You’re 15, and everything is different. You’re scared. You don’t know who you are, you haven’t had time to decide. You’ve spent all your time trying to live up what everyone wants you to be. Life is hard on you. Your peers are hard on you. You’re even harder on yourself. You don’t eat for days. You’re severely malnourished. Your parents are worried. You hurt yourself. Everything is wrong, and you’re unsure about the future.
You’re nearly 17, and for some reason, you’ve convinced yourself that you’re nothing. Maybe it’s because that’s all you’ve heard people say about you up until this point. How did you even make it this far? School is hard. You’re taking college level courses almost exclusively to prove your worth. Whom are you trying to impress? Is it yourself? You’re sick all the time. You aren’t sleeping, you’ve taken on too much responsibilities and you don’t want to admit it. People want to help, but you pretend to be handling things well. You’re not handling anything well. You smile, because you would simply die to know someone worried about you. You don’t think you’re worth that concern. But your face is new, your dreams are big, your heart is full, and somehow, you’re still able to smile.
It’s your birthday, you’re 18. Finally, an adult. But just barely. You don’t know anything about this world, and that terrifies you. You’ve cracked several times under the pressure up until this moment, and you have no idea how you’ll handle college in two months. You’re at the top of your game. Colleges are fighting over you. You decided to attend an excellent university only owing $34 in tuition. It was almost a free ride. Your hard work has payed off. Still, you feel like a failure. Over the years, you’re proud to say that you’re the strongest person you know. You’re reliable. People like you, or they say they do. You’re actually quite popular and have many friends. You’ve made it your mission to learn everyone’s name in school and make sure you could say you were their friend. You don’t want anyone to feel alone like you did. You don’t want anyone to say they didn’t have a single friend. Even if it kills you, even though you’re already stretched so paper thin, you do this. Maybe, for just a second, you feel hope starting to bloom in your heart. You want to cultivate that feeling, and help it grow. So you write that word, Hope, over everything. It’s on your school books, it’s on your clothes. You hang posters of that one word on your wall. You ink it on your skin with pen. You are finally choosing this over the blade. Hope wins out over despair at last. This shining moment is powerful, but brief.
You’re 19. The girl of your dreams has shattered your heart. She wasn’t who she said she was. You lose all your friends. You realize they were vultures all along, waiting for you to slip up. People didn’t want to see you succeed. They wanted you to fail, so they could laugh at how hard you hit rock bottom. You made yourself too available, and now you’re paying the price. This isn’t how it was supposed to be. You burn down every bridge around you to keep yourself warm. You’re stranded on an island in your own heart, and now no one can reach out to you. You cut yourself off from the world. Your health takes a turn for the worse, and you can’t find a reason to even get out of bed anymore. You’re alone again, more than ever.
You’re 21. You’ve found the love of your life in an unsuspecting way. Your heart was closed off and guarded, and still, you fell. You fell hard. You move in together. You have a rough start, and work is terrible. Was this too quick, too soon? Aren’t you both a bit young to have a mortgage and a car payment? You work 50 hour weeks and it takes a large toll on your health and relationship. You make it work. You take each blow head on, without flinching. You knuckle down and grit your teeth, waiting for the next hit to land. Together, you can do anything. This is the best you’ve felt in a while. But still… you’re damaged goods. You’ve been so hurt for so long that you can’t feel joy or sorrow or excitement anymore. You sit in silence for hours each day and lose yourself in nothingness. You tell people you’re meditating, but really, you lost consciousness. You hate this life so much that you occasionally check out, you black out, and you wake up in weird places. Why are you in the bathtub? How did you get here? You live a sober life. You don’t even drink caffeine. None of this makes sense.
You’re 24. You have no idea what you’re doing or where you’re going. Your days are as empty as your heart. You’re always in pain. Physically, emotionally, you’re suffering constantly. You look back at yourself when you were 15, 17, 18, 19- you hated yourself so much back then, and you can’t understand why. Before, all you saw in yourself was a waste of space, a burden. What you see now in that person is a kind, loving, determined, talented, honest, potential filled former self. What you wouldn’t give to have that again. I’m sorry, Baby Gabu. I don’t know where I went wrong. I’m sorry I couldn’t love you then like I love you now. I wish I had known. I wish I had known what a good person you were, because then, we could have been friends. Who knows what life would be like now? Maybe, we wouldn’t be so fucked. Maybe, we’d have a life, and one worth living. Maybe we could give all of ourself to those who still love us. But instead, our heart is shriveled and empty, and we have no idea how to fix it. We want to get better. We don’t know how.
I’m sorry, Baby Gabu, the me that I once was. You were so good. I wish someone would have told you. I wish I would have told you. I know you’re gone now, and all that’s left of you are pictures and memories, but if it means anything, I love you. I love you so much. You deserved better. I’m sorry I failed you.