To my seventh grade self,
This is your twenty-five year old self here with advice from the future. I am currently sitting at the piano in your newly remodeled home that you grew up in, starting about a year from now. It’s a home you’ve come back to after experiencing some of your milestones in love, education, and friendship. Anyway, it’s a place where you’ve come to experience some major emotions, good and bad. Right now, you’re trying to mend your heart after the nearly two-year period of life with Jareb (you’ll see what I mean later—much later, actually).
Let’s rewind and focus on you, you thirteen-year-old. Your best friend at the time, Sammy, has just move to San Diego. You feel alone. Never have you felt so uncomfortable with yourself. You don’t have any close friends. You’ve tried, but they’ve all ganged up against you. What you don’t know now is that they all have conflicts with each other and none of those conflicts concern you. Right now, your only refuge is volleyball. It’s simple: just get the ball to the other side of the net. It’s the only place where you feel like you belong. Everything else just seems awkward. I have some good news for you but also some bad news. The good news is you’ll some friends through volleyball that will show you that you don’t need to be anyone else on the court, just be aware of where the ball is. Even less, just be a good teammate. You didn’t even have to be a good player. You just have to love the game. Volleyball will save your life, though you don’t focus on much else. But that doesn’t matter.The bad news is that, for the time being, you’ll be really hard on yourself and have expectations to be an all around, good player. I can tell you now that no one cares about how you let that last ball fall on the side of your court, right in front of you, causing the team to lose that round in the playoffs. The small things like that that you sweat over, are not going to matter ten, fifteen, twenty years from now. What’s going to matter now is how being on that team made you feel, how you loved bringing your best day in and day out, producing real sweat on the courts and sharing that experience with others.
Through volleyball you were able to find more of yourself. This was mostly due to your gay-coach. You suspected at the time and you were right. Seventh grade was the year you came out to one of your best friends. She’s still one of your best friends, even now. You went to college and lived together for all five years, even. (I’ll leave the rest of the college details for you to experience) Part of the reason why you feel so disoriented and lonely without your best friend that moved away is because you’ve fallen so head over heels for her. You would not dare say it to yourself or to anyone else. You felt how people in movies felt when they fell in love, even though it was for another girl and that wasn’t supposed to be how this happened. Regardless, your feelings grew tall and this was deeper than anything you’d ever felt with any of your past boyfriends. You wanted to spend all your time with her. Everything just seemed to click this time like never before. I want you to hold onto this feeling of connection. It’s what will keep us alive. There’ll be room for others, for you to feel this way, and for someone else to feel the same. You will fall in love again, and again, and again. You follow the pattern of falling for your best friend for a few iterations and you’ll feel heartache every time you are rejected. But you are so strong and you keep going. Keep doing this and letting yourself feel. Every heartache brings you more clarity in what will work and what won’t. Even now, you haven’t figured it all out, but you’re closer than you’ve ever been.
April will come along in your senior year of high school. You’ll meet at a concert. You’ll feel that instant click again. She intrigues you and you’ll want to know more. You’ll stay up until morning on the phone, talking about nonsense, listening to the other’s breathing as you fall asleep. You’ll think this is what I’ve been looking for. Going off to college looms in the background which adds some tension to your relationship. Her friendship with another queer woman adds to it too and you feel jealousy bubbling in you. Her growing spirituality makes her question whether this is wrong or right adds the most tension. This will be the breaking point. She chooses God over you. You understand. As a Filipino born- and raised-Catholic, you struggle with the same thoughts, too. Still, you have the hardest time getting over her. But in that time of struggle, you find yourself. You find others like you. They will help you forget. Even though you pick up smoking as a habit and spend countless hours on your porch, wondering why she chose to let you go, you get through this. When times like these happen in the future, I want you to remember to be with others like you. They will help you get through it. You are not alone. The first love is always the hardest. So is the second, the third, and I anticipate the fourth. You will find love.
At the moment, you struggle with your negative self-talk. (It’s something that’s going to stick with you, something you try to shake off even now) Try to see a counselor. As stigmatized as it is, you have a line of depression in your family, and it will help you. Right now, you just can’t seem to find a way in to the group of friends you want to. Don’t worry. High school is on the horizon. Be in the present and participate. Continue to play volleyball even though you’re not the best. Don’t take yourself so seriously. You’ll find others just as quirky as you, even more so, people who let things flow. Hang on to these fabulous people once you find them.
You are not alone. I love you. Learn to love yourself now. It really doesn’t matter how awesome someone else’s life seems to be. What matters is how you make your life. I urge you to find your passion and be honest with yourself more. Don’t worry, I urge myself the same thing even now. You are beautiful. You’ll make it through. Thanks for being so strong so that I could write this letter to you.