Dear me at 19:
You’re cozied up with your copy of The Subterraneans, sitting next to a gigantic window off King Street West, watching the streetcars roll through the thick haze of a drizzly Toronto summer. Hipsters are running to and from the TTC stops sopping wet, clutching their umbrellas. You watch them from the other side of the glass, under a blanket, inside an impossibly hip downtown loft space. The kind with top and bottom floors opening into each other, like a huge contemporary bunk bed. Everything is stainless steel and vintage hardwood. There’s a stone statue of the Buddha next to the big cement fireplace.
You’re waiting for your boyfriend to return home from work. From the courthouse where he is a Crown Attorney. A Defender of Justice. When he gets here, he’ll probably take you to the little restaurant across the street for dinner. He’ll order a fancy bottle of wine to impress you and taste the first sip with that slurpy sound that people who understand wine always do.
You’re having your first taste of a life pretty close to the one you’ve always dreamed of. School is out for the summer, and you’ve taken a week off from your retail job to spend some uninterrupted time with him. You packed up your clothes and took off from your parent’s house. You’re free to write when you want. Read when you want. Take a warm bubble bath in the gigantic soaker tub when you want. Drink wine. Listen to jazz. Stroll down Queen Street drinking Starbucks. You are in the middle of a buzzing Metropolis. Art galleries, museums, vintage clothing shops, and bookstores. You are surrounded by people in all angles, in all directions.
You are feeling completely alone. And you are enormously unhappy.
You’ve always been in a real hurry to grow up. At the time when you met him, you had your eye out for someone a little more mature. Someone more responsible. Someone with a real job. Someone with a car. Someone who didn’t live with their parents. Or with roommates. You know, like, an adult.
He swept you off your feet. He was well read. Well dressed. Well spoken. Well educated. Well traveled. He flew to Paris weeks after you met and sent you love poems written on beautiful little French postcards. He bought you jewelry from Tiffany’s and drove you to fancy dinners in his fancy car.
He had you hooked. And that’s when the shape of things started to change. It was very subtle. Quiet. A million shades of gray.
It all started with your clothes. You were growing up, maturing, becoming an adult. You needed to tone them down a little. Give the ones you had away to charity. Other people needed them more than you.
Then it was your hair and makeup. Too much. Too far from your natural shade. You looked so beautiful without any makeup at all.
Then it became your diet. Meat and dairy were so cruel. White flour and sugar so gauche.
Then it was your music. And then your friends. Your job. Your school major. Going to school at all.
You’ve woken up this morning to find that your life looks nothing like your own. In many ways it resembles that original fairytale. But you can’t for the life of you find yourself within it. Your world is shrinking at an alarming rate. And all because of someone whom you thought would open up new worlds to you.
Your Defender of Justice is an excellent talker. He went to school for years to learn how to argue his case. He is paid to make people believe that he is right and they are wrong. And he approaches his relationship with you no differently.
The reason you’re so unhappy is because your Prince Charming is actually just a scared little man, trying desperately to manipulate a teenager into believing a reality that couldn’t be further from the truth. He is mean and controlling. And it will only get worse.
You need to still your mind for a moment and listen to your heart. Put down your book. Go pack your bags.
If you stay, you will find yourself three years into something so convoluted and messy that to attempt to extract yourself will make your head spin. Yes, you will finally muster the courage to leave, but by that time you will have lost so much to a fairytale that never really existed in the first place.
You see honey, that’s the trouble with fairytales. No matter how wonderful they might seem, you will always find that your real life, and your true self within it, are so much better than any part of the illusion. If you leave now, you will be walking out of this fairytale without your Knight in Shining Armour. But you will still have your Self.
And in the story of your life, that person will always be the most important character.