Darja Pretnar
English Teacher/Translator
Bled, Slovenia

Illustration by
Miho Tomimasu

Hello darling,

It’s 7pm and I see you… You’re driving home from work, worn out from talking long hours. Your mind’s already set on the next day’s courses, you’re going over the plans for the morning course which starts in just 12 hours. Your head is full of the things you have to do—but when was the last time you did something just because you felt like it?

Please don’t say it’s not true. I know you, remember. And now, when I’m writing this letter from a considerable time distance of 15-plus years, I still feel the ambition, the unyielding determination to be perfect in all life’s events, and the frustration and pain emerging from even minor failures. I remember what it’s like to feel like the weight of the world rests upon your shoulders. Overpowering. Intimidating. And totally unnecessary.

Perhaps you are smiling in disbelief, or getting ready to persuade me I am wrong. Either way, save it. Life’s not about what you have to do, but what you want to do. So forget about your ‘obligations’. You are not responsible for other people. You can’t patch up things between your mom and dad, can’t make your dad stop drinking, can’t solve their money problems, can’t get your brother through school. And it’s not just that you can’t do all that, you shouldn’t. Every one of us has a path to walk, a life’s story to write. So relax, it’s not your job to worry about others. The only thing you really HAVE TO do is love yourself.

So take a break, darling, from everything, and look at yourself in the mirror. Look at your face, your young and strong body. Appreciate it. Love it. Be proud of it. Cherish every little perfect part of it. I know you now feel far from perfect but in the next two years, life will prove you wrong. An illness will claim a part of you but, strangely, leave you feeling stronger and whole. It will awaken the strength you never knew you possessed. As if less were more, and cancer a wake-up call, you will fall in love with life again, and never fall out again.

If I could give you just one piece of advice, I’d say: Don’t be afraid anymore. Fear is an utterly destructive emotion. If you let it thrive, it will consume you, steal your finest moments and poison your dreams until nothing but fear remains. However, the pattern that forces you to expect the worst so you never get disappointed is deeply rooted in you so it will be hard. But it’s worth trying. Every day, little by little, you can change your way of thinking until one day you realize that you expect the sun to shine, your body to be healthy, and people to love you…. And from that day on, the sun will always shine (even at the darkest hour), you will no longer need an illness to remind you that you’ve wandered off the right track, and you will find yourself surrounded by people who love you and who you can love back.

Oh, one more other thing. Come on, drop that ‘I don’t need nobody’ act with Sašo. The guy really loves you (and me, and I still find that a bit strange :) ) and he’s obviously not going anywhere. Think about all the energy you put into keeping the appearance of an independent and strong, self-contained woman. What a waste! Why don’t you just lean on him, and admit you’re sometimes scared and lonely and weak—just like everybody else. Share your load. Double your joy. It’s time you realized that it’s not your achievements or your looks or your clothes that people respond to—it’s the width of your smile and your energy and your ability to share. These are your assets, your tickets to a long and happy life, and the best thing about them is that they are not affected by age, or money, or how much cellulite you carry.

Have a great life,

Your 41-year-old self

July 2013