyone has this in their life and for that I am so incredibly grateful. But I hope you know you also have that in me as well.

Over the last year or so, we’ve reconnected on a level that I don’t think we ever had before. We’re both going through this young adult identity crisis, trying to figure out who we are and what we want. It’s been exhausting but it’s been amazing to have you there by my side.

I want you to know that no matter what you share with me, I will never think less of you or get angry with you or distance myself from you. Everything you share with me I feel honored that you can tell me.

I also want you to know that you deserve love, joy, success, and everything you want in life – even if you haven’t figured it out yet. You are exactly where you need to be right now and you will get to where you need to go. I’ve seen you put so much pressure on yourself to have everything figured out. I’ve seen you make brave choices and then shame yourself for not being completely happy and then shame yourself for not being proud and confident in your decision. I want you to know and to believe that this is normal. We are all criticizing ourselves and our life choices constantly.

It is normal to be full of shame, anxiety, anger, depression, doubt, sadness. It is normal to feel these things for no reason. I’ve seen you suppress these feelings and experiences. You often share something vulnerable with me and then immediately want to change the topic. Sometimes you tell me something very sad that you’ve experienced and then follow it up with ‘it’s not that big of a deal’. I also know that you don’t share a lot with me. And while you certainly never have to share everything with me, I suspect that a lot of the time it’s because you are trying not to feel vulnerable. Sometimes I suspect that you want to preserve an image of yourself. Not so much around me. But around new friends or men. And that is okay. But I read this quote once:

“Any woman who doesn’t give a fuck is simply abandoning her soul to adhere to the rules. No woman on earth doesn’t give a fuck—no woman is that cool—she’s just hidden her fire. Likely, it’s burning her up.” – Glennon Doyle, Love Warrior

Sometimes I’m worried that you are burning up.

In our 20s, we make a lot of big decisions, for the first time, and its fucking terrifying. But I want you to know that there is no right or wrong decision. You will never choose the right one because there is no wrong one. I know that you often put a lot of hope in big decisions, that it will fill the void you’re currently feeling. I know you’re terrified of making the wrong choice and remaining disappointed, or having even more misery. But I want you to know that our choices to do or not do something do not bring us happiness.

Our happiness only comes when we accept the pain we feel in life. Until we fully feel and embrace the pain we’re experiencing, we can’t feel happiness. You can’t numb the shitty feelings and also experience true joy, love, and happiness. I’ve realized over the last couple of months that a part of the reason you are struggling so much to find your life is that you are not embracing your pain.

“You are not supposed to be happy all the time. Life hurts and it's hard. Not because you're doing it wrong, but because it hurts for everybody. Don't avoid the pain. You need it. It's meant for you. Be still with it, let it come, let it go, let it leave you wtih the fuel you'll burn to get your work done on this earth.”  - Glennon Doyle, Love Warrior

Suffering and pain are experienced by every single person in this world. No one person’s pain is greater or less than another’s. We’re all connected by the experience of human suffering. I have found this to be extremely comforting and helpful in forgiving others and building connection with them - especially my mom. Once I was able to understand that we’re all suffering, I was able to send people who had hurt me some compassion. But before I could find that, I had to send myself compassion.

I’ve had to forgive myself for not having everything figured out; for fucking up and being in credit card debt; for drinking too much and making mistakes; for not being far enough in my career as my dad was at my age; for not having a life partner when my mom had two kids by my age; for not being at the weight I want to be; for not being poised and graceful, for being bawdy and anxious. I had to be proud of myself for the growth I’ve made, but also forgive my past self for being less than perfect and accept that my present and future selves are less than perfect too.

I’ve had to get comfortable with being in pain. I’ve had to accept that there is no magic cure or one true passion or magic lightning bolt to make me feel like I’m living my life that I want. It’s going to be a lot of different little things and it all starts with just moving. I have learned that I have to act and take chances to figure things out.

Of course this increases the chances that I’ll fail; but it lowers the amount of failure. If I take a bunch of little jumps, then the falls aren’t so deadly. With each little jump (win or fail) I build a little more courage and confidence. When I fail, which I will, I have to remind myself that it doesn’t define my worth. When I feel pain, which I will, I tell myself that it’s not forever, and it’s not a definition of my value.

Whatever decision is weighing on you, know that it won’t kill you either way. However, what will drain your energy and prevent you from living life is not making a decision. Do not avoid failure or pain. Avoid standing still, getting stuck, stalling. There’s a quote from the book Designing Your Life, ““You don’t need to know your passion in order to design a life you love”. You don’t need to know anything right now. Just move forward. And when you feel like you failed and moved back, just start slowly moving forward again.

