A Break-Up Letter To My 21-Year-Old Self

grow the fuck up, chatel

I had wings when I was 21 years old… but then I flew too close to the sun.

I haven’t technically been 21 years old in awhile. Whether it be an insistent rebuffing of emotionally evolving, an intense fear of getting old, or just an inability to get with the program, I’ve been, mentally, 21 years old for far too long. What a sad little monkey I am.

However, after some soul-searching (I sound like a fucking hippy), I’ve decided I need to do something about it. I can’t act like a 21-year-old forever; not only does it get exhausting, but at some point it’s straight-up sad. No one wants to be that 45-year-old rocking out to some band at a warehouse in Bushwick at 4am on a Tuesday. I mean, it might be cool for a few minutes, but when you realize the dude next to you is young enough to be your kid, you have to stop, drop and roll away from the situation. Roll fast, you guys, roll fast.

So, dear 21-Year-Old Self, let’s get the end of this party started, so we can part ways as friends.

We’ve had a good run, you and I. Since turning 21, there have been laughs; lots and lots of laughs. In fact, we’ve had those laughs, those drunken stupor type of laughs that led to a world of both tragic and happy mistakes, for over 10 years now. That’s a long time! I don’t regret those mistakes, because they make me who I am, but after I turned 30, those mistakes seemed less cute. And by the time I was officially in my early 30′s, they were flirting with something I like to call pathetic. It might be adorable in theory to hide out in the bushes of Macri Park with a six-er of PBR after being kicked out of Union Pool for being too drunk, but when you’re 33, it’s kinda lame. Hiding out in the bushes getting wasted on cheap beer is actually something a 17-year-old might do after prom.

Then there’s the responsibility part of our relationship. The 21-year-old in me feels it’s completely rational and sane to throw out bills I can’t afford to pay right then and there, than actually deal with the situation. This isn’t cool. This, I’ve learned, leads to bad credit. Grown-ups don’t want bad credit, because this means no bank in their right mind will lend you the necessary cash to buy a house. You can’t have a white picket fence without a house (or you can, but it might look weird leaning up against the bedroom wall of your apartment.)

Next we’ve been dealing with this “end of the world” issue. It’s fine that I’m dramatic and some of that drama I can blame on my emotionally stunted self, but not everything is the end of the world. The dude didn’t call when he said he would? OK. I didn’t get my dream job? Whatever. I broke the heel on my favorite pair of shoes they no longer make? Big fucking whoop. It’s time I brush myself off and deal, instead of throwing myself into my bed for days and sobbing wildly as if in some sort of competition to prove ultimate dramatic skills. (A competition I would totally win.)

You see, there’s this major co-dependeny thing, 21-Year-Old self, that we have. It’s not healthy. For some reason I’ve decided I can’t live without you. I not only use you as a place to lay blame, but as an incessant excuse for every immature move I make. I can’t breathe a word of sheer stupidity without you as a side note, and it’s not fair to either one of us. I look like an asshole who can’t take the heat, and you look like an enabler. I don’t think you want to be my enabler. I want to believe you love me too much to be such a thing in my life.

Listen, I get that it will be hard. I know that there will be moments where we’ll given in and come racing back to each other, but we need to let go for the sanity of everyone around us. I’ve already started to accept life without you by doing little things like actually taking my bills out of the mailbox instead of just the magazines. I’ve also painted over the song lyrics written on my bathroom wall in Sharpies and finally bought a headboard for my bed. They may not seem like much in the grand scheme, but for me, they’re important steps in this evolution. Yes, my dear, sweet 21-Year-Old Self, I’m evolving. And honestly, you need to evolve, too — to what, I’m not sure, but I know you’ll figure it out.

So, before either one of us makes a scene, let’s just say goodbye. Let’s not block each other on Facebook or anything silly like that, because we deserve to remember this; we deserve to never forget what we had. We’ll always know where to find each other, what this all meant, and how necessary it all was, but it’s time, my love, to let go. It’s for the best, and we both know it.

I’ve finally learned how to quit you, and honestly, I’ve never been more stoked.



Share This Post:
    • jamiepeck

      I cannot wait to be that 45-year-old rocking out to some band at a warehouse in Bushwick at 4am on a Tuesday. Wise old art weirdos are the best!

    • Sean

      I’m proud of you Amanda.

    • Lastango

      Good on ya, and well-written too. It’s not easy, fun, or popular to step up to our responsibilities. Doing the right thing often involves a tacit admission that, up til now, we’ve been doing the wrong thing — and that’s painful.

      I like how you forgive and accept your old self. Disowning a part of ourselves has always seemed to me to be a limited form of suicide, and a refusal to admit that, yes, that too was Us. So we try instead to throw our old selves under the wheels of what we hope is our new bus. The loss and self-hate that involves causes lasting damage and keeps us from moving forward.

      And I’m tickled by what you say about the little symbols, like the headboard and the song lyrics. I remember when, after moving into an apartment after finishing college, I got my first phone. There it was: a phone, with my own number, with a book listing with my own name. Thinking about it still makes me happy.

    • Sabrina

      I need to buy a headboard…

    • anna

      I turned 21 6 days ago. I feel I must take great credence in this.

    • Claudia Miles

      Very cool. Still. I wouldn’t knock being a 45-yr-old at a club so long as it’s not every night & she (or he) has her shut together . I’d much rather be her (and once in a while I am) than the 45-year-old home watching TV, feeling hopeless and eating junk food. You see, you are learning to become mature, in particular, responsible for yourself. And that is genuinely empowering. But later in life (over 40 say) when one has that down, it’s crucial to stay in touch with your younger self — at least the part of that self that wasn’t too jaded or cynical to still go out and have fun, check out a new band & get together with friends (knowing the real life shit will be waiting). And as for the guy next to me being young enough to be my son, so what? I’m not planning on dating him. If you are still worried about what people think when you’re 45 that would be sad. I feel free to go out and have a great time regardless of what anyone thinks even though my day job is being a shrink- just like I did in my 20s when I managed punk rock bands. So yeah in your 20s you need to recognize that you are responsible for you; in your 40s assuming you’ve done that, I say go out and party once in a while. Otherwise you’ll get “old” fast.

    • Alexis H

      Excellent. Congratulations on doing something difficult and important! I wish I could forward this article to some of my friends who could really benefit from it, but I know they’d just be insulted.

    • Sarah Olson

      I do the same things with my bills… immature!! I’m getting better too though :) i’m just coming up on 27 though so i have a couple more years to really pull it together. at least i’ll tell myself that HA!