Dear Past Self,

You were so young.

So innocent.

And now, looking down upon you while walking memory lane, I can’t resist this urge to mother you.

To just walk up to you and give you a big hug and be ready to wipe the tears I know you won’t cry because you don’t cry. Unless you’re alone and overwhelmed.

My soul longs to be there for you. But alas, we’re separated by a time we can’t control.

I wish I could shatter that glass of time and give you some advice. But I can’t.

All I can do is write this, knowing you will never hear it. Knowing that the only thing I can do with you is empathize from a distance.

Oh, sixteen-year-old Kaylee.

The things you felt. The things you thought.

I’m so sorry you had to experience those things.

I’m so sorry that you were being swallowed by depression, but I couldn’t see it at the time. We could’ve told someone about it. We could’ve run to God, the Light of the world. We could’ve done anything and everything but keep piling burdens on our own shoulders and carrying on with the mindset, “I do it because I have to.”

You didn’t have to. You still don’t.

I’m so sorry that I didn’t see how physically and mentally and spiritually exhausted you were. You said that you wanted to crawl into a hole and talk to no one and think of nothing. You said you wanted to sleep in that hole for a thousand years.

And I had the audacity to be ignorant to the fact that you needed a break. You needed help. You needed a nap . . . and maybe more than one, while we’re at it.

I’m so sorry that you were caught up in fantasies that weren’t even there. I wish that I could give you the sense I have now. The resassurance and the security I have now, knowing that those fantasies are just that: fantasies. I wish I could teach you how to not let them control you and your mind and your life. But I can’t change the fact that they did.

But through it all, I’m glad that you let them control you. Because maybe if you hadn’t, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Maybe I would still be a captive to those fantasies.

I’m so sorry that you put up for so long with the unrelenting requests of those who needed too much but gave too little. I’m so sorry that I didn’t have enough self-esteem and confidence to say no to some of the questions they asked. I’m so sorry I didn’t take care of you.

Sadly, self-care wasn’t a word in our repertoire until our twenties.

I’m so sorry that your greatest burden wasn’t the depression. Nor the fantasies. Nor the friends that needed you.

I’m sorry that your greatest burden was yourself. The expectations you put on yourself. The perfectionism.

I’m so sorry that I didn’t love you.

Honestly, Kaylee . . . I wish I could tell you that you were the most perfect when you were the most beautifully imperfect. When you were broken, collapsing, hanging on by a thread. For it’s your imperfection that allows you to draw closer to God’s perfection.

I wish I could tell you that there is more to life than the things you worry and obsess over. There’s so much beautiful simplicity that you can’t see because you’re so obsessed over this perfect version and fantasy of a life that doesn’t exist.

But that’s one of the things I love about you . . . your idealization of things. Your imagination. Your optimistic headspace that chooses to believe that the best will happen. And yes, I even love your melodramatization of things . . . even if it makes me cringe sometimes.

I can’t say that re-reading some of the pieces you wrote back in high school wasn’t painful. And I definitely can’t say that I didn’t cry reading them.

If I had known how much pain you were in . . . if I had known how unhappy you were . . .

maybe I would have been honest with you and told you.

Maybe I would have been honest with someone so I could get you help.

But no matter how many tears I cry over these old writings, and no matter how badly I wish to be able to communicate with you and tell you all these things, the truth of the matter is that I can’t.

I never will be able to.

So keep being strong, Kaylee. Keep being optimistic. Keep being beautiful. Because one day–a day sooner than you expect–you’ll need that strength and optimism and beauty to get you through some pretty rough times.

But I promise, it will all be worth it. Because you will find God on the other side. And you will learn that He never let you go. And He isn’t going to.

You will also find me on the other side. And trust me when I say this: we have grown so much. And even though I look back on you and hurt for you, I’m so proud of you.

Your tenacity is something else, Kaylee, even when you’re drowning in darkness. Never lose that.

But most importantly, my child, keep your face focused on God. Because even though your tenacity is great, it only takes you so far.

I’m so sorry that this is all I can say. And that you’ll never be able to hear it.

But soon–oh so very soon–you’ll meet me. And it will be a joyous reunion!

See you in five years,

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