Normally, people write letters to their future selves so that, after an indiscriminate amount of time, they can read them and reflect on who they were and what they wanted when they first wrote the letter. But this one isn’t a letter for me to read a few months or a year from now; it’s a letter for you, myself, the me writing this right now.
I’ve been wanting to say this for a while now. I’ve only been watching as you slowly circled the drain — calling it getting to know yourself — but I need to tell you something.
You’ve changed. I noticed you’ve been tired lately. You go to bed at four in the morning, promising yourself that you’ll wake up at eight in time to go to your nine a.m. lecture. You wake up past ten and as you stare from your pillow at the digital clock on your dresser, your first foggy thought of the day is that you should cease to exist. A dramatic response to waking up two hours later than you wanted to, but when it feels like you’ve lost control over the rhythm of your life, sometimes you want to remove yourself from the equation altogether.
It feels like you’re always forgetting something in one of your classes. You think about the upcoming midterms and those final papers that you already know the prompt for, and could theoretically finish now, but the deadline seems both much too close and very far away. You make a Microsoft Word document for the paper, add page numbers and close the window. As you go through your day, you complete assignments and check them off your weekly to-do list. However much you finish, though, it feels like you’ve done nothing, even as you’re exhausted. It’s already past midnight but there’s so much left to do. Therefore, you get an overpriced sandwich and gummy bears from Good Nature to keep yourself awake and work until four. Rinse and repeat.
I miss you. I miss how you used to wake up at eight and get ready for the bright day stretching ahead of you. I miss how you used to excitedly greet people in the dining hall or the street, how you used to love meeting new people and setting up boba dates. Now you sleep in and wake up tired, you look blankly straight ahead as you walk past people you know because you can’t muster the energy to socialize, you eat silently as your friend talks to someone you guys bumped into at the dining hall, you ghost people and avoid responsibilities. You look in the mirror and look at your grades and get caught up in self-doubt and disappointment. You overthink your interactions with your closest friends, you get into weird moods and lock yourself in your room to study with classical music playing on your speaker (the first time you did this, your suitemates laughed at you). You say it’s an introverted phase, that you’re learning to love spending time with yourself, but I disagree. Yes, maybe you’re more of an introvert than you thought, but introversion is not inherently self-destructive behavior. Because let’s face it, that’s what this is.
You’re not being efficient or taking care of yourself when you force yourself to stay up late, just to wake up late the next day feeling drained. You’re not learning to love yourself when you exhaust your body and torment your mind with the demand to do more, do better. Let’s be honest. That’s not love. Love is wanting the best for yourself, thinking of your long-term health and happiness instead of immediate but ultimately meaningless deadlines. Love is encouraging yourself to improve and mature with the same gentle words and praise you would give your friends, instead of tearing yourself down with scathing criticism. Love is understanding that you won’t always satisfy your own high expectations, and that’s okay, because you’re doing what you can and that means you’re doing great.
You see, I’ve realized I’m in love with me. Really, truly, heart-achingly in love. I want me to be happy. But that also means I have to let you go. We can’t both have me at the same time. It doesn’t mean I’m erasing you completely from my life. You’ll always be a part of me, but I can’t let you eat away at my happiness and hope for the future. I can’t let you treat me like this anymore. So this is goodbye. I love and respect myself, and I want to be happy.
Hyerim Bianca Nam is a sophomore in Saybrook College. Her column ‘Moment’s Notice’ runs on alternate Wednesdays. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org