I’ve been awfully reflective lately. Perhaps it’s because I’m turning 24 in a few days, but, whatever the case may be, I keep thinking back to an experience I had in the fall. A former professor of mine sent me a message on Facebook, and I ended up attending “A Letter to Your Younger Self” Writing Workshop at the Tyler Clementi Center. The premise of the workshop was based off of the book “The Letter Q: Queer Writers’ Notes to their Younger Selves” , which James Lecesne, co-founder of the Trevor Project edited. We wrote letters to the past, reflecting on what lessons we would share with our younger selves.
I ended up reading my letter at a sculpture dedication to the Tyler Clementi center. It was really meaningful to be able to read a letter to myself, as I had just found a letter from my 18 year old self that was sent to me from a seminar I took my first semester of college. In an odd set of circumstances, I was able to answer my younger self.
I also had the unexpected opportunity to speak with the family of Tyler Clementi, specifically his mother, Jane. She found me to talk to, and we had a really profound conversation about the coming out process for parents of lgbt children. The experience of speaking with Jane was so surreal, as I had actually avoided all news of her son during my undergraduate career. As a queer student leader on campus, following the death of her son, I came to resent the media the stalked and preyed on lgbt students on campus. Speaking with Jane– and receiving unexpected praise from her for being a queer writer and an educator– gave me unexpected closure to the tragedy that came to define by Rutgers career as “Before Tyler” and “After Tyler.” That afternoon truly changed my life.
As I currently look at the words I read a few months ago, I smile at the final words of advice I had for 17 year old me.
Be happy. Smile. Be you. Wear what you’re comfortable in. Read poetry– yes, poetry. Blast Melissa Etheridge if you want to. And, for the love of chocolate, wax your eyebrows and invest in a ceramic straightener. This will change your life.
The words of wisdom I had for 17 year old me are still applicable for the almost-24 year old me. For 24, I’m going to listen to these words of wisdom, smile, and be happy.