Elsa Duré
Policy Wonk & Education Advocate
Providence, RI

Illustration by
Pik-Tone Fung

Dear 25-year-old self,

It’s true that it’s only been one year, so I’ll admit that I think this letter is as much for you as it is for me.

Do you remember when you were ten and twenty-five seemed … so old? At the time even sixteen-year-olds seemed grown up (I’m laughing now too). You thought that by the time the big two-five rolled around, life would be all figured out. No questions, no doubts, everything would just be … perfect. And why not? It was a difference of fifteen whole years. A lifetime. Well, now is the moment where I tell you to not panic. It’s not true. And it’s okay.

It’s okay to struggle and to be unsure. You’ve already figured out the answer to the most important question. You know you want to make a difference. You’ve always known that, even if you didn’t know it. Remember when you were five years old and you wanted to save every stray dog? When you saw the sick, emaciated, and hungry dogs on the street, why they were there didn’t matter as much as how you could sneak them home to warm and feed and play with. You would try bringing them home, but the next day they’d be thrown back out into the streets. You got to feed them for a night, but that was never enough. Soon you had figured out an elaborate plan that included a huge van outfitted with medicine (because at that time Mom wouldn’t let you keep the puppy with the big belly full of parasites) and a hose (because people always told you not to touch those filthy dogs). You were going to give every stray dog to a home that would love her, and feed her, and take care of her.

Remind yourself of that when the closed-mindedness, apathy, and cruelty of the world feel suffocating. To dwell on the whys will paralyze you and eventually eat away at you. Besides, you are far too young to be jaded. Reserve that privilege for old, angry men on porches. The time you will want to spend agonizing over the whys (and why nots) is time better spent figuring out how. There was a lot of wisdom in five-year-old you. When you feel hot tears of anger and that tight knot at the pit of your stomach, don’t throw your hands up. Dream up a van and make it happen.

With love and hope,

Your 26-year-old self

July 2013