Ashley McCurry

A Love Letter to My Younger Self

You, little girl, do not have to come out of your shell.

Your mind and spirit are as expansive as the universe, eager for exploration, when you are ready.

While your classmates shoot their hands into the air, anxious to be heard above all others, your thoughts might unravel in silence, weaving a tapestry of insights all your own. It is your choice if you wish to share this intimate creation with the world. 

You will be okay.

Your teachers will imply that you are flawed and not destined for greatness, only mediocrity, because the world could not love you as you are. An instructor will call you out in the sixth grade for being unusually quiet, along with one other peculiar boy three desks down. You will always remember the boy’s name and the despondence that clung to his face. This memory will revisit you when you are 22 and again at 37.

You have assigned teachers but haven’t yet met your mentors.

Your senior English teacher will temporarily obliterate your dreams, at the school designed by the prison architect. She will encourage your craft throughout the year, only to tell you that while you deserve the school-wide writing award, she has selected a student who “will go places because she actually talks.” She will not choose to understand the subtext of your story and that you are simply trying to survive.

But it will not matter.

The seeds of doubt will be planted year after year, sown within a cleverly constructed panopticon that prepares children to be useful and malleable citizens. A system that rewards the gregarious—the confident. There will be no thriving garden for you, blossoming with dreams, promise, and potential. Not for a few years. You will feel broken, that there is no place for you in this world. 

But just wait, little girl.

You shall wear many masks and successfully check the mandatory boxes. Professors and supervisors will praise your effervescent personality, champagne bubbles overflowing before you drag your weary body to bed, glass empty, night after night, deciding what move to make next.

You, resilient woman, will understand in time.

Empathy, perseverance, and compassion will create an unshakable core. Please carefully study these (and other) essential components collected throughout the years, circumstantial tokens of your own unique experiences. Polish them every so often; they will come in handy later.

One day, it will be time to inhale deeply, blow away the dust, and construct a vessel that will propel you through a shimmering darkness filled with unseen possibility.

I will wait for you there.

Ashley McCurry is a speech-language pathologist, MFA student, and short fiction/creative nonfiction writer living in the Southeastern United States. Perhaps more importantly, she is a rescue dog mom, cosplayer, and lover of short stories and musical theater. Her work has been published in Bright Flash Literary Review and Six Sentences, with a forthcoming publication in Flash Fiction Magazine.