Dear 18 year old Me,
Look around you. Take in your surroundings. Cherish the sky when it’s blue, the rain when it’s cold, the air when it’s fresh. Absorb the colours, feel the music, be dazzled by the lights. Listen to the sound of strangers talking, the waves crashing against the shore and your friends laughing. Notice the skylines and the statues in the cities. Feel the grass under your feet and the sand between your fingers. Smell the flowers. Remember his cologne. Be fascinated.
Look in the mirror. Be naked. Admire those slender, long legs. Run your hands over that neat, nipped in waist and toned stomach. Revel in your pert, rounded breasts. Check out that arse. Flick your flowing blonde hair and flutter those beautiful eyelashes that frame your bright, flirtatious eyes. Enjoy the smoothness of your skin. Start moisturising. Please. Be proud.
Say yes. Go to parties and festivals, music gigs and poetry readings. Get on the plane, the train, the bus, the boat. Drive too fast, laugh too loudly, swim in that river. Accept that date, agree to that drink, eat that meal. Sit outside the box office and get those tickets. Wear the dress, buy those shoes, dye your hair that colour and definitely kiss that man. Be spontaneous.
Talk to your family. Ask your father about his first love, his school days, his favourite bands. Tell your grandmother you appreciate her more than she will ever know. Teach your little sister that even though people can be cruel, some of them are worth the risk. Pay attention to your great aunts and uncles. Look after your cousins. Tell your mother it will be ok. Thank them all. Be humbled.
Listen to yourself. Do what you want, not what is expected. Do what makes you happy. Ignore the critics, laugh at the envious, control your anger. Understand that what is right for them is not necessarily right for you. Think for yourself. Do not be motivated by materialism and popularity. Know your worth. Make your point. Look beyond the surface and trust your instincts. Be you.
One day, everything will change. Your looks will fade, your waistline will spread and your breasts will defy gravity and the most powerful of wishes. You will be too tired to notice the sunsets, too worn to climb the mountains. The tears that run down your face will mostly be from sorrow, not laughter. The opportunities that present themselves to you now will still present themselves to you later, but you will not be able to take them. You will have commitments, responsibilities and duties. You will still laugh and dance and sing, but it will not be with the energy you do now. Don’t worry, you will have other great pleasures. There will be experiences that swell your heart. You will love with greater abundance than you ever thought possible. You will have a wisdom that guides you through the darkest of times and offers clarity amidst the mayhem. You will be smarter and more grateful. But for now, taste it all. You will never be as free and as beautiful as you are at this very moment.