21st

belm0ney
2 min readMar 20, 2023

Author’s Note: This piece was originally written days before my 21st birthday, early October 2022.

I wanted to write a goodbye letter to being twenty years old but I don’t know how to say goodbye to another year that almost left me dead.

I am lying to myself if I say I don’t have faith, but I promise the faith that I do have is blind and comes from the gut as a sort of last resort. I am not trying to sound hopeless because losing hope is a committment in itself. I am not trying to sound hopeful, either; I don’t know if I can give myself that credit. I am trying to sound alive because I am realizing that I am not invincible when my worst enemy is myself and that in some ways I am fighting against the clock.

The reason I am determined to fight for me is because no one else is going to. My dad should’ve done it. My mom shouldn’t have had to do it so much. But I am a grown-up. It is my turn now. I am admitting to myself that I have never done this before. In some ways I feel so old that I expect everything to be a matter of habit by now. In other ways I feel like I am learning everything for the first time.

People always say that the older you get, the less you realize you know. As much as I can talk and talk and feign wisdom, I am still convinced that I am on the brink of figuring this all out. I am learning that trauma ages you but does not necessarily give you the knowing that comes with age. I used to think growing up was just getting hurt enough to learn how to avoid it. I think maybe it is actually just learning how to get hurt and do something with it.

I can hate myself forever like they wanted me to or I can snap the fuck out of it. I have spent most of my adulthood thus far determined to be miserable, truly unwilling to do things differently because I felt I had completed a lifetime of suffering already. I am starting with trying to let myself feel good even though it may never feel as rich as hating myself. I am starting with not hating that willful part of myself so much.

I have done an eternity of soul-searching but I have not found myself yet. If I ever do find myself I don’t think I’ll be in retirement from the hunt for very long at all. If life is about the journey and not the destination I’m starting to think there was no destination to begin with.

Happy birthday to the angry little girl inside of me. I am truly sorry I didn’t protect you. We will learn how to manufacture hope together until it becomes really real. You are impossible to summarize and easy to root for, and I love you.

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belm0ney

Isabella (she/her) writes literary nonfiction and creative memoir. She is currently an undergraduate English & Creative Writing student in Raleigh, NC.