Dear Younger Self

Li Li

“Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo” and other life lessons I wish I could tell my younger self.


Dear 6-year-old Ariel,

Don’t let go of that smile. For a while, you’ll be the only one without your front tooth because you got them knocked out so early but it’s OK to still smile. It gives you character–I promise. You grow to learn that your imperfections are what makes you perfect. I know your skin color is different from most of the kids around you, but it’s OK. Your skin is beautiful.. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.

You’re still not going to love school but you’ll be good at it. When you hit 3rd grade you decide that you no longer want to be a doctor. You’re going to want to have your own talk show when you grow up and it’s still your dream to this day. You even came up with your own theme song.

Hug grandma every time you see her because after 9 years old you won’t see her anymore. As much as it hurts you it hurts mom even more. You’re going to see her cry for the first time but it won’t be the last. Cherish all the family vacations and all the memories you make with everybody. You and Maya go through a phase of hating each other. But at the end of the day that’s your sister and you will become best friends again. You guys talk every single day now. You’re her biggest fan and she helps you overcome so much. Try to take in the times when you see mom and dad happy together. They won’t stay together forever. I know it’s weird to think about but as you get older you watch them fall out of love and you start to understand. Just because they separate doesn’t mean that true love doesn’t exist. Your family isn’t broken, it’s just different now.

You don’t end up playing softball at LSU. You actually quit softball altogether. Unfortunately you came across coaches who ruined your confidence and made you hate it. Soccer will still be your favorite sport. You’ll get really good at it. When it starts to get hard mentally you have to keep going. Enjoy every minute playing because there will be a time where you won’t play anymore. You don’t end up playing soccer in college but it’s alright because you coach now. You coach with one of your closest friends and it’s the greatest job ever because you watch little kids fall in love with a sport that makes you who you are. And you absolutely love what you do. That’s something you’ll always remember. In 9th-grade your business teacher said that you need to love what you do. If you don’t absolutely love what you’re doing then there’s no point.

Your sweet tooth is greater than you ever could’ve imagined. Your favorite thing is still ice cream. You discovered some new flavors though. Currently you love chocolate malted crunch. You even found a favorite ice cream place. It’s all the way in Koreatown called The Dolly Llama, but I promise it’s worth the drive. Trust me, they are way better than Bomb Pops. Your neighbors that you’ve known since you were a toddler are still some of your closest friends. It’s crazy to watch everyone grow up. You are going to reminisce on the times when you were young and everything was simple so hold onto your inner child for as long as you possibly can.

Things will get harder. Especially after high school, mentally you will go through so much. You are finally going to deal with the consequences of having a big heart. You’ll deal with the betrayal of some friends and you are going to close yourself off from the world. You’ll stop eating and you won’t leave the house. You’re honestly going to hate being alive. No matter how dark your days get, just know that you are going to be okay. Those scars on your wrist will heal. But please don’t ever hurt yourself like that ever again. You are worth so much more than what you allow yourself to believe. You’re going to learn that sometimes you have to forgive people who were never sorry and accept apologies that you’ll never receive.

You’ll graduate with some of your same friends since elementary school and you’re going to make some new ones along the way. You are wanted here by so many people. It took me a long time to really believe that but it’s true. The people who stay with you at your lowest are the people who stay with you when you are at your best. You meet your best friend in 6th-grade and you meet your guy best friend in high school. They love you so much and you love them. You have people in your life who come to visit you on your bad days and take you for ice cream when you’re sad. Live for them until you can live for you. Thank them every chance you get. You will have so many nights where you cry yourself to sleep but there will be so many more days where you are laughing with people uncontrollably until it hurts. They are like a sunrise for you. A light that pulls you out of the darkness.

Please learn to love yourself. You’ll struggle with how little you love yourself but I promise you’re perfect. Every part of you is absolutely perfect. I know it’s hard to love yourself in a world that doesn’t love you back but there’s so much more to life than what you’re experiencing. You’re in therapy now. And I know what you’re thinking but I promise it’s helped you so much. You finally asked for help and you’re doing so much better.

Stop trying to grow up so fast. It’s a complete trap. They say that life is better when you’re older. There’s more you can do when you’re a grown up. You have so much more freedom. I was so excited to do the things that adults got to do. To have a career, a future, a life. What they forget to tell you is how much harder life gets. You’re not told how many times you’ll stay up crying because a boy broke your heart. Or how little you’ll trust people because of the amount of betrayal you’ve endured.

They don’t tell you about how you’ll never feel good enough for anyone, sometimes not even yourself. How people will leave your life for no other reason but because they can. They don’t tell you this because they want you to believe that life is all rainbows and unicorns. When you are a kid the people around you will try to protect your innocence for as long as they can. Let them. Life is full of tears. Life is betrayal.

Life is pondering on your past mistakes and letting it affect you daily. Life is not easy and I’m not even halfway done. Honestly, life is hard. It’s frustrating. It’s genuinely not fun all the time. If I was to give you advice I would say to forgive people. Learn to let go of that hate. Hate will kill you mentally. Your conscience will destroy you. Let it go.

It’s okay to move on without receiving the apology you deserve. Don’t hate people. It will drain you entirely. Learn to love the people who love you. There are so many people who love you. Don’t focus on the people who don’t. Most importantly, learn to love yourself. I know it’s hard. Trust me I’m still not there yet. You’ll get there eventually, I promise. There will be so many times where you cry yourself to sleep and don’t want to wake up in the morning but you have to hold on. I know the pain feels like it’s never going to go away but it does. No bad day lasts forever. You still love to make people happy. It’s your favorite thing.

Here are some of my biggest takeaways from life so far. If it’s out of your hands it deserves freedom from your mind too. Don’t spend so many nights worrying about things you can’t control.

Some people will come into your life to show you what love is not. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t worthy of it.

Failure is a bruise not a tattoo. Just because you fail doesn’t mean you give up. You have so many goals you still want to achieve so keep going. No matter how hard things get.

It is not your job to understand the people who hurt you. You need to stop making excuses for the people who constantly choose to hurt you. And learn to love the people who love you.

The most important lesson that I tell myself all the time is if it’s not OK it’s not the end. Keep going. You will be so proud of how far you’ve come. You never gave up on yourself no matter how badly you’ve wanted to at times.

If you can take anything away from this letter please just know that the bad days will pass. Every time you think you hit rock bottom I promise you’ll get out of it. It’s just a bad day, not a bad life.

Keep going and never stop dreaming.

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