Le Huy Nguyen Tran
Lyon, France

Illustration by
Miho Tomimasu

Dear 25-year-old me,

How are you?

I’m a little lost right now (actually, more than a little).

I’m not asking you to tell me that I’ll be okay. I know I will be. I know you are, wherever you are.

Sometimes I wonder why twenty-one, almost twenty-two, can be so hard. Though growing up everything was hazy, confusing, and just all around rough, there was guidance. There was Mom to make breakfast and lunch and pack it into that navy blue lunch box, which always smelled like soy sauce and honey. We knew it always waited for us on the northwestern corner of the dining room table. Even college had its constants: rushed cappuccinos and bananas at 11 a.m., the chill of autumn evenings mandating an extra sweater, journal entries and problem sets to be submitted before midnight.

I just need a little comforting right now, just to be told that I didn’t mess up. That I didn’t make the wrong choice by leaving the embrace of my friends and family to move to a strange city all alone—completely, totally alone.

This is the best place we can afford. There’s a Rwandan refugee and a Muslim frat boy sleeping in the living room—roommates. Laundry is being washed in a white bucket, in the kitchen, right now. My room is storage for mattresses and purple floral sheets. At least Hôtel de Ville and all the bars are downstairs.

Last night I went for a run. Actually, let’s be honest, it was more like an evening stroll in short shorts. Restive from the repetitive stepping motion, my attention turned to some swans pecking at their feathers in on the edge of the Rhône. As I watched them flock together, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the night of graduation, when I turned down my last chance to spend time with my group of friends because I was off to France early the next morning.

I wanted to call someone to ask them to hang out. But my Nokia prepaid had no money left on it. Heck, it didn’t even have T-9 or a game of Snake.

I’m afraid of saying it out loud (that I’m lonely). I keep thinking that if I speak my doubts, letting them leave my mouth and enter the atmosphere, they would become truths. Truths that say I have somehow failed. That, for the first time in a long time, I made a serious mistake.

So I write to you to ask a few things: Do you still travel? How’s the sex life going? Did that plan to get a Ph.D. come to fruition? Is Mom doing okay? What was the last book you read? Are you a good friend? Please tell me there are no gray hairs (you remember two days ago the woman cutting our hair told us she found two?!).

Though I am writing this to seek assurance and affirmation from you, I know it would not be complete if I didn’t remind you (yes, my chronologically-more-mature self) of a few small things. Don’t forget to be with just yourself. Remember those mornings when we had a little time to sit naked on the couch and drink coffee, doing nothing but being naked and drinking coffee? They were nice, right? Right.

As you continue to grow up, the pressure to become a “real” person rapidly intensifies, I think. Well, don’t let that define you. We were given the gift of choice, the blessing of freedom. And we’ve always only used our hearts to guide it. It has invariably worked out in our favor. So we cannot let that gentle, yet mighty, voice inside ourselves be silenced or overlooked.

Everything else eventually falls into place. Never the way we expect, but always the way we know is right.



August 2013