An open letter to my younger self

Written by Nicolé Mendoza || Photo by @margotgrem


I don’t really believe in regretting things; not to say I don’t have things I wish I hadn’t done. Getting drunk the first week of college? Not my prime. I do, just like the rest of us, but I think everything is a learning opportunity.  The sum of all of these parts has allowed me to grow and learn to love myself.  

And I love her, so much.

Which is a weird thing to say, it almost seems wrong after all I’ve been through.  

But I do.

Life, you are so peculiar and complex.  I use to spend hours hating my body. The skin I had only loved when it was stained.  I no longer feel the same. To think I use to run for miles just to look a certain way is so alien,  I wasted so much time hating something I can now only love.

When I was 14 I read this piece on gender, and sex.  I loved it, the author spit some poetic bullshit about painting her skin and all that, and how art reminded her of him.  Which when you’re fourteen is the most romantic thing you can hear.

That fall I met a boy, he was cool. I liked him, he paid attention to me. So obviously he met all the pre-set requirements of your standard 9th grade relationship.

But just like the weather changed, so did he.

His curious hands grew cold. His forceful demeanor drained me. Blue blotches now cover my hips, and then it ends because you say no.

The same author later submitted another piece on endings.  

I found comfort in it.

She talked about how in the end it takes seven years for someone to truly fade away from ever touching you, physically that is. With a guy like that, at such a young age - it’ll take a fucking lifetime.

But on the bright side, four down, three to go.

So to my twelve-year-old self carved her hate and misfortunes into her thighs - your body is a canvas but not for that reason.  You are so beautiful and kind, and when he makes you feel dumb for saying no, don’t. This is your body, get use to saying no and you’ll learn it’s the most liberating thing.

When dad doesn’t call, it isn’t the end of the world, a lot of the things you think are, really aren’t.  

(For the love of god, please stop dying your hair.  Those split ends will last years, trust me. )

I don’t want to invalidate what my twelve-year-old self was feeling, I think it’s just as intimate and character building as the toxic and anticlimactic relationship that I would endure two short years later.

Actually, not anticlimactic. If it was anticlimactic the very foundation on which this piece stands would shatter. If it was anticlimactic, I wouldn’t be spending the next four years flinching every time a guy touches me, and I definitely wouldn’t be writing this piece.

Toxic? Yes. Anticlimactic? No fucking way in hell.

Equally as important?


The shame you feel when covering your body is unprecedented, but equally justified.  You don’t owe anybody anything.

To my fourteen-year-old self, you are not alone.  

I wish you would’ve talked about it.

I wish you would have told an adult, but you are not alone.

I understand the shame you felt.

From a statistical standpoint almost every women you know will unfortunately endure a similar pain.

That is not to say its okay, its not.  I just hope you find comfort in knowing you aren’t alone.  

On the flip side,

I am so proud of you.  The same passion that burns deep inside of you is an inspiration.  The love you hold, and the forgiveness that persists within you is energizing.  I hope you find comfort in what is to come in four years. I promise you the world is so much more exciting and brighter.  

I am so sorry you feel shameful.

You shouldn’t.

Alcohol isn’t a proper coping mechanism.  When your friends say they love you, say it back.  You’ll soon learn time is short to begin with.

Sixteen - you are not a people pleaser.  

You are a force to be reckoned with.  

The SAT is a piece of shit, and when you fall asleep in the middle of the math section don’t feel bad, it happens to the best of us. Stop telling people you hate the color yellow, you look great in it.

The pressure to conform is stupid. The fools who make fun of you for being vegan will be dead in ten years, don’t even sweat it.

When he tells you he loves you, don’t feel bad when you drop him. The world is so much bigger than the music room you’ve hidden in. I am sorry it has taken so long for you to realize this.

Being alone is better than being lonely.  

And your hard work will soon reap the validation you so greedily craved.

Seventeen - bullshit.

You were the emotional damage of ten years jam packed into one. I don’t have a single friend who has left seventeen unscathed.  

Boys? Stupid.

To think twelve short months ago I was drafting college acceptance letters and nursing the bruised ego of being left in a Denny's parking lot.

Time, you cruel bitch.

You’ll think you’re over him, that the time you spent together no longer means anything.

You’re wrong.

You love too much, and people that impact never truly fade.

Stop being so emotionally detached, and clinging to the toxicity that your younger years have gifted you.

You are so much more.

Seventeen Part 2 -

It wasn’t all bad. The Gemini dramatic ass bitch in me will tell you that it was. The rational, college going, ‘buy my own fucking car bitch’ in me will tell you that it was needed, and a necessary learning experience.  

And the middle ground will validate both sides.

Some would argue it was my best yet.

Find comfort in not knowing what the fuck is going to happen in a year.  

It’s the best part.

And spoiler alert, you still won’t know a year later.

The experiences, sucked. The people, maybe not the best. Senior year me? A fucking beast who had a mental breakdown and then fucking pulled that shit together. Don’t feel stupid in partaking in all the senior BS, you’ll miss it when its gone. And boy drama? It doesn’t end in high school.

As character building as these things have been, nothing has been more profound than the discovery of the solution to my twitching hands and tumbling heartbeat.

Being on medication isn’t embarrassing, fuck Uncle Jose for making you feel like a freak.

You aren’t.

A chemical imbalance isn’t shameful, but being a fucking dick is.   

Eighteen -  you peach tea lovin’ bitch. Failing isn’t as bad as it seems. You’ll find comfort in it.  

I promise, you’ll feel like an actual person.

(Also please never take an 8AM class again, you sleep forever.)

I don’t think of myself the same way I did four months ago. I know what I deserve. Four months ago I let some under six-foot-ass-boy make me feel like shit. I’ll be damned if I’ll ever let that happen again, or in general. Over six-foot-boys watch out, because this new me knows her worth.


Despite that, I feel so alive.

Who would’ve thought I would be telling my best friend, Katie, not Yukio, (but yes also Yukio) my kinks. Not this bitch.

We get it, you kiss and tell.

It’s fine, we all do it.

I have grown so much in such a short amount of time.  I love my body. She is a temple, and I’ll talk about plants and radiolab all fucking day.

Don’t stop me.

There’s so much more to say.

Summing this past four years in bad relations and academic hardships that have lead to the formulation of my self love seems so minimalistic, so obsolete.

It seems almost disgraceful. It has been so much more.  

It has been adventures to different states, and heart wrenching “see you later”’s. Learning not to forgive, but to accept the past and move on. I have formed galaxies with my abstract and forever learning mind, and crafted seas with my hardships.

 To my younger self,

Don’t look back, the future is so much brighter and better.

Don’t measure your success by the big things, measure them by the small things and fucking celebrate everything.

The world is yours, take care.