Dear 23-Year-Old Jenny

Grace Bonney of Design Sponge wrote a letter to her 23-year-old self back in August which inspired me to write one. I was finally able to write it now that I’m on a short break from writing Yappie: A Musical Comedy. In some ways it feels like a letter to my current self and maybe that’s what I need.

Dear 23-year-old Jenny,

2007 is a big year for you. You self-publish your very first chapbook and organize a chapbook release party in two different states. Enjoy it—really take it in and be grateful for the folks who support you and come through for you because the moment fades quickly but the people do not.

When you move back home to MD, it’s going to be a tough transition. You’re going to rack up a lot of miles on your car and a lot of debt doing what you love: performing spoken word and leading an arts organization for AAPI artists. Trust your instincts and stand up for yourself. Own your decisions. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes.

You’re also going to put yourself out there for the first time and be hurt. You’ll write a lot of poems out of it, but editing is going to be your best friend. It’s okay to write just for you; you don’t always have to write for public consumption.

You’re going to make one of the hardest decisions you’ll ever have to make: leave the organization you co-founded. You’re going to know it’s the best and right decision. But you’re also going to know fear and doubt in deeper ways than before. You’re going to stop writing, stop performing. You’re going to be lost for a while. You’re going to think that the best of what you can do and offer the world is in the past. It’s not. You have so much more to give and you don’t have to prove it to anyone.

When you get to your mid-30s, you’re going to weigh at your heaviest yet look and feel your best. Take care of your body and your mind and heart. Ask for help (but your friends are not therapists). Apologize when you’ve messed up. Go outside even though you want to stay in bed. Let people love you. You’re going to fall for people you shouldn’t and you’ll question your own worth. But you’re already loved as you are by a community of people, and you already matter to them. Keep those people close and give them the best of you.

Lastly, allow yourself the space to feel whatever you’re feeling and the time you need to heal and grow. Keep being brave. Continue to be open to experiences and people that come your way. Become better at managing your finances. And always remember that you are a writer and that you are more than worthy.


35-year-old Jenny

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