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A Letter To My Younger Self

Updated: Apr 11, 2023

Dear 9-Year-Old Niamh,

I know that things are exceptionally difficult right now, and unfortunately they’re going to stay that way for quite some time; but, I want you to know that you are one of the most extraordinary kids I know. You have one of the biggest hearts I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, but no one will give you a chance to prove it. I know you’re frustrated. I know you feel like the weight of this burdensome world is balancing on your tiny little shoulders, but you still show up for yourself. every. single. day. Even on the days you’d rather be doing anything else, you. show. up. For that, you possess double the strength than anyone else your age.

A little girl shouldn’t have to take on so much hurt. You shouldn’t have had to witness your parents separating. Nobody should’ve laid even a finger on you. You shouldn’t have to be in therapy, which I know you hate. You, at nine years old, shouldn’t be medicated, not even knowing what you’re being medicated for, but having no choice in the matter. You should be in a classroom, or on a sports team, making friends, and learning everything you’ll need to know for next year, with your classmates. I know it makes no sense to you, why you’re always in the principal’s office, and you feel alone, isolated, and left out. I’m sorry. I wish I could’ve been there to hold your hand, and tell you that it’s gonna be okay, this part is just a little scary, and we’ll get through it together.

I know how much you want to “be like all the other kids”, or be “normal”, so you wouldn’t be as much of a target for bullies, and your mom would pick you up every day instead of being at work, so your teachers wouldn’t need to “have a word” with your babysitter when they come to pick you up, which only fills you with dread about what will happen when your mom finally gets home and finds out “how bad” you were in school that day. But, you’ll come to find out, being a little different is kind of like your superpower. Your stubborn self wouldn’t believe me if I told you that, but it’s true.

I know you have a difficult time expressing how you feel in a way that others can recognize and understand, but I promise you, in time, you’ll learn. In fact, you’ll learn so well, you'll write two entire books about it. The profound empathy you’re now able to express is unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed. The grace you give others is incredible. You’re able to develop and maintain meaningful relationships. And the best part? No more of that “on and off” crap and elementary school drama you’re in the midst of right now.

There will be teachers you’ll meet who will be one of your very few reasons to keep going, to keep pushing, while everyone else tries to shut you down. Those teachers will give you a voice, when other people are trying their hardest to drown you out. Even though you won’t be at this school for much longer, those teachers truly cared, all while showing you love and patience, which is exactly what you didn’t even know you needed. They still hold a very special place in my heart today, and I am eternally grateful for them.

As much as I hate to say it, even after you leave this school and move on to the next, things will continue to go downhill. You’ll continue to be misunderstood. You’ll continue to be singled out because you’re not the “average” kid. No one is going to want to be your friend after witnessing your worst moments, but that’s because they’re not open minded enough to see past all that, and see who you really are. That is not your fault, and it never will be. You WILL meet the right people who are going to love you, for you, I promise, but you’ll have to hold on just a little while longer to meet them.

Believe it or not, you made it to high school. You survived the catastrophe that was elementary school. You made it. No one is gonna tell you this, but I am over the moon for you. I didn’t think we’d make it this far, and I am so proud. This is the part where things will start to look up, even if it’s only ever so slightly. No, it won’t be perfect. It won’t be anything like you imagined. You’ll be bullied and you won’t have straight A’s. In fact, there are some classes you’ll just barely pass. But, I promise it’s not as bad as what you’re used to. You made a few friends. You learn in a real classroom. You don’t spend all day in the principal's office. No one gets mad at you for expressing yourself anymore. I won’t sugarcoat it; there will be hard days. There will be days you feel like giving up. There will also be days so good you’ll forget about the bad ones. But you’ll channel all of your strength, and make it all the way through to graduation day. In your final year, you got your name on the honor roll, and you were recognized as an Ontario Scholar. If only those teachers who wanted nothing to do with you could see you now, even though they don’t deserve to.

You’ll be accepted to multiple colleges and universities. You thought you wanted to study biology, and you’ll start a science program the following September, but as it turns out, your passion lies within the arts. You’ll start a theater program the following year, and decide that maybe acting isn’t for you. You’ll be at a loss for a little while, trying to decide what you want to do, and what kind of person you want to be in this life. To tell you the truth, you’re still trying to figure it out. But you will, you just need a little more time.

You have matured SO MUCH since being a 9-year-old little girl. You learned that everybody has a story, and you never know what’s really going on in someone else’s head. That taught you to show grace to every person you meet. That taught you to show compassion and understanding. That taught you to have patience. It taught you to be kind, even to the people who show you the opposite. “Hate” is a word you’ve removed from your vocabulary. I don’t believe you ever had a “bad bone” in your body, it was just your way of protecting yourself, and I don’t blame you, because you weren’t taught any differently.

You have so many interesting qualities: you find everything space-related absolutely fascinating. So much so, you'll get Jupiter permanently tattooed on your leg (yes, really). You have the mental capacity to spend seven hours at a time on jigsaw puzzles with nothing but caffeine and a spark of determination to keep you going. You write. Constantly. Anything and everything that comes to mind, goes in your notebook. You love to share your writing with the world, in hopes that someone who truly needs it, will see it. You write the things that you could’ve used in your darkest moments.

You were NEVER any of the horrible things you were told that you were. You were NOT “broken” and you were not "troubled". There was no need to believe any of that, because my darling, you were just different, not bad. You just needed a little extra help navigating the world, and that’s okay. You were a force to be reckoned with then, and you’re a force to be reckoned with now. You never lost the fire living in your soul. The flame only got brighter, as you grew taller. You are just as strong and resilient as you always were. Life isn’t going to be easy all the time, it’s going to be far from it. But I swear to you, that you will have all the tools necessary to handle any curveball life throws at you. At times, it will be terrifying, but you will never be alone. I want you to remember that, always. There are so many people that love you, support you, and want you to be nothing but happy. I promise you’ll be proud of the person you turn out to be, and I promise to never let you down. I will keep working on us until I’m satisfied. I will push until I feel like you got the justice you deserved, for everything you endured.

Don’t wish your time away, but look forward to the life that you have in the present, because you deserve nothing less than a vacant, sandy beach, after the tsunami that almost took you in.


19-Year-Old Niamh

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