What I Wish I Could Tell You

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I Could Tell You.


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Editor s Note Dear Reader, I hope this publication finds you well. Thank you for taking the time to read this. I have enjoyed every moment of compiling and developing What I Wish I Could Tell You, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed creating it. The intention behind this publication was to explore the confines of time and social pressures, and how they affect our ability (or inability) to communicate what we actually want to communicate. Social norms, societal or cultural expectations, our vocabulary, time, and a variety of other factors all play a part in what we say to other people. I wanted to create a space where people could write letters to someone that contained what they wish they did say in the past, or what they wish they could say in the present. The prompt was purposefully open- ended, and as you’ll see, many topics were covered. It may be difficult to say that you share the experiences of every one of these authors, but I know you will see a little bit of yourself, or someone you know, or your family, or your friends, in each of these letters. Maybe this book contains a letter addressed to you, intentionally or not. Maybe this book contains something that you wish you said. By no means is this publication aiming to encapsulate the entire spectrum of human emotion and experience, but I hope that even one of the sentences in one of these letters resonates with you. When we face our realities and obstacles, and we see how bleak the world seems to be, sometimes the easy way out is to stop feeling; to shut ourselves off; to lose hope. I know I will not be the first or last person to say this, but to maintain empathy: to keep a softness about you even when the world has chewed you up and spit you out is one of the strongest acts of resilience and resistance there is. Maintaining optimism and hope is one

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of the most difficult things to do, yet it is in the hope and desire to effect change—in the world, or in our lives—that we find purpose. To those that submitted letters: thank you for sharing your stories. The stories you told were so vulnerable, and heart-wrenching, and heartwarming, and resilient, and fierce, and strong, and soft, and everything in between that is so wonderful about being human. Thank you. While I am so excited to share these letters and stories, some of the content may be particularly sensitive for some readers. I would like to give a trigger warning—there are (2) pieces that discuss and/or reference sexual assault. They will be denoted with an *. For free and confidential help, the (U.S.) National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673 I really have come to love this project, and I’d love to continue the conversation. If you have any comments, questions, or feedback, or if you’d like to submit a letter or participate in this project, please contact whatiwishicouldtellu@gmail.com . Happy reading! Natalie Albaran

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What I Wish I Could Tell You

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To all my past and present friends and lovers, anyone I’ve ever cared about, or anyone who ever cared about me, I want you to know that I love you. Even if we are no longer a part of each other’s lives, I love you, and care about you. I want you to know how much I appreciate you and all our moments together. I am so grateful for the way you cared for me, made me laugh, challenged me, celebrated with me, comforted me, cried with me, believed in me, and inspired me. To those who I wasn’t there for when you needed me, I truly wish I had been there. And I’m here, now, if you ever need me. I know I’m introverted and closed off at times. But I will spend more time with you. And I will cherish the time we have. I will be more adventurous and spontaneous because life is finite. I wish I would’ve told you more how much you meant to me. And if I still can, I will tell you more. There’s always that one song that reminds me of you. Or that restaurant we always went to. Even that one phrase you’d always say. Or that TV show you loved. Whatever it may be, there’s a part of you in my life forever, and I’ll always hold on to that. Love, 123456

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In a person's life, there exists such profound events that come to shape them and influence them so strongly that the course of their life waterfalls from these events. The butterfly effect. One event leads to another, then leads to another, then leads to another. If the first event in that chain does not happen, the events that follow cease to exist. But, in the case that these events find their way to escape the clutches of nothingness, a person is born. Their abstract thoughts. Their personality. Them. Without adversity, there is no dimensionality. The rainbow spectrum of humanity could not endure if there were no prismatic events to separate us from each other. And you. You came out of nothingness and you fought hard to not turn back to dust. Crazy, huh? I know we're no longer friends but your secrets stay with me, every bitter memory, every time you doubted yourself, all the small moments we spent crying, laughing, and smiling. Maybe, in another life, we stayed friends, but I’m still so proud of you. Nothing could ever change that. Our friendship is a relic of the past, but what came out of it was my butterfly effect. I wouldn't be the me now, if I didn't have you then. And with that, I wish you well. Thank you for everything. -1234

