A love letter to the girl in the bachelorette cave.

Dear 2012 me,

I can remember that cold night in January when you stayed up all night, somewhat excited, but mostly nervous, about the step you were about to take. See, that’s the thing about dreams that come true, as much as we want them, they always catch us by surprise. The next day you packed a couple of suitcases with the few meaningful items you had collected since moving to this country. Like many other recent immigrants, your “baggage” was mostly full of hope, as any other important item was already left behind before.

You had done well for yourself. You graduated college debt-free and landed a job in your field of study by graduation. Not too shabby considering it was the middle of economic recession and most, if not all, of all your peers were struggling to hit every one of those milestones. Then you went even further and got your own place, a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan. No roommates, no family, no significant other. You never thought there was anything special about this accomplishment and you thought it was just a matter of months before your friends joined you there. But as the years went by, you learned how uncommon your story was and it would take you almost a decade to figure out why.

As if leaving your home at age 19 to build a life in another country wasn’t enough of a transformative experience, you set out on a journey at age 23 to live on your own. What was a refreshing taste of freedom at first would eventually become loneliness that was hard to shake up. One of your strengths is your ability to adapt to new situations and to normalize chaos for the purpose of efficiency. So you adopted loneliness as your new reality and kept it moving. Nobody would have ever guessed how lonely you were because besides never telling them, you found a way to use that loneliness to fuel your career. You beasted through graduate school thinking it was the right thing to do. I’m sorry to tell you that it wasn’t, but more on that later. For years you went from job to job, getting a better title, more responsibility and better pay at each one of them. You climbed what you thought was a career ladder quickly enough to realize there's actually no such thing. It’s hard to believe that there was a time you had two jobs while going to school full-time to make ends meet. Look at you now.

You quickly discovered that none of it was enough. Having your own place wasn’t enough. Traveling around the world was not enough. Getting into you top graduate program was...actually very disappointing. You had a phenomenal life by all indicators but you knew damn well none of it was fulfilling. Love, you thought, had to be what was missing. Luckily (sort of), you never had a hard time getting male attention. Actually you would often question what it was they saw in you since in your mind you were just an average, ordinary girl. It was always surprising when men would bend over backwards to date you, and it was even more surprising when they wouldn’t leave even when you gave them every reason to. Because you “had your shit together” men would always want a relationship with you. That’s when you realized, time and time again, they were excited about all the boxes you happen to check on their list but they had no idea who you actually were. That’s when you started chasing the ones with commitment issues. They somehow felt more real to you. Their inability to love you bought you time before it would become obvious that you were not able to love yourself either. I’m not going to lie, that was pretty smart, until it all blew up in your face. And oh how glad we are that this happened to you.

Where is the love part of this letter? you may be wondering. Well, this is it. I’m here to tell you that every one of those experiences was perfectly aligned to get you to where you are. Think about it, you grew up blaming others for every bit of misfortune in your life. Once you were out on your own, who was there point fingers at? Nothing forces us to look in the mirror more than an emotionally empty house that is nowhere near becoming a happy home. What’s different about you is that you had the courage to stare into that mirror and question everything in that reflection. You were brave enough to grapple with every wrinkle in your happiness. To read the books, to seek help, to ask the tough questions. You were brave enough to go back to that empty apartment where there was nobody waiting with open arms to cheer you on, tell you they love you and send you back out there with confidence. This was the place you had no choice but to be your imperfect self.

It was in the darkness of what you would forever cherish as your “bachelorette cave” that you broke yourself into a million pieces so that you can put yourself back together into a shape that suits you. It was in that cozy and warm place, where you would never let light come in, that you came too close to the edge of darkness. That was the place that showed you the worst in you, so that you could finally aspire to something better. Seven and a half years seems like a long time, but without it, I don’t know if you would have been forced to be intentional about what you wanted your lifetime to look like. It is no coincidence that once you chose joy, everything in your life seemed to have shifted to exiled you from that apartment. You now have, my dear, to level up to the life you finally believe you deserve.

I know that as you transition into this new chapter, what you’re missing the most is the ability to hide for a few hours, build yourself back up and then go and kill the game as per usual. As excited as you are about moving on, this idea of being imperfect in front of someone’s eyes is terrifying. You know your lows, and you will always wonder if anyone else can ride the wave with you. Remember what we’ve learned though: that true human connection sprouts from vulnerability, that there is no other purpose in life than to become a better human over time, and that as cheesy as all of this sounds NOTHING has ever felt more authentic to us.

As you say good-bye to the cave, remember these 7.5 years as the time you found joy and chose to never let it go. When you're stressed, just remember that special girl who had the uncommon story. Remember what we’re capable of. Remember that deep in your soul you have every tool to build yourself back up should you need to. When things get hard, reframe this experience as the birth of the life you want and not the death of who you used to be. You were cool and all in 2012 but now you're a walking trophy to honor all the work you've done. Remember as much as you like playing small, there is nothing average about you. Remember you are already extraordinary.

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Julissa Baez

Julissa Baez

I write about joy and the small things that make life worth living.