For You Then, and Me Now.

By Puti Violet, September 29, 2023

Read time: 5 Mins

For You Then, and Me Now. Image

This is for you then, and me now. You’re 21 but man do you feel older. You make jokes like you’ve lived a million different lives all put into this one, and for some reason you’re still waiting on the next.

In this life, you’re 10. You hid in the gap between the house and the neighbours fence, pretending to not be there. You sat there for hours, fiddling with weeds growing through the concrete, singing to yourself, wishing you weren’t who you are and hoping you’d somehow shrink small and make those weeds into your new home. Building a house built from sticks and flower petals fallen from the neighbours trees. By this time, this is the 6th house you’ve lived in, and even though you wished you were a fairy dancing in the backyard, it was your favourite so far. Old and cottage like, stained glass cupboard doors and the smell of dust everywhere. I want you to know a part of you still feels the same way about wanting to be someone else and live somewhere else. The ‘everywhere but here’ and ‘anyone but me’ thoughts didn’t grow up like your older brother said they would, instead you dreamt up scenarios in your head about your other lives all the time.

Now you’re 12. You came back from holiday with tanned skin, amethyst bracelets and a tattoo. God, why did you get that tattoo? All your friends missed you, they talked about how you’re the coolest person they know (all because you got a rectangle tattooed on your ankle – please don’t make me explain this) and how they have so much to catch you up on. You felt pretty good about yourself, for a little while until you were just you again. This is where you became an avid Tumblr user, living online was like living in your head. Just a little bit more real. Hah, that’s funny. Just know, and please believe me when I say this, you’re still the coolest person I know, especially for a twelvie (sorry – this is Aussie slang).

Now you, and I think about you a lot. What are you doing at 17? Probably crying over some boy (who you’ve grown to realise you didn’t actually care about) and telling your friends it’s “off” again. Maybe you just got back from Melbourne, now planning out your life of how you’re going to be living there after high school. Or maybe you took the train somewhere just so you wouldn’t have to go home. Afternoons spent at Luna park during winter. Where the air was so cold but the sun was sweet. Listening to Willow Smith’s self-titled album for the first time, the park was empty and eerie and calm. This was a bittersweet year for you. If you did go home, you’d probably be looking in the mirror, and you still do that a lot now and not in a narcissistic way but in a super-aware-of-how-you-look way. There’s nothing wrong with that by the way, it’s so normal.

19. First year out of high school. You lost your virginity to said boy from paragraph above. It wasn’t special or magical at all and you realised that on the train ride home from his dorm. You listened to Willow’s album again. And again when you got home. And when you went to bed that night. And for the whole year after that. You lived a lot and grew fast. It was like a sudden shift and you didn’t know who you were anymore and what you wanted. You thought maybe that’s what sex does to you, and you didn’t even want to see him anymore. And you didn’t, you guys were “off’ again, and have been since. Trust me, it was much better this way. And sex shouldn’t make you question your life, it should excite you about experiences to come. It was him, not you. You also didn’t even like him that much, now that you’re older and have actually been in love. Did I write a separate Issues article from when this happened and claimed it was love I had for him? Yes. But at the time, I thought it was. Do I regret that article being out in the world? Of course not. It was sweet, and I love that I felt so strongly and hopeful about someone enough to share it online.

Okay, hi. You’re here now. Living out of home, experiencing different people, different versions of yourself, wondering if you can survive this living crisis, making new friends, finding new passions, feeling heartbreak, seeking solitude, listening to yourself a bit more carefully, starting healthier routines and picking up bad habits again. You’re still thinking of ways you can shrink into a fairy. Sometimes you revisit your old Tumblr and scroll through like it’s a photo album of your past life, wondering if you’re still as cool as you thought you were. You look in the mirror a lot, phone camera if need be, and observe the way your piercings sit on your nose or the way your lips fall on top of the other, sometimes trying to count your freckles even though it’s like more keep appearing with each count. You still listen to Willow’s album a lot, mostly for comfort in knowing you’ve been here before. You’ve felt all these things and thought all these thoughts time and time again.

I’ve learnt to not run from myself so much, not even in my head. I can dream and be somewhere else, be someone else, but the truth is I’ve done that already. I’ve been so many different versions of me, and at so many different places in my life. I hadn’t even realised this until I was suddenly sitting in the backyard of the home I grew up in and smoking a cigarette out in the open, not being afraid if I was going to get caught or how I was going to hide the scent. I want my younger self to know this: it’s going to happen, you’re going to be somewhere else and be someone else a multitude of times in your life, life comes from you and not at you. I love you.

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