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To whom this concerns, Why did you do it? What did you gain from it? Do you know that you became the catalyst to my downfall? I was such a person of energy and able to speak my mind. You silenced me. I hid behind a bad bitch persona for so long, I began to think that’s all I was cut out to be. I was hit with uncertainty and an inability to be myself. I made so many excuses for you to all my friends. Whenever anyone asked how we were, I told white lies to hide the fact that I was hurting. For 3 years, I convinced myself you loved me for me every single day. Even when the days started to blend and I lost parts of me, I remained resilient and told myself you did all of this out of love. Why did you cheat on me? Not once, but twice. Was I not enough for you? Was I doing something wrong? I’ve always wanted to know why. I still want to know why, but I refuse to succumb back to the idea that I was not enough. I refuse to let you talk me into thinking I didn’t love you enough and that’s why you did it. A true conviction in its prime. Thank you. Although the hardest times that I have faced ultimately led to more and more days of losing myself, I found myself again. I’m whole again and you never get to take me away again. I’m the happiest I’ve been in such a long time. My spiral into sadness became my blessing in disguise. You honestly may never get this letter, but this is my ending to a novel that I dreaded towards the finish. Thank you for choosing everyone but me because I learned how to choose myself at the end of the day. Love, Your much happier ex-girlfriend

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Dear Aunty 12345, People like to ask how I learned to cook; I think it might have begun with you. Remember how I loved to trail behind you in the kitchen? How you would summon me to the simmering pork chop broth with a point of your lips and on tiptoes, I would collect a spoonful to taste with the confidence of a sous chef. “Salt?” you’d ask, and I’d reply with a nod or a thumbs-up. Whether I was actually helpful or not is up for debate, but I adored being your assistant, peeling garlic or massaging salt into fish fillets in exchange for exclusive tastings of your favorite dishes. “Jiababue?” you asked in accented Taiwanese as you dug your fingers into a plate of sinangág. Before I could coyly reject your offering and reply “Yes, I’m full,” my pining eyes revealed the truth. Fresh off the pan, the fried rice glittered with a smoky flamboyance as its spiky garlic scent tickled my nose. Efforts to swallow my saliva were futile, so I followed your lead and plunged my scrunched-up fingers into the gold-speckled rice. Noticing my stiffness, you demonstrated the proper technique which I then mastered. Soon, I was cradling a greasy halo within my palm before impatiently stuffing the grains into my mouth. You chuckled with pride as I discovered the joy of food-bending with bare hands, of massaging my fingers with the gleaming grease. That night, I abandoned the fumbling chopsticks for my fingers to showcase my new skill. My enthusiasm was crushed by Ama as she yelled across the dinner table: “不行不行不行! You don’t eat with your hands. That’s dirty.” Gazing between my lustrous fingers and the dull chopsticks, I thought of you, sitting just meters away in the kitchen. Before Ama’s unforgiving glare, I wondered how this matriarch could be so strong yet degrading, kind yet inconsiderate, how she could suffer from yet still perpetuate a legacy of female obedience built no longer on binding women’s feet but binding their tongues. Filial piety could not justify such a betrayal against you, the only person here who knew my favorite foods— braised pork belly and stir-fried water spinach—as well as my least favorite, chicken feet and soybean milk. You were the one I could always turn to, the one who read past my poker face by a glance. Still, my tongue

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shrank from Ama’s scowl and Ma’s hushed nods until all I could muster were exasperated screams that fled as incoherent croaks. In the silence, I wiped the grease on my pants. I paralleled the chopsticks in my right hand. Everyone resumed chewing. And I ate—the clean way, while the meters between you and I expanded in what was left unsaid. Our fictive kinship was peeled back, the deafening truth glaring through. Before Ama’s grimaced enunciation of dirty, a word that could never describe you, I cowered behind a bound tongue. Her utterance failed to capture the you I knew, the cruel storyteller who mastered the tale of The Manananggal with jump scares that birthed nightmares, or the potato chip connoisseur who licked clean every speck of cheddar powder as if it were gold. Dramatic, funny, and generous; those would have made for better words. After all, you made me feel like I was whole in a house of women taught to shrink. With you, I was not the disgraceful left-handed granddaughter who ate with crisscrossing chopsticks, or the angry daughter fussing over how my brother got more pieces of seaweed. I was the girl who spent every evening curled up next to you, leafing through issues of YES! Magazine as we ridiculed celebrities with mouthfuls of Jack ‘n Jill chips. We seemed inseparable, evinced by the photos where I clung to you like a koala while my family stood to the side, manifested in the grim corrections that followed when I accidentally called you Ma. Yet, despite your love, I chose silence then and again, and again, until it became the default. Numbed by our severed bond and demoralized by a retrospective guilt, I kept our memories on mute and on pause. By the time I pressed resume, I could no longer produce detailed descriptions of your laugh (a loud one, according to my mom), the way your sinangág sizzled on my tongue, or how you said jia ba bue so swift the spaces in between disappeared. Silence kidnapped you from my memory, seizing with it any opportunities for grief or celebration. Many questions remain unanswered, like whether what we had was all just a performed intimacy signed into contract, compensated hourly. I could never know. Even as I attempt to press replay, I realize that there is much I did not comprehend then, and more yet for me to understand. As I deconstruct those blurred images, I am frustrated by how one-dimensional

