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Dear Younger Me, Never Stop Living

by Jennifer AnandSurvivor, Hodgkin’s LymphomaApril 19, 2021View more posts from Jennifer Anand

I often heard a song called “Dear Younger Me” by MercyMe. It seemed like the perfect opening for this.

Dear younger me
Where do I start
If I could tell you everything that I have learned so far
Then you could be One step ahead
Of all the painful memories still running thru my head
I wonder how much different things would be
Dear younger me

Jen, hold your life plans loosely. Goals are great. Crushed dreams are painful. Disappointment is hard. Don’t forget that your path will not be straight. I know you love being in control and planning everything out. But the next five, the next ten years of your life will look nothing like you imagined. They’ll be filled with so much more pain than you could have ever dreamed off. But they’ll also bring you people you didn’t know existed. You always wished you could know everything that would happen to you. Be grateful you don’t know. Or you may be too scared to keep living. Throw your time line out the window. Enjoy the sunshine, the fresh air, and breeze through your air. Your isolated time in the hospital will renew your gratitude for the beauty that can be found in nature.

Dear younger me
I cannot decide
Do I give some speech about how to get the most out of your life
Or do I go deep
And try to change
The choices that you’ll make cuz they’re choices that made me
Even though I love this crazy life
Sometimes I wish it was a smoother ride
Dear younger me, dear younger me

Jen, try not to wallow in the what-ifs. Grieve how different things would be and then accept and embrace the path you are on, not the one you see others on. And remember, grief isn’t a one time thing. As you face graduation, your first job, your first relationship, and so many more young adult life firsts, remember to grieve how cancer has forever twisted your experiences. Hindsight is 20/20. Move past the regret of not doing egg preservation. Enjoy college and stop studying on Friday nights. Stop working weekends. Instead, spend time with your friends. Spontaneously go out for dinner. Jump in the lake. Throw the axe. Sing karaoke.

If I knew then what I know now
Condemnation would’ve had no power
Dear younger me
It’s not your fault
You were never meant to carry this beyond the cross

Jen- it’s not your fault. You did not cause your cancer. Not speaking up sooner didn’t cause the extra rounds of chemo that were so hard, or your stage 4 prognosis. It’s not your fault that you relapsed. You didn’t “do too much” and ruin your body. It’s not your fault that you have chemo brain or neuropathy and can’t play your violin like you thought you would forever. It’s not your fault you got diabetes or chemo brain or gained weight or live in pain daily. It’s not your fault. Repeat that to yourself daily. It is not your fault.

Every mountain every valley
Thru each heartache you will see
Every moment brings you closer
To who you were meant to be

Jen you will live. You will be strong. And brave. And you will inspire people. And your life will matter and you will count. You will do things you can’t even imagine right now. You’ll attend the largest gathering of young adults with cancer in the world. You’ll learn to write, and share your voice. You’ll be part of a community that spans the world and generations. You’ll experience a breath of the love of people that you can’t imagine right now. You’ll meet so many people through your suffering, that will show you the best in humanity.

Jen- you’ll only see it through the heartache you experience. The pain of cancer will lead you to true, lifelong friends. The friends that will surround and uplift and hold you. Easy life rarely brings you deep friendships. The pain will help your see the incredible family who loves you, and you’ll never doubt their support. Jen, you will be successful. A different way than 17 year-old Jen planned, but your life will have a purpose and focus that you never planned.

Dear younger me, never stop living. Life is always worth the living.

Want to hear Jennifer read her letter? Click here to sign up for Perkatory on Thursday, April 29th at 7:00pm ET!

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