By: Vanessa Garcia / February 14, 2016
On Thursday February 11, 2016, Villain Theater down in Miami, Florida asked me to write a “love letter to myself.” This letter was then performed by an actress on stage as part of a show that benefitted Women in Comedy — a Chicago based organization that empowers, connects and advocates for women in the industry. Below is the “lover letter” I wrote to a younger version of myself — my twenty-two year old self. I post it here in honor of Valentine’s Day.
Lover Letter to My 22 Year Old Self
The city you live in is about to go up in smoke. Well, not in its entirety, just two of its towers. But the world will change. It will change forever. It will change you.
You have just graduated from college, you are a writer, an artist, and it will be hard for you to find work. The city will smell like an urn for months. The sky will mirror the pitch of the road. But, you will find solace in work, and you will write until your eyes burn, even if nobody is paying you any money or attention.
You will sit at your kitchen table in the middle of the day — a table you found on the street in Washington Heights. Tiny cockroaches will make their way up the pipes into your sink, and no matter what you do to try and kill them, they will persist, and they will breed, and you will learn to live with them. In fact, you will learn from them — about grit, and survival.
Don’t despair. You are not Kafka, you will not become a roach yourself. You are a different kind of insect, you are spinning a cocoon, and one day, I promise, you will feel the infinite beauty of the world flitter beneath your wingspan.
Most nights, you sleep alone in your twin bed. You are afraid of getting too close to men because you’ve seen them ruin your friends, take away their work. You will not let this happen to you. You will sacrifice years of affection holding on to this theory. You will have been half wrong, half right.
Some days in your bed, despite your loneliness, you feel a soft embrace. Invisible. It will be me, your 36-year old self, stretching across time and space, to hold you. Listen to that embrace and keep going.
You will find work with a famous writer, this writer will be generous with you. He will teach you and guide you in the ways of living like a writer. You will make mistakes, not heed certain pieces of his advice. He will tell you not to worry, that “the writer’s life is long.” You will not know what that means because you will be anxious and impatient — those twin flaws of youth.
Don’t despair. You will, eventually, after a long and bumpy road publish a book (the first of many). You will get your words out there, thrive off your writing, meander into TV and film. You will travel the world. There will be places you can’t believe exist. You will look out at the ocean from Miami, Havana, Elmina, Los Angeles and spheres of glowing awe will plant themselves inside you, fueling your journey forward.
Before all of this, your complicated father will die suddenly, and the world will change again. The ground will shift beneath you, and the rubble and dust you had seen cover your city, will now cover you. The rubble of years, of regrets of I Love You’s not said — these will weigh you down.
Your body will seem to crumble under this new weight. There will be a number of years that you will not eat, you will be afraid of food. You will try to disappear. You will not understand why you are doing this. You will find yourself in bed one day, alone, and the world will go black, and you will realize that dying young is a thing that can happen in reality, not just in songs.
But, again, do not despair. You will refuse to die. You will not be like your father. You will go to therapy. You will do lunges and squats with the weight that, previously, tried to crush you. And you will come out with biceps the size of hungry hyenas, hungry for the world, for life; ambitious. This time you will let yourself eat, you will take it all in, and allow it to nourish you. Your cocoon will start to crack. Your thirties will be magic.
You will get married and divorced. The year after your divorce, you will decide that you should live a year as a slut. You hate that word, you use it only in order to kill it. You will find that you will learn about the lives of many, from their lips, in their beds. You will discover that between other people’s sheets, under dim lighting, and after the body’s great release, people will tell you things. They will tell you about the roots beneath their feet, the people they have loved, their burdens, their fears, their joys. You will want to hold each of their lives in the nook of your arms, like babies, you will coo them. You will write their stories.
Nights like this will come and go, until you decide it’s time for someone to hold you in their arms, long and hard, and for a longer run than just a couple of nights, a week, a month.
You will find someone, and you will set an anchor in his heart, and he in yours. This does not mean you are not free, it only means that the weight of your grip helps the other’s heart beat brighter.
When you are 36, about to turn 37, you won’t know what will become of these beating anchors, but you’ve grown a tiny bit more patient, and your anxiety has quelled, so you are not worried.
Now, you look at the map of your life — your love, your work — the way it has all made a path out there, the way it’s beginning to see how far it can go still, and you are filled with pride and you are filled with the eager anticipation of all that is left to conquer. There is so much world to chart and venture through, there is so much left to see and do.
So you, my twenty-two year old self, standing there in New York City, lost and hungry and hurt — Do not despair. Because the cocoon you are so delicately spinning — that shelter that, at times, feels like a trap — is just your hard-knock path toward freedom. Keep spinning, fearless, as I hold you in the nook of my arms, and coo. Because I, too, have someone holding me. Our forty-five year old self, soulful and confident, bathed in light, smiling and saying: Wait until you see what’s ahead, it’s even better than you imagine.
About Vanessa Garcia
Vanessa Garcia is a writer and mulit-media artist