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they appear having been recorded through the lens of a toddler. Even more so, I am frightened by how guilt intertwines with pity, a feeling I never want to attribute to you. To honor you is what I prefer. As I received my university diploma last month, I imagined visiting you in the Philippines. Would you remember me? I am a couple inches taller minus the hideous haircut you liked to call melon head. Would you open the door if I knocked with a bag of Jack ‘n Jill chips in one hand, and a plate of homecooked braised pork belly in the other? If I asked you “jia ba bue?”, would you feign a polite rejection before we plunge our fingers into the too-yellow cheddar chips and the jiggling pork skin? I would love to hear stories from your years before, during, and after us, would that be okay? Love, 1234

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If we’re being real, you knew what was going on the whole time, but you didn’t want to be affiliated with the party that I called out. I put my whole self out there for you. I was vulnerable, uncomfortable, and desperate for help and for guidance, but you were never there to offer your hand. It’s like you preferred to see me fail, so you could prove a point that I was never good enough. You had issues with me that you communicated to everyone else in the room but the person to whom you should have communicated them. How did you expect me to change? That’s the biggest part I do not understand. How did you expect me to change if you didn’t want to talk to me about what I was doing “wrong”? You preach that a person can be a work in progress and masterpiece at the same time, but I guess when you said it, it only applied to you. You offer to talk, but I don’t want to; not because I hate you, but because you only treated me like another human when I hit my rock bottom at your hand, even if that wasn’t your intention. It was also clear that you wanted that conversation more for yourself than out of concern for me and my wellbeing. I guess I also just hate confrontation. Anyways, here it is: To speak my truth, you were a big bitch and knew it. You only felt the tiny droplet of remorse you did when you saw how much your bullshit broke me. You thought I could take all the digs at my character and ideas and all the passive aggressive remarks, because you thought I was a bitch too, but - surprise - I’m sensitive as fuck and was only able to keep myself together through our interactions because I knew I would be breaking down for hours afterwards anyway so might as well wait. Despite everything, though, I do forgive you. I also am sorry for treating you the way I did after everything transpired, even if you kind of deserved it. We both deserved better than the way we ended up treating each other. Our energies are honestly too powerful to be spent hating each other for no good reason. We’re both better than this, and I honestly hope our paths cross again one day and wish you well until then.

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I was heartbroken. I thought that being close friends for 5 years would’ve at least earned more respect for our ended romantic relationship than that. I felt discarded. Betrayed. I wish I could’ve expressed to you how much you hurt me. How much you broke me. You destroyed my emotional stability that summer, and ever since, I haven’t been the same emotionally. I would love to tell you how much your life sucks, and that giving up our relationship for some foreign girl was your biggest mistake. You broke up with me so you could pursue a pretty foreign girl. You started flirting with her the day after we broke up. I was forced to spend the rest of the trip watching you joke with her and touch her (3 weeks to be specific). So much trust had been built, and you destroyed it. You still live with your mom, and you’re now going on your 6th year of college (that’s right, 6th). You have no life ambition and no future career. No new girlfriend either. Meanwhile, I’m at one of the best universities in the country, living my best life. I’m still laughing inside at how sad your life is, and how it will never progress. I’m the best you will ever get.

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Dear 123456, Back then, maybe I would have been too flustered to say the right thing or even approach you. I wanted to have a proper, mature talk with you. I wanted to talk about what went wrong, so we’d be on the same page. You dismissed me and refused to hear me out in person, just like my parents constantly did to me. Huh, figures. About a year ago, I heard from somebody that you were spreading rumors about me, saying that I was refusing to pay rent and forcing myself into your apartment. You know that’s 100% false. You allowed me to live with you because I had a destructive household and you never asked me to help you pay rent. You gave me a key. It would have helped if you just communicated, rather than sitting there, saying nothing. Also, I compensated by cleaning, cooking and taking care of and loving your cat. Don’t forget that. Hearing about your rumors and lies shows me that you screwed up because firstly, you wouldn’t be saying these things about me to your new girlfriend, and secondly, she wouldn’t be saying these things that eventually came back to me... unless you needed to compensate for her lack of confidence. I’m not surprised, because your girlfriend probably stalked me on Instagram or whatever, but she’ll never know the true me, because according to you, there’s always something wrong with the exgirlfriend, huh? It’s always the girl that’s easily disposable to you. “If you just ignore her, she’ll go away.” I know what you’re capable of, dude. I lived with you. You know… I wanted to tell you that even though we fell out of love with one another and drifted apart... I’ll always love and care for you because you gave me amazing memories and taught me lessons I could never have learned by myself. It’s true. But knowing what I know now and what I want for myself and my life, I just want to say thank you for hurting me. Thank you for being someone I can’t forget. Thank you for showing me who you really are, showing your

