This letter is part of the "Dear Me" project put together by Miscellaneous Mom (I got here via Athena Dreaming). Basically, you write a letter to yourself in the past. I enjoyed this, even while it dug up a little more than I bargained for... You should try it!
From: Me, Joy
To: Me, Joy
I know you're going to think this is dead weird but also dead "brill" but this is your 35 year old self writing to you. From the future. Like in that film you just saw. Or are about to see. (I don't know). I can't explain to you how I am doing this, and I also can't give too much away for fear of violating some sort of space-time-continuum (except to say that in a few years you'll be watching a lot of Star Trek Next Generation. I know I know. The very contemplation of that right now will about make you want to run screaming for the hills, but trust me, you'll get totally into it and still not be a complete sad square. Well not sad anyway.)
So, you'll be back at school now after that interminable summer holiday of being stuck at home surrounded with fields and no shops, no car, no real friends. Just a cowfield and a few contraband fags (your first) with the rough kids from down the road. (and so no, this answers your main fear, you did not contract cancer and die from those first puffs, but try not to get too attached because they will take their toll in their own way).
You love school. "Luv luv luv" it. It's escape. It's friends. It's fun! You still don't quite get it when people moan about school. For you a whole summer or even a weekend at home makes you mope about. Don't worry, I think Mum and Dad start giving you a bit more freedom about now. But it still won't be enough. And you still need to get them to drive you anywhere you want to go. You hate them for this right now (hatehatehate 'em) but trust me, now I am a mother myself I get it. And let's face it, if you were given that extra mile you're craving right now you'd probably get yourself into all sorts of trouble. You think they don't know you go to pubs with your friends and drink pernod and black and flirt with (gasp) eighteen year olds. They do. They actually have a pretty good clue about most of the stuff you're getting up to. Even the groping and tongue things. (and yes, I know you about want to die right now, but it's ok. Really).
And yes you did read that correctly. You are a mother. And yes. I know you are jumping up and down squealing right now because this also means your latent fear of always-being-a-virgin-because-you-can't-even-get-a-tampon-to-work-were unfounded. That is about where you are at right now in terms of what-is-important-to-you. I can confirm that you do manage to "do it" one of these days. I cannot promise that it will rock your world. Orgasms will come later and you'll be figuring those out on your own. Even though at certain stages you'll have convinced yourself you've had one, trust me, you haven't. (And stop saying "I'm going to Vom." You've read enough Judy Blume by now to have started to get a handle on those matters. Seriously. Get busy.)
You're a good mother. You have two children right now. And a husband. I'll not give you any more details but can say you are happy. And if I tried to explain to you what makes you happy at 35 you won't believe me, or worse, think I am faking and get all pissed off. I will say this. You make profiteroles and pavlova and Sunday roast just like Mum now, and this makes you happy. You also know how to knit and to sew. And you have a career, which you enjoy. But not as much as the Sunday lunch thing sometimes. Your husband is hilarious and a good cook. He never makes you feel insecure in his love, even when you're not wearing any makeup. These end up being the qualities you look for, believe it or not. (Oh. BTW--George Michael is totally gay. Sorry.)
You've not realized you're a feminist yet, and right now you "fancy" a series of idiotic boys with cheap perms who are only interested in getting in your (and all your mate's) knickers. And you're pretty happy to let them (despite the "there's something wrong with me" fear--or probably because of it). I'm not here to tell you to clean up your act, but make sure you are actually enjoying yourself and not letting yourself get mauled because you desperately want to be liked. And yes, your tits do get bigger, but not overly so. And I can tell you that by the time they do you couldn't really give a toss.
That wanting to be liked, wanting to please thing is going to end up getting you into trouble one of these days. Try and watch that will you? It's all fine to be likable and popular, but it's another to only see yourself through the eyes of others. And the popularity thing. It's not all it's cracked out to be. Right now you are ignoring some girls in your class who are much much more interesting than you are right now. You know. The ones who do their homework or who pay attention during chemistry.
At this moment you are getting through by the skin of your teeth. School that is. This is going to come as a shock because you're not used to failing, but it's about now that you'll find it's not enough to be able to think on your feet during class when called on. You need to actually do some work. Stop writing secret notes to your gang and start paying attention. You've completely written off all science and maths, but you'll regret this I can promise. You like English, but just being able to say something about a poem once in a while is not going to cut it. You're going to fail. Everything. Badly. When it really matters. And it's going to be shit. You'll be OK, but it's going to be shit for a while there.
I'm hesitant to tell you that last part because in some ways I need you to fail. It brought you to where you are now, so maybe I shouldn't even be telling you about this. But at least start thinking about who your real friends are and start paying half a mind to the periodic table. I know school is an escape, but try and get more from it. Please.
Listen. I know home is a bit shit right now. You can't speak to anyone about it because it feels disloyal, and somehow shameful. The atmosphere is suffocating. Except when she suddenly smiles or makes a joke and the fog lifts and you all cling on delirious and giggling for dear life savoring the moment when things feel normal. Not oppressive. She's happy, she's happy... But then the moment disappears and the rage comes back. Or worse, the sound of the vacuum cleaner for hours and hours and nothing else.
It does get better. Home that is. Long after you have left and moved further away than you could ever have imagined. (And if you've noticed the funny spellings in this letter, it's your only clue). Your brother says that the distance you've put between her and yourself is not accidental. And this still plagues you.
But you do have a real conversations now, you and she. Conversations where you swear and she giggles and you both get tipsy. You love her. You like her. She likes you. You've always known she loves you, but she really seems to like you and not resent you now. Her mood still seeps into you when it moves to black, and you resent her for that at times, but you are learning to cope with it. Because you see another side. And you see where she might have been when you were 15 and she was... 34. Just 34. It still takes my breath away to think about how young she was. (Because, yes, that is young). And how at that age, how completely trapped and meaningless she might have felt at times. It doesn't excuse everything, but still... You get it a little better now. How, if you don't find yourself before you end up devoting yourself to family and children, how you can probably feel a bit dead a lot of the time.
I was about to tell you to go easy on her. To try and talk to her. But you and I both know that it won't work right now. You can't fix her. You're going to end up spending the next few years of your life desperately trying to please her, and you don't ever quite grow out of this. But what you do learn is that you both have much more in common than you can imagine. And you will end up talking. I promise. She wants to please to.
Someone you could lighten up a bit on is your brother. Believe it or not, but you and he will end up becoming solid friends in a decade or so. You will realize that your brother is one of the funniest and cleverest people you have ever known. You'll actually be going to him for advice and comfort, and he'll give it. Shocker, I know. Right now he is the pimply, quiet little bugger who you can't believe you're related to, and you could not show your distaste for him more openly if you tried. (I think now that it might have been a way to divert the attention, but still...) Do us a favor and let him watch The A-Team without all the dramatics for once in a while, will you? It's hard for him there too sometimes you know.
Let me see. In a few years time you'll be moving to that far off place I told you about. Do us another favor and take a much warmer coat. You have no concept of cold right now. None whatsoever.
Lots of Love,
p.s. Also, no less than three times when you are living in a flat during your college years (yes, you do make it to college, but that's no excuse to shirk now) you will leave the place and lock yourself out. And you'll have the cooker on inside. Which means you'll be calling the fire brigade. Three times in as many years. Trust me, it's dead embarrassing. They send at least 4 engines each time.
If nothing else, remember to put the key on your pocket. Put the key in your pocket. Put the key in your pocket. Put the key in your pocket.....