Recently, a friend came across Eileen Myles’ letter to her young, queer self, part of the anthology The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to Their Younger Selves . My friend was so moved by the gesture of Eileen’s letter that she decided to invite some friends to write their own letters, and come together to share them. It’s rare, I think, to take the time to recognize and love your friends’ collective bravery, honesty, and gratitude for the lives you live today. I believe that there’s a lot of healing in the freedoms we have today. I’ve had several moments as a queer woman in New York where I’ve paused, and thought, dear teenage Courtney — hold on. Hold on. You’re gonna be alright.
It was incredible to be able to share these moments with friends. Here’s my letter.
Dear seventeen year old beautiful Courtney with the blue hair,
Honey, good news: you’re a writer.
I greet you with this good fortune from a big desk in a sunny apartment in New York City, where you have lived for eleven years. If I know you well enough, all of this news will feel like winning the lottery. It’s true: you’re making it. All those words you’ve written–in the pink kitty diary, in Mead notebooks, on the back of register tape during your shifts at the bookstore, in the margins of your Geometry textbook–these are the words that are leading you from this small, small life to the most outstanding world you could imagine, and then some.
But you’re not just a writer. You’re an awesome queer writer. One day people will pay you money to write about lesbians, I shit you not. The first story you ever publish will be about girls. The second story you ever publish will be about girls, and the third, and the fourth. All of this will take time, but it’s real. You’ll even publish a story about your first kiss Z., and change her name to Rose, and then you’ll get letters from gay teens in Texas who want to thank you for writing the story that totally also happened to them. I’m so sorry she stopped speaking with you, sweetheart. I’m sorry that when you hide under the covers and sob because you think you know it could be possible to like girls, that there isn’t anyone around you to reflect back. That you have to wake up in this foreign land without a map and trust your gut. But the writing, honey. The writing is going to save you. When you write about high school, when you write about these girls, that loneliness that trails you like vapors around small town Pennsylvania–writing about them will release you. It’s a magic I cannot explain. I’m dying to tell you that. I’m dying to whisper in your ear as you walk away from your crush, or pine for the girl with the shaved head at the mall, or cry when mom fights with you about your Boys Don’t Cry poster–here, I’m kneeling next to you right now, I’m tucking your blue hair behind your ear, I’m whispering: I love you. Keep going. I love you.
What else can I tell you? At age twenty-four, you’ll finally see Sister Spit. The moment you move out of the house you will find it easier to love Mom. You can drink, but please be careful. You’re not ugly, and you’ve never been ugly, and you never will be ugly. Hug your friends every time you greet them. The life you’re walking towards is extraordinary. One day an editor from the UK will e-mail you and ask that you write a lesbian story for her young adult anthology, and she’ll pay you $300. $300 is half of your rent. You’ll write a fictionalized story of what you wished happened with Sara W. (you haven’t met her yet). I know you write lots of fiction these days about girls. Soon, very soon, you won’t have to make the stories up. Soon, sitting across from you, or calling you on the phone, or felt underneath your palms, you will have real, live girls like you. They exist. They will be your friends and lovers and roommates and people. One night, very soon, it will happen in a dorm room at Temple University with the lights off, an hour before you have to catch the R5 train back home for a NHS meeting. Her name will be Sara G. (don’t ask me why all their names are Sara), and the moment she pulls her t-shirt off over her head, you will instinctively know to bend your mouth forward to the heat of her skin, and I can tell you that here, at nearly 30 years old, you still think about her. In that moment will be the answer you’ve itched for so long: you like girls. Girls like you. It’s relief. It’s freefall joy. It’s the launchpad of all your loves.
What does Mom think? It doesn’t matter. I swear to you: it does not.
I believe in the space time continuum, and I believe in you. I imagine that you’ll receive this letter with your backpack still on, after school one day, coming down the driveway with the mail in your hands. You’ll stop and open this envelope, wondering about the stamp, which is a sticker of the Liberty bell that says Forever. It’s me. I’m here to give you a huge, long hug and say that I fucking love you. All of you. There’s nothing wrong with you. I carry you with me everywhere I go. You are the beginning. You are the one. Take notes. Write with abandon. Pack up your things when it’s time to go and do not look back. I’m waiting for you.
3 thoughts on “letters to our younger selves”
Beautiful and honest. You can’t ask for more than that in writing!
Courtney, this is amazing! I am just blown away.
i’m speechless. i love this so much. fucking gorgeous and brave, you and this. xox