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vulnerability, and showing your cowardice. I will never forget you, because having you in my life will always be a part of me. A part of my personality, a lesson I had to learn. “Become untouchable”—that’s what you said, right? You said you couldn’t give me what I wanted back then, which was either get back together or give me a reason to hate you. I don’t hate you, I just realized your confidence level just never met up with mine and that’s not your fault. If you only knew what you put me through and how I rose from it, you’d see that I’ve changed a lot from losing you. Not that it matters anymore of course. It felt like you died, but I realized that you didn’t, and easily moved on and found a new replacement with a level of confidence to match yours. Don’t take it personally: no matter how many of the photos of us I delete or works of art that we’ve created that I have hidden in my closet, I will never forget what we’ve shared together. I’m sure deleting those pictures of us on your end didn’t really do you any good in the long run. You’d think the artistic world —music, art, and dance—is large, but no. It’s really a small world. Don’t forget that either. We could have been friends, best friends even, but you chose to dismiss me, ghost me, and just let me figure out that you weren’t the person I thought you were. Maybe you’re different now. Who knows? What I know of you is that you like to have everything planned out perfectly in a schedule and you hate change. So maybe not...? I was going to ask you to do 3 things for me: allow yourself to change, become more open minded, and don’t ever try to forget us. But how could I ask someone who is so broken, so stubborn, to do something, when they run instantly from the thought of talking to my face? So yeah, I wish you well. But, instead of asking those things of you, why don’t you go learn to love yourself first?

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Dear former best friends, You two were my best friends, and I still think about you today. I didn't do anything (not that I know of) to upset either of you. You just decided, one day, that I wasn't good enough. This feeling started long before I was dating someone - so that's a dumb excuse. You went up north and didn't invite me, but you had no issue inviting yourselves to my boat for a lake day. I didn't understand, but I didn't want to get in the middle of you two because I cared about our friendship. I lost you guys that summer and I really could never replace you. Thanks, for leaving me lonely like that. I look back through old photos and can't help but wonder if you both do the same. What did you tell your parents when they stopped seeing me at your house? Those photos hold the memories we made. If you can just throw them away, then you really have no heart. You should be ashamed of that. I still think about how life would be different if you were both still my friends. I'd probably be more popular, get invited to more things, and have more to talk about, but I don't think I'd be happy. I grew a lot since you left, but I do miss you two and our laughs, shenanigans, photo excursions. Everyone has to move on at some point, but I wish we could become 'friends' again so I could give you your knife back. So, thanks for being in my life, but farewell you two-timing back-stabbers.

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Day 7106 This is the first letter I’ve written to you in six years. I’ve been meaning to write to you, but I didn’t know how to articulate my scrambled thoughts. I guess I thought that you didn’t want to listen to me anymore. So, why did I decide to reach out to you after all these years? I’m just as confused as you are, but I think this is something I have to do. I’m looking at your pictures that I have hung up on my wall. You look happy. There’s so much life in your eyes. You look so young. I wonder how you would look today if we still walked the same path. I’m laughing to myself a bit: I apologize. These photos remind me of the time we spent together. Your face would turn red whenever you laughed too hard, and you got angry easily. And I would get annoyed when you melted the mac n’ cheese cups in the microwave. You were also really mean, but I still decided to stay by your side. Why? I guess it was because I knew you were filled with so much love; you were just afraid of giving away too much. I can’t blame you for being cautious since I do the same thing. I don’t regret what I did. Not one bit. I dreaded cutting ties with you, but I knew I had to. I couldn’t look you in the eyes because if I did, I would’ve put those imaginary scissors down and embraced you in my arms. But I didn’t. I took those blades and severed all that we had together. You must think that I left you behind. It probably felt that way, but that wasn’t my intention. I selfishly made the decision to tread new waters. If I were to use a metaphor, I would say that we were two flowers who grew toward different suns. I noticed that we no longer made eye contact, only the back of our heads faced each other. Even after we ceased to exchange hello’s and what-do-you-want-to-eat’s, even after you ceased to be a part of a daily routine, I never forgot about you. You’re always lingering in my memory. Your words and affection have painted a mural in my mind. How can I forget someone who gave me so much to remember? You probably don’t want to hear it, but a lot has happened these past six years. I met so many amazing people. They have given me reasons to smile. They have given me reasons to enjoy life. They have given me

