Maria Elena
Freelance Artist
New York, NY

Illustration by
Vania Wat

Dear 25-year-old Maria,

I can see you clearly. You're still 5'4. (Well, actually, you're 5'3. You're just still lying about being 5'4.) You have golden brown hair, with undertones of red that only those close to you see. You still have your signature bangs that you cut sophomore year symbolizing your commitment to authenticity and truth. You still love eating swiss cheese and lettuce sandwiches and you still eat bags of hot cheetos, no matter how fattening they are. You still dream of going to DisneyWorld, and hey, maybe you got to finally go. (I hope you did.)

I can actually see you and Andrew sitting in our cozy 'movie-theatre-like' living room having a Harry Potter marathon. I can see the huge entertainment center filled with all of our favorite movies and video games. At this point, Blu- ray is outdated, but we still have good ol' DVDs cause we're old - fashioned. You write poetry for fun and you enjoy the night sky and all the infinite inspiration it gives you. Your main conversation points are, "I know (insert future TV show name here) is funny and all, but nothing will ever beat The Office" and, "Well, my favorite place for guacamole is (insert place that makes great guacamole)."

Regardless, you're still Maria Elena. Seven years is a long time. Good things will happen and bad things will happen. You haven't changed because you know who you are. You found that out a while ago. And I think that's beautiful. I always loved that about you. Once you dug deep into that soul of yours and discovered your authentic roots, you never let go of that. But I promise I will live in the present, fearlessly and head on. Facing every emotion and every circumstance with grace and passion.

I don't know what the future holds for you. Maybe you have a french bulldog named Pearl, or a beagle named Ollie. Perhaps a corgi named Cheeto, or a husky named Zealia. Maybe you're a successful writer. Maybe you're acting in films. Maybe you're a banker for the time being because, hey, it pays. Maybe you're in New York or Los Angeles or Paris or New Zealand or some other random town. Or maybe you went back to Ohio because it means that much to you.

I hope you've inspired people to have the courage to do what makes them happy and to be themselves. When it comes down to it, that's what matters. Not bachelors degrees or instagram followers, but living life - authentically and fully.

25 year old self, I know you're happy. And that's what matters to me.