This story contains themes or mentions of suicide or self harm.

Hi. It’s me. Again. 

We turn 30 this week. Whaaaaat? I know, I know, where does the time go?  They say it flies when you’re… working, paying bills and trying to figure out what the fuck is wrong with you, right? No, that can’t be it. As you know, it obviously hasn’t been all sunshine and roses, but lately it hasn’t been a complete pile of dog shit either. So, progress?

For starters, I drove a car for the first time in 10 years. OK, that one time that mom cut off her finger chopping potatoes does not count. I was certainly having a full blown panic attack driving her to the ER that I totally don’t remember it even happening. Shoot, maybe Jesus had actually taken the wheel. Ha! No, the other night I was out to dinner with Willow and she got one of her sudden, intense migraines and couldn’t drive us home. Instead of getting an Uber as I normally would have, I grabbed her keys and just drove. I didn’t even think about it. I didn’t have any weird flashbacks or start panicking at all. It was the most normal I have ever felt. 

And Willow is great. She’s truly the sweetest. I mean, the other day I had a meeting at work with some huge donors (yes, those douchey white guys who think they know everything) and it was so awful, having them talk over us and insist that they know how to better run the show around there. Nevermind the fact that they truly know nothing about poverty or homelessness. They don’t know a God damned thing! But, of course, they fund our housing program so we have to kiss their rich asses if we want to continue the work. It’s incredibly disheartening. Anyway, Willow knew what I was up against that day. She ordered my favorite noodle dish for dinner, stocked the freezer with various flavors of Ben and Jerry’s, snuggled with me on the sofa and rubbed my feet as I binged Real Housewives. She would rather stab her eyeballs out with a fork than watch, “that trash.” That’s how much she loves me. I have honestly never had anyone give so much consideration to my feelings before. She makes me feel like I matter.

Anyway, Dr. Nataraj thought it would be a good idea to write to you again, given this huge milestone we’ll be experiencing together. I don’t know, I honestly feel pretty indifferent about the number. What is age, anyway? I mean, this fleshy meat sack we reside in might be ripening after three decades, but you’ll be happy to know that we’re still rockin the maturity level of a gross teenage boy. And that’s on a good day! I can’t imagine being any more mature when we turn 40 or even 50, but I guess we can hope? Probably not, though. We’ll be appreciating fart jokes until we finally lose all control of our body and start letting it rip on accident while waiting in line to buy groceries. For real though, I was in line to check out at the store the other day and this old guy in front of me just couldn’t keep it in! Over and over! And it was so loud! I kept turning around to see if anyone else was hearing this shit and then I wondered if his hearing was so bad that he couldn’t hear it at all! I couldn’t help but laugh with the cashier when he finally left. See, fart jokes will never get old, they help us bond with strangers. So, anyway, that will be us when we’re old and gray. An incredibly gross fart machine.

OK. This week. I guess it is pretty significant, you know, considering. The accident happened, what, the night before our 20th birthday? So, yeah, it’ll be 10 years since we almost died. Feels a little bit more like a big deal now that I think about it. And I know I was really harsh in my last letter and I’m sorry. It was ages ago and obviously I was still pretty angry about how fucked up our life has been since that day, but I said a lot of mean stuff to you that you didn’t deserve. I know I’ve blamed you for all of it. Not just for getting black out drunk and wrecking our first car. God, I loved that car. How could you destroy the one cool thing we ever owned? It had flip up lights, for fuck sake! Don’t you remember feeling like a badass, cruising around with the sunroof open, blasting some Robyn and smoking a nasty cigarette just because it made you feel cool? That car made me feel so cool! Gah! OK, I’m still mad about the car. Whatever. Sorry.  

I was also really angry about the months of physical therapy that we needed, and all the panic attacks we suffered through afterwards, but mostly, I blamed you for just having all your fucked up feelings in the first place. I just didn’t understand why you couldn’t get your shit together. Why couldn't you just snap out of it? What I know now is that you truly weren’t capable. It just wasn’t in your control. I’m so sorry, I wish I knew that back then.

God, you had so many feelings! More than any teenager should ever have to experience. And ALL OF THE TIME! How did we even survive puberty? Your brain was a traffic jam of semi-truck sized emotions, all blaring their horns at once. That tree must have looked so good to you that night. Like crashing into it was the only way to shut it all down. I totally get it now. You didn’t have the tools to cope with everything that was going on. You didn’t have the medication to help stabilize your desperate thoughts, or people by your side to notice your struggle. You had a tsunami of shit crash into your life and instead of being able to reach higher ground to shower it off, you almost drowned. But you didn’t and I am so grateful for that. 

It might have taken this long for me to finally get here, but I want to tell you, my sweet little baby of a self, that I forgive you. It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t ruin my life. In fact, you probably saved it, in a weird way. Losing Allie was the hardest thing we had ever experienced. How does one keep doing life without the only person who has ever understood them? That alone was a tough one to come back from, but add in everything at school and well, Dad. It truly is no wonder that you were in that headspace. If you hadn’t been, you wouldn’t have started drinking alone and thinking about dying and then maybe we would have never found the right medications to balance your self loathing brain. I don’t think I could live without these sweet, blessed mood stabilizers. Do you know that I’m actually a likable person now? I even like myself sometimes, can you believe it? I know, so wild!  

And if you didn’t do what you did, I might not have ever found Dr. Nataraj. I mean, it did take me a few years and a couple bullshit therapists to find her, but it was worth it. She’s so brutally honest with me and sometimes makes me do stupid shit, like write this letter, but dear God, she has helped me wade through my landfill of messy thoughts and untangle the trash. I feel like, what I think a normal person might feel like. If there is any such thing as normal, I don’t know. Life is still hard. It sometimes feels like I’m swimming in a sea of shit, but at least I have a life preserver with me. I know I won’t drown. Maybe contract E. coli or something, but I’m sure as hell not drowning here. Never again.

And that is what I really want you to know. We’re OK now. I’ve got this. Sweet baby girl, I wish you hadn’t been so hard on yourself. I wish your brain had been less chaotic and that life had been easier, but I know that you were just doing your best. You tried as hard as you could! We might have broken down for a bit, but I think I’ve managed to piece us back together. I don’t want you to worry, I’ve got it all under control. And now I’m going to live this awesome, messy life. For you, my sweet little self. 

Happy Birthday! 



PS. I love you. Sorry it took me so long to figure that out.

May 18, 2022 18:06

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Andrew Audibert
21:04 May 26, 2022

Well written and a strong payoff! I like how well-developed Tori's voice is, and you lay out the progression of her journey to self-love (and maybe self-actualization?) in a believable way. Finally, thank you for saying what we all know is true. #longlivethefartjokes #letemrip


Shalon Atwood
22:03 May 27, 2022

This comment made my day! Thanks for reading!


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Anissa Waterman
02:13 May 23, 2022

Good story. I can feel the emotions the character is going through. Relatable to someone who went through a the like that when a teen. Could also relate to the rich men giving out money for charity. They all think they know what's best but really have no clue.


Shalon Atwood
02:10 May 24, 2022

Thanks for reading!


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