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reasons to stay. Every day, I wonder why they decide to keep me in their lives when I always feel like I’m lacking in so many ways. I can’t help but be thankful for the love and kindness that they have shown me. I appreciate them so much. Oh, I decided that I wanted to be a doctor. Crazy, right? Who would’ve thought? You must think I’m insane. But I love it. Speaking of love, it hasn’t really worked out for me. Heartbreak and I are well acquainted now. I wish you were here to comfort me. You always gave the best hugs. I hope you have had better luck with love. I’m repainting my room soon, so that means all my wall decorations will be taken down and stored away, even your photos. I might forget our memories and I might forget what you looked like back then. I’m sorry if I do. Maybe starting anew will help me organize my life a little bit better. My walls will be the first blank canvas I create on. From there, I’ll keep adding to my art exhibit, literally and metaphorically. Hopefully I’ll be where I want to be. Hopefully my eyes won’t look as tired. If you miss me (I’m hoping that you do), watch the clouds glide by and know I’ll be looking too. Or look in the mirror because you are me, and I am you.

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I said we shouldn’t be together, because we weren’t a good fit for each other. I still believe that I am right, but it was a bit of a white lie. I do not believe that I was the best match for you. I do not believe that being with you was giving you the support that you needed and deserved. We had issues, but I truly do hope that we can still be friends. You were, and are, an amazing person who deserves someone who understands you and can support you 100%. If I can find a way to love myself and fix myself, I would love to talk with you again.

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There are many things you don’t know. To name a few: 1. You don’t know how many times an hour I would check my phone to see if it said you had sent a message or a snapchat. 2. You don’t know how high my heart leapt in my throat when I saw you had followed me on Instagram (After lying to me that you deleted it, but still you put in the effort into finding me after I deleted my Bumble). 3. You don’t know that you were my first kiss (with consent) or how much it meant when you asked if you could kiss me before leaning in. a. Also, you don’t know you could’ve used a mint and maybe less tongue? 4. You don’t know that it broke my heart when you left me on open because you weren’t looking for a relationship, or that I cried on the phone to my cousin who I don’t even like because I felt so hurt, and she was the only one who would answer at the time. 5. You also don’t know that I’m good friends with that girl you pursued in high school (we didn’t even know that at first). I remember feeling so nervous that you were coming over to bake cookies and hang out. I showered before you came so my hair wouldn’t look oily and I picked out an outfit that was comfy and cute, so it didn’t look like I had tried too hard (because in my head apparently putting in effort was a turnoff?!?). Looking back, I can’t believe I let you into my home, or that we talked for hours that night, yet you didn’t even want to be friends after. You really, really hurt me and that’s so stupid. You don’t deserve the power I gave you; no one does. You showed me what consent should look like, and that I need to work on self-love because it will prevent me from wasting my time on guys like you, so thank you. You’re not a bad guy; you’re just not a great one, and I’ve come to learn, that is what I deserve: someone great. If I saw you on the street, I’m not sure if I’d say hello. Maybe, I would. I mean, we did match on Tinder a couple weeks ago, so I feel like it’d be rude not to. But then again, it’s also rude to ghost someone—to leave someone on open after talking to them for over a month. I would’ve been cool with being friends, but I guess friendship wasn’t in the cards for us. Final answer: if I saw you on the street, I would say, “hi”, just to spite you.

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Dear 123456, When you said, “Christians are stupid,” I wish I could’ve told you how that offended me. Even though I agreed that some people have extreme views that can be “stupid,” I wish I told you that it was not okay to make a generalization about one group of people. I should’ve told you how hypocritical that was. I wish I told you that even though I don’t consider myself very religious at all, I grew up going to church and surrounded by many Christian people. And they are all good people. And not all Christians are white people. You assumed that I was not Christian because I am Asian, but so many Asian Americans are Christian. And it is not okay to make fun of people for their religious beliefs, or any other beliefs. How would you feel if someone made fun of your religion? How does it become okay to make fun of an entire religion just based on a few people’s beliefs? And why does being a minority make it okay to make fun of the majority? How hypocritical is that?? We should all learn to understand each other and have respect for one another instead of tearing down each other based on different beliefs. And even if you think someone else has the wrong values, you should try to understand why they have those values and where they’re coming from. If you refuse to be open minded, you’ll never even be able to help others understand your point of view.

