Hello dear. Oh, that skirt. I still have it you know. You’ll be wearing it the night you kiss Phil for the first time – I still have the silver cardigan you’ll wear that cold, cold January evening too.
So, what’s up with you? You’re failing, I know. Or it feels like it right now. You’re living in a place that feels like a prison, you’re lonely and you’re drinking a lot of cheap vodka. I can still feel the bubble of panic that you try to drown every night. Little, it will be OK. You won’t stop panicking but it will become a clean kind of panic that has nothing to do with the feeling that you’ve brought it on yourself; the kind of panic that is wild and instinctive and random, not something you know you deserve. That sounds terrifying but it will make a difference.
I can’t change you so I’m not going to give you advice. You go on how you’re going, in a downward spiral of black outs, blank crying and no clean socks. You’ll think you’re having fun maybe 20% of the time and you’re learning lessons even though you never go to classes. One day, this time will be a part of your character and you’ll have worked out how to put some of it to good use. The failure you’re in the middle of will be the making of you. So keep digging girl, wallow for now.
Pretty soon you’re going to meet someone who will help you become the worst you you’ll ever be. He’ll consume you; you’ll stop visiting home and university will just be that place you go to get more clothes. He’s a drinker. He’ll turn you on to a bottle of white wine for dinner before going out. Every night. There will be more screaming and crying over that year of your life than in the all the years before. He’ll be the first boy you live with and you’ll buy him a briar pipe. When he leaves for university, he’ll set you spinning free of his awful spell.
As you open your eyes for the first time in months, it won’t take you long to realise you’ve ruined everything, that it’s all gone to shit. Mam will dye your hair red (it’s still red – good choice princess) and you’ll try to be someone new. A guy called Jesus will take you out on a date and you’ll feel like maybe, maybe things are different.
In a way, they are. You’ll no longer feel trapped in a hot, dark, airless place with no way out. You’ll finally begin to claw your way out of the grave you dug yourself and the hand that reaches down will be Phil’s. Quickly, his place back in the sticks will become your refuge. Slowly, it will become your home. University will be left behind (you’ll think you’re just deferring but in your heart it’s forever) and you’ll start trying to rebuild.
And you will! The city you build in the still-burning ashes of Before will gradually rise in Oxfordian dreaming spires. Things will crack from time to time but there will be hills to run up, dinners to cook, endless laughing and the most beautiful sofa, a glowing symbol of your new life. You’ll never be fixed – no one is – but that’s because you weren’t broken in the first place. People will try to tell you how you should live but listen only to yourself, your mother and your best, best friend. They have a vested interest in you turning out OK.