“If you choose not to act, you have little chance of success. What’s more, when you choose to act, you’re able to succeed more frequently than you think. How often in life do we avoid doing something because we think we’ll fail? Is failure really worse than doing nothing? And how often might we actually have triumphed if we had just decided to give it a try?” – The Confidence Code 

It doesn’t matter what you choose. There is no single thing you’re supposed to do. You are capable of millions of things. What matters is that you act and act in a way that aligns with your values.

“The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important. And it seems almost ridiculous to say that a man MUST function in a pattern of his own choosing; for to let another man define your own goals is to give up one of the most meaningful aspects of life— the definitive act of will which makes a man an individual.”

Embrace mbiguity. It will never be clear where you are and what you’re supposed to be doing. Find the stability you need to survive in love – loving yourself and others, unconditionally. Be weary of taking chances to achieve something great instantly, to experience euphoria, to feel constantly good. When you move forward, move forward towards joy and love, not perfection. If you chase perfection, you’ll never move and when you finally do, you’ll always be disappointed when you get there. Chase joy, seek connection with others, always let love guide you.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

so you’re old by the time you reach the island,

wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

 

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.

Without her you wouldn't have set out.

She has nothing left to give you now.

 

And if you find her poor, Ithaka won’t have fooled you.

Wise as you will have become, so full of experience,

you’ll have understood by then what these Ithakas mean.

-Ithaka by CP Cavafy

 

You are smart, kind, loving, beautiful, insightful, sensitive, and hilarious. There will be many things in life that you can and should do. Chase what makes you feel alive. There is not a prescription or road map. There are many things that will make you feel alive. Those things might change throughout the years. What gives you joy today, might not next year, but it doesn’t mean you failed. For as many things that bring you happiness, there are things that you won’t like, will feel wrong, off, shitty. That is ok. But you won’t know until you make those choices and take chances.

Your intelligence and empathy will also serve you well when things don’t go well. You are stronger than you know and are able to overcome anything that comes your way. Whether it is a romantic heartbreak, a career disaster, a failed entrepreneurial risk. You have the skills and characteristics to survive anything, learn from it, and do something greater next.

“My courage will come from knowing I can handle whatever I encounter there -- because I was designed by my creator to not only survive pain and love but also to become whole inside it. I was born to do this. I am a Warrior.” – Glennon Doyle, Love Warrior

“The original Hebrew word for woman, a word that is used twice to refer to the first woman, three times to refer to strong military forces, and sixteen times to refer to God, is this: Ezer...I learn this: "The word Ezer has two roots: strong and benevolent. The best translation of Ezer is: Warrior." God created woman as a Warrior.” ― Glennon Doyle MeltonLove Warrior

You also have a secret weapon – me. I love you. Unconditionally. You are loved. By me and many, many others. This love will float you from when you experience pain to healing to you’re next big adventure. Your support network is there for you. Use it. Every single day. We can’t live a full life without our friends and family. We can’t be our authentic selves without loving others and being loved. That connection is hard wired in our human brains. Don’t ever fight it. We need it. Access your love network when you are feeling pain, having a problem, facing a challenge, feeling stuck, or going through a failure. Calling on your people is not a sign of weakness, it is a part of living a full life.

You are loved. You have always been loved. You will always be loved. I love you. I hope you know that I am writing this because I love you and I want you to feel joy. I see you in pain right now. You’re sad, confused, depressed, angry. And that is completely okay. But I’ve seen how it’s starting to impact your life in a way that is not healthy or productive. I’m hoping that I can change this just a little. I know I’ve shared a little bit of this with you through texts. But after I saw you last month, I felt like I had to do something more. I have to let you know that you don’t have to feel the way you are feeling. You are able to live a life that you love. You can still experience pain and suffering, but without anger and resentment or without the shame and self-doubt that I hear from you.

I don’t know what exactly you need to do. I don’t think anyone can prescribe that to someone else. And while I believe we’ll never have everything figured out, I do believe we should listen to our inner voice, our intuition. I suspect that you know what to do to start living a joyful life but you have been too scared to do it or don’t feel like you deserve it. Let me set the record straight right now: you deserve everything you want. You are entitled to a life of joy. And while it won’t always be happy, fun, or amazing, it will always be beautiful and I will always be there next to you. I am fully confident that you can do anything you want and I can’t wait to see it.

 

All my love,

Stephanie