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To 123456 and 1234, the two people I hurt the most in 2019: Sometimes I think back to the times when we were close, when we would FaceTime, when we would give each other amazing hugs, when we would cry to each other about our personal problems and comfort each other. To find two people I loved so much so quickly was such a blessing, and I wouldn’t trade back any of the memories that we had together. When you both took care of me at my first rave when I rolled and made sure that I had the best time possible, I remember feeling that this was a friendship, a bond that I would not let go off. You both were like big sisters to me. And yet I had the audacity to break your trust and hurt you deeply. 123456: When you called me to confront me, three weeks after the rave about something that I did, I could hear the pain in your voice. My heart felt like it shattered, and I did not know how to cope with my actions and my mistakes. I know my apology at the time was beyond insufficient and I couldn’t prove immediately that I could change. I still remember your last words to me on that call: “I have to go now.” I remember falling into a sense of despair during autumn. I started resorting to drinking every day, smoking weed, and getting back into my nicotine addiction, just so I could forget about you and all the problems that I caused you. I relied on drugs to avoid facing reality head on, until two months later, when you had a mutual friend tell me that you still love and care for me but that you can’t be that anymore. I wanted to reach out immediately in that moment, but I decided against it because I interpreted that message to be your form of closure. 1234: Perhaps the break in our friendship was the most confusing, because, even though you had forgiven me a long time ago for what I did to you, being in the friend group with people that I had hurt likely influenced your opinion of me. I guess the real turn was recently, when one of our mutual friends asked me about you and I didn’t know what to say. A few minutes after she had left, I read the last message you sent me and realized that in my head, I had made you out to hate me more than I guess you actually did. I could sense the care that you had in your disappointment in me, and I felt a desire to

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reach out to you and see if there was a way that we could talk everything out in person. But I got scared. But when you both cut me off, you also inspired me to grow from what I did. I reduced drinking and smoking to only being done socially, and I learned about the importance of confidentiality. I began to better understand trust, and I forced myself to form deeper bonds with other people and constantly express my appreciation in the fact that they would indulge a piece of their personal life for me because I’ve come to comprehend how much courage and vulnerability that it requires. The journey has not been easy, particularly because I had hurt other people close to me right before I hurt you two, but it has been something that has made me more mature and the person that I am today. I can stand up now and look in the mirror and know that the mistakes I made five months ago does not make me the person I am today. I’ll see you both sometimes as I walk to and from class, and my heart will still drop from the guilt and shame I feel, but now I just want to say two words: Thank you. Thank you for forcing me to grow up, to end my bad habits of having a big mouth, to appreciate the people around me so much more. Since neither of you have me on social media anymore, I can’t reach out to you and say this personally. Or maybe it’s a part of me that is scared of confrontation. But I know that both of you are on this page, and a part of me hopes that there is a slim chance that you read this and recognize that this is for you. My heart still yearns for both of you, but part of me is too anxious to reach out and ask to see if there’s a chance to be friends again. At least putting this out here in public anonymously will give me the personal closure I need, so even if we never reconnect, both of us can be at peace. 123456 and 1234, I love you so much. The memories that you blessed me with will stay with me for a long time, and I can never apologize enough for what I did. Thank you for everything that you did for me, and for teaching me important life lessons I would not have learned otherwise. I miss you both so much, but I wouldn’t trade anything that we shared together and the memories since we last talked for the world. With Lots of Love, 1234567

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I wish that I had believed in myself enough to tell you how I felt. You’re still the first person I pray for. Every single prayer. Every song still makes me think of you. Every movie still makes me think of you. Everything I do at school: I wish I could tell you about. The new friends I’ve made remind me of you. My family still asks about you. I wish that I had told you how much I loved you. I wish that I had told you that you were the reason I got up in the morning. I wish that I had told you how I really felt. I wish that I had told you how badly I was hurting that one night in March. I wish that we had never let go of each other. I wish that I had said sorry more often. I would give anything to get back to where we were. I see that you’re doing really well, and as much as I am happy for you, it still really hurts for me, and I wish it didn’t. I wish I could tell you now that my heart still longs for you. I wish that I could tell you how much I miss you. I wish that I could ask you- After all those years, how did we get here? You will forever be in the center of my heart.

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I don't know how to put this, but I guess there's no way to perfectly get my point across. Maybe it's because you always held things over me to get me to behave the way you wanted me to, or maybe it's because you yell at me whenever I don't listen. But as much as you think I didn't listen, a lot of what you said I still hear in my head years after you said it. And for somebody who repeatedly says that I never listen, you have never lent an ear to me or my sisters when we were going through stuff. I'm not even sure if you knew we were going through stuff because you never paid attention to the things that really mattered. Any personal stuff you knew about me you always used against me for your gain. Whenever I tried talking to you about issues that I had when I thought you were civil enough to discuss them, it would always end up with me going to Dad’s house or you yelling at me for hours. I'm not saying that there weren't good experiences, but it's the bad memories that hold more weight in my mind. I've taken some psychology courses, and some of the stuff that I've learned in class struck a chord with me, because when I remember back to growing up, it sounds almost exactly like some of the things that I've experienced. I know you're not a monster, or at least you weren't, but it got really bad at the end, and I don't know when I'll be ready to talk to you again.

