Olivia Magdelene
New York City

Illustration by
Rachel Suen


It's me. Or at least you will be become me in a few years, that is. I thought a lot about what to say to you. I guess I should start by saying to enjoy your 25th birthday in February. I mean, seriously enjoy it, love. I say this because I have bad news.

Not long after that birthday, you will lose the baby you are carrying. The experience will be quite traumatic. I'm sorry, love. So very sorry. You will mourn over her for some time. Your marriage will start to fall apart in the aftermath. You will have another child and return to New York from Providence to save your marriage, but it will end despite your efforts in 2008.

You will move back to Rhode Island as the recession hits, but I urge you not to go back to New York in 2009. Stay in Providence to file for divorce and acquire services for your children. You can’t know it, but moving will be the one major misstep you’ll make. It will result in five years of unnecessary hardship for all of you.

This is because you will be infected with Lyme Disease that year. The New York doctors will be unable to figure it out for an additional three. Desperate, you will travel out of state for treatment. It will take a New England doctor only one month and a single blood test to properly diagnose you. By that time, the bacteria will have eaten away at your nervous system to the point where you develop muscular rheumatism, severe pain and other issues. It will take herbal specialists within the Buddhist and Hindu community to nurse you back to health. You will still have lingering symptoms, but your condition will become manageable.

Another shock, love, so take a breath: Your children will both be diagnosed with autism. The hardest part of this journey is not the diagnosis. It will be the hassles dealing with the New York City education system and inept mental health professionals. You will spend three years chasing your own tail before light bulbs go off in your head. I'll save you some trouble here - get your kids tested for allergies early.

Half of their issues stem from severe food and environmental allergies that aggravate the autistic symptoms. Go through private insurance and avoid state services, which will waste two years of your time and result in a dead end. Wear autism bracelets! The doctor who diagnoses you has an autistic son. Your bracelet makes him more inclined to listen. These bracelets also open the door to chance meetings within the special needs community, which gives you the support your family needs. And take heart - your youngest is an artistic savant and your oldest will have the intellectual capacity of a college student by the time he is 11. They will be brilliant. You just have to help them get there.

Now for the rest of the bad news: Within the span of one year, you will lose a good friend to cancer, your youngest brother to suicide, and your father to chronic kidney failure. This will happen the same year you are diagnosed and undergoing treatment for Lyme Disease. You will be loving even when you have no energy and strong when you want to succumb to despair. Friends you did not know you had will help you with open arms. So again, take heart. Just let your loved ones know you love them before they depart, especially your brother, and all will be as it should be.

Okay...are you still reading, love? I'm giving you the biggest hugs ever. Huge ones like fluffy marshmallows with wings. I made you laugh. Good. I knew you still had some humor in there through the tears.

So I have just one final thing to tell you. Just one. This one won't hurt, I promise: After all of this, you will be the strongest, toughest person any one knows. Why?

Within this miasma, you will find strength you did not realize you had. This life and all its sorrows will be fertile ground for your writing and art. It will also compel you to go to expand your comparative religion research with seminary school classes and study with adherents from around the world. You will even attend classes with the Dalai Lama in 2010 and attain an honorary doctorate. You will learn fifteen types of meditation, acquire far too many tattoos and heal all the wounds inside you’ve ever felt.

And once, you have climbed these mountains, you will meet the love of your life. This man from your past will have traveled through hells of suffering also. Many of them were worse. But when you meet again as survivors, you will love. You will marry. And you will thrive.

Love, you've seen a lot of tragedy even before that 25th birthday. I can feel you nodding reading this. Life has been hard from the beginning and we've often had to shoulder enormous burdens alone. Life will get harder. But so will you.

So I urge you to believe in yourself and your path. Trust your intuition and God.

Don't be afraid to be unconventional. Just be yourself. Because when you do that, Olivia, there is absolutely nothing you can't handle. But you already knew that because you're a smartass just like me.

Glad to see you are laughing again. Now go light your candles, remember the lesson of impermanence, and know that you are a walking miracle.

Love always,

Your Self