If Only I’d Known

For the girl who doesn't want to grow up

Dear 19-Year-Old Self,

Nineteen years old is when you don’t feel mature enough to be an adult and of course, not a teenager. It is when you are learning how to become a “real” grown-up; it’s merely another stepping stone on the passage to adulthood. In the next few years, you will be going through some major changes in your life, so I’m writing this letter to tell you the things I wish someone told me eight years ago.

Firstly, starting at this age, you are standing by the door to the future of independence and maturity. In your life from now, there will be sunny days. Some days, there will be thunderstorms and you will feel exhausted, powerless, frustrated and lonely. There are days where you will not accomplish anything, you will be rejected, and people will break your heart. You will feel disappointed and stupid for crying in your car, but you will do it anyway. That is adulthood and you are just beginning to understand how it feels. Being an adult doesn’t mean you won’t cry; you are not emotionless. The only difference is that they hide it better than us and have more responsibilities to worry about. The happiest are those with courage, patience, and are always willing to move forward despite the obstacles. You must keep in mind that it is completely fine to not be strong and you don’t need to force your own personal growth. As time goes by, life will give you lessons and someday, you will be different; stronger than you ever thought possible, and better at hiding your feelings.

Secondly, your mind is filled with many ambitions and aspirations. Unfortunately, you don’t know where to begin. You may want to graduate high school with a high score, get accepted into a well-known university, take a gap year, have a part-time job, travel to places you have never been to, or even just figure out who you really are and what your purpose in life is. Eight years ago, I was one of those nineteen-year-olds that would draw a blank or feel bad about myself when someone says “chase your dreams”. I knew I enjoyed drawing and that I was good at it, but “passion” was such a heavy word that I was always afraid to mention it. After high school, I took a year off because I couldn’t decide my next step. In fact, I was scared of failure and of making a poor decision. Today, I am a professional graphic designer. What happened was that I did not chase my passion but I became passionate about what I chased. I want you to know that you are young, and it is okay to be unsure because what’s more important than having a dream is having the ambition and enthusiasm to reach it. Do your best and find the joy in whatever you do, whether it’s a job or hobby. Never be afraid to try new things, think outside the box and challenge yourself because the worst possible scenario is to waste your time being timid and living passively. In the end, you will be surprised at where that could lead you and how your life can be transformed.

Lastly, even if you aren’t listening to my advice, no matter what you do in these next two, five, or ten years, I want you to remember that I love you. Sometimes, I tell others that I hate you and believe in the negative things they say about you, I blame you for things that are not your fault, I judge you too harshly for the way you look or act. Some days I even wish I wasn’t you… I know I am your worst critic but trust me, I can never stop loving and supporting you. Because I am the one who can understand you more than anyone ever will. I can see your strength, your courage, your compassion and your desire. I can see the true beauty deep down in your heart and it makes me love you more each day. In the meantime, I hope you are healthy and happy, work hard and never give up so that one day, you will become the greatest version of yourself.

Good luck on your journey and take care!

With love,

Your 27-Year-Old Self


Words by Phuong Dinh

Illustration by Dallas Nary

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