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When I first met you, you changed my life significantly. I was a socially awkward boy and you made me feel special. I was in love with you, but I was too embarrassed to show it because you were taken. Then, as time went on, you became more distant, and you stopped talking to me. It was difficult when you weren’t always there for me, and I guess I am no longer attached to you, but you taught me some valuable lessons that I will never forget.

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Dear ex, It’s been about 4 months since our near-2-years together ended, and I’m gonna be honest: I’m pretty grateful about how things went the way they did. With all this time to myself, I feel incredibly whole and full of love because of what I was able to take on. Dance came back into my life after a break fall quarter in a way that I never could have imagined. Who knew it’d be my last quarter on the team & round out 4 beautiful seasons in such a beautiful and strong way? The process of losing what we had was so gradual that I honestly never noticed until the end. We started off so strong. Everyone saw us as the cutest couple: a sweet girl who could finally be the one to tame a crazy man with the power of love. From the moment we started talking, you changed into a person who you were much happier to be, right in front of my eyes. Everyone talked about you growing out of who you were and into a better person because of me - which I was, and still am, proud of. You did amazing things for me, and I did the same in return. Life was just all sorts of spontaneous fun and just a crazy type of new love I could never have imagined. We had good times, much more than we ever had bad. We have beautiful memories and a world of growth for both of us over the two years that we got to know each other. I tell every person who asks that I don’t regret being with you at all. Without you, I wouldn’t be where I am with some people, things, and memories that have such a dear place in my heart. My life in college has been incredibly vibrant - plenty due to what we had together - so believe me when I say I wouldn’t take it back. But after a while, things just weren’t as convenient anymore and the energy just ever so slowly started leaving you. I decided to end things because I felt like I was carrying the weight of our relationship for both of us and for so long, that I just didn’t have energy for myself anymore. I’ve also been hurt by some of the most painful, dismissive, and traumatic emotional experiences because of your own friends – none of which you ever stood up against for me. I’ve just spent so

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many hours of my life supporting you, loving you – unconditionally. But my heart broke so many times because I needed you to be there for me like I was for you. Sometimes, my heart aches when I revisit all of this in my head because it’s so disappointing. To think that someone who imagined their entire life with me couldn’t reciprocate my love and energy – even when I asked, begged them to be here for me... Whether it was the hardest breakdown I’ve ever had or a night where I just needed the company to put my heart at ease, I just shouldn’t have to defend my needs to you like that. I know love is about communication and balance, but I tried so hard and overextended myself doing both to the point where I just couldn’t keep going anymore. Seeing that you couldn’t tell there was anything wrong until the relationship ended really showed it was the right decision for me. I deserve to use my own energy and space to love myself first, above anything else. All in all, I genuinely hope you’re doing well. This was all just to work out some thoughts I’ve had floating around in my mental space until now, and I feel like it’s offered me a little peace. I trust our mutual friends are taking care of you, and I hope that you haven’t let go of the progress you’ve made on your personal growth journey. You are bright, talented in your craft, and have a lot to look forward to as your life continues. Unfortunately, I won’t be in it any longer, but I can still send you my best. Wishing you health and all the best, jo

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I know we don’t really talk anymore, but I do think about you all. I think often about our lunch spot on campus where we ate every single day, about our infamous basement sleepovers, about all the lies I told my parents about where I was going, just so I could be a part of whatever crazy scheme we came up with. Back then, I thought my social life was everything, so that kind of meant that you all were everything to me. Once we all left home for the first time, it got harder and harder to meet up and stay in touch. Plans to meet up got postponed, group chats became more inactive, until one day, the invites and messages stopped coming. I learned a lot about myself in these past four years. I met a lot of people with similar values as me. I met people who understood me better than I had ever experienced before. I made some very close friends, ones that I sincerely think will be in my life for a long time. I wonder if we all changed too much; if we outgrew each other. Sometimes, I wonder if we were only friends out of convenience. I’d like to think that wasn’t the only reason we spent all those years together. I’ve always thought of myself as the type of person that can go without seeing someone for a few years but still consider them a friend. However, I also know that I’m the type of person that assumes the worst and thinks no one wants to hear from me or see me. I might be using the mindset of the former to justify the actions of the latter. I know I should’ve tried harder. You all have grown closer than we ever were back then. I wish I could’ve been a part of that. I wonder how different my life would be if you were all still in it. Wishing all of you well, always.

