A letter to my 18-year-old self: Things I wish she knew


by Victoria Valenzuela

Dear Victoria,

You are on the cusp of the rest of your life. You’ve graduated high school, you’re about to start college classes, and you’re ready to take on the world that lies so readily at your fingertips. You are about to experience freedom like you’ve never had before. And you don’t know it yet, but that liberation is about to become a very dangerous thing.

You’re soon going to learn some lessons that I now wish I could spare you of. First, you’re going to understand what it means to love someone despite the fact that you deserve so much more than the little they are willing to give you. This person will spend the next six years of your life keeping you at arm’s length, making you feel loved long enough to discard you like yesterday’s garbage. You’ll convince yourself that no one else has made you feel so special, so important—that no one else has accepted you for exactly who you are. You’ll think he is the only one for you. But he’s not. To him, you are a plaything, a source of entertainment for which he can dabble in for a while until it’s no longer fun for him anymore. And he’ll move on—but you won’t come to terms with this for a long time. He’ll keep you hanging on for so long that you’ll think that the chase is normal. But eventually the tears will dry, and your head will clear from the fog—and you’ll realize that all the pretty words that fell from his lips that described your wonderful life together will have all been a lie.

You’re going to meet a lot of guys—some in college, and once you are old enough, in the nightlife scene. They’ll give you attention, and you’ll lust after the feeling of having someone’s eyes on you, even if it’s not your eyes that they are fixated on. It’s going to feel good at first, especially when you secretly feel incredibly lucky that someone like that wants to be seen with you. And soon you’ll learn that many of these gentlemen suitors aren’t looking for anything more than a one night trip to paradise and then they’ll be out the door. Their compliments and words that drip with praise and favor will only serve to get what they want from you. Don’t be so quick to believe everything that comes from their mouths. Don’t be so naïve to think that everyone has a heart as tender and breakable as yours.

You’ll soon find yourself compromising your integrity the second a guy makes you feel good for a little while and before you know it, you’ll become comfortable with using your body as a commodity instead of something that you should keep sacred. You’ll be caught up in the moment as clothes begin to hit the floor, even though you know it’s wrong. You’re going to make mistakes that leave you with pangs of regret and the bitter taste of disgust in your mouth when you are leaving his bed the next morning. You’re going to develop a reputation that will eventually force you to take a good, hard look at yourself and the mirror and ask, What happened to me? Where have I gone? It will take you a long time to realize a very important, and albeit cliché truth: sex does not equal love. No string of one-night stands will ever completely fill your soul, make you feel worthy, build your confidence or cause you to see your own beauty. Your core issues are much deeper than you want to admit, and you’ll carry around anger and resentment. It stems from a place of abandonment, one that you have felt since childhood, but it won’t make sense for a while.

It’s hard for you to see now, but you deserve so much more than you are willing to settle for. You deserve a person in your life that respects you, above all else. Someone that is willing to get to know your heart, your spirit and your soul. Someone who has enough moral fiber to treat you as an equal, a partner. You’re going to meet a lot of men (actually, boys) who don’t fit this bill, and it won’t be so easy to identify them at first until they break your heart. Don’t let the miscommunication, betrayal, and rejection harden your heart and cause you to view the world through a jaded lens. Along the way, you’ll learn a lot about what you do like and what you don’t, but don’t let failed courtships discourage you—they are valuable learning experiences. Don’t lose hope in the existence of good relationships, because they do exist.

Above all, know how worthy you are. You might not always feel it, you might not always be confident about it, but it’s true. You are loved, you are cherished and you are worth someone’s time and attention. If others cannot see this simple truth, they are not worthy of you. Your value is not diminished by someone’s inability to recognize it. As long as you remember that, the heartbreak you feel will sting just a little less.

Love yourself first. And know that you deserve to be loved.