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Dear Past Self, Hello, old friend. I’m writing to you because I know how much you’re struggling right now with so many different aspects of our life, and some of the biggest things are trust and self-appreciation. Honestly, to this day, we still struggle with those things. However, in a couple months’ time, the whole damn world is going to be different. Everyone’s going to be quarantined because of a global pandemic, and America’s not going to know how to handle it, so you’re going to be stuck at home for a long ass time. A couple months, a year, maybe even a couple years? You might be wondering how we’re doing? Well, we’re doing pretty fine. Every now and then, we wish things were back to normal (to be honest, quarantine is now the new normal...), but we’re surviving and thriving in different ways. Anyways, what I mainly want to say is that even though you’re struggling right now in the different spaces that you’re in, please don’t hold yourself back. Please don’t be afraid to trust others and accept their love and appreciation, and on top of that, don’t be afraid to reciprocate it and provide those same things for yourself. When this quarantine starts, you’re going to wish you could go back in time and handle your situations with a different perspective. I guess, this message is a little too late for all that, huh? Well, then, you should also know that, regardless of all that’s happened, regardless of what regrets we may feel throughout quarantine, we’re still happy. At this moment, we’re happy. And even though you’re feeling unhappy right now, it gets better. At some point, you decide not to turn away from the people and spaces that have accepted you, and that’s something we definitely don’t regret doing. Best, Your Future Self

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Dear 18-year-old me, You are going to go to 12345678 12345 University for free. Some might laugh. Some might applaud. Just know, in 1.5 years, a global pandemic will reduce all colleges to an equal battlefield: Zoom University. You made the right decision.

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To 1234 I know I said I was ok, and thank you for asking, but I'm not sure if I’m totally ok. I mean, I'm ok, but I need to say something more than just “I’m ok.” I'm not sure if I don't like you like that because you're a girl, or because I just don't like you like that, and there is actually a girl out there I might like like that—maybe Saoirse Ronan or Rosie Ugly. And the fact that I can't make a call on that makes me uncomfortable and guilty. There is, or was, a stupid, stupid boy I like (or liked) like that, and he doesn't like me like that back. He thinks this is fun, he doesn't want it to end, and we messaged for a time, and he asks me questions. He hasn't been the nicest, and he isn't as cool as you, and doesn't smell as good as you, or speak as nicely as you. So, really, I shouldn't like him like that, but I do, or I did, and that just goes to show how nonsensical all of this is! If I may be so selfish as to tell you what and how I think about you anyway, I will. I think sometimes you're drunker than I am, and I don't feel like getting down, or I just don't feel like getting down for no reason. I think some music and settings don't put me in the mood, and neither do screwy boys plaguing my silly mind. I think sometimes I don't necessarily want you in a type of way like I've wanted boys before. I also think your lips are magical; they remind me of fresh fruit and soft cushions. I think the skin on your belly and hips tastes like milk. I think I want everyone in this world to see us kissing. I think I want everyone to see us next to each other and think, “God, they're so cute and stylish and cool, but especially the ginger one.” I think your embrace and your hand hold makes me feel cozy and comforted. I think, when we're surrounded by people and I feel antisocial, I just want to be talking to you. I think I could talk to you for days on end, and we'd still have content to cover. I think, even if we ran out of content, I'd love for you to cover it again. I like the way you move your hands when you speak and the tone and accent of your voice. I like your room. And your clothes. I like the way you look in your clothes. I like that you made my bed that one time, and the smell that you left behind in it. And I pretty much hated that silly, drunk 12345 ruined it because the night after I couldn't smell you anymore and I was angry. I like the internal conflict you have about smoking when you're hungover. I like how you are

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with people; your softness, your kindness, your joy. I like your patience and acceptance of all persons and things. So, maybe, I do like like you, but I don't know what that means. And I think what makes me doubt my liking is that, whilst with boys I see them, and me, and meeting my parents and bringing them as my boyfriend, I can't project us into the future. Sometimes, there's this picture of a boy that looks right for some reason. I really should stop comparing because, though they aren't different things, they are certainly not the same, but I don't know if I'd ever like to call you my girlfriend. In my projections, you are more my companion, or my honey, or my lover. But I don't like the word, “girlfriend� for you, just so you know, in case it comes to that, and I can't explain why. I hope this isn't internalized homophobia; I worry about that a lot. I think I also think too much, because maybe we could just have fun for now, like normal people our age, and not worry about getting married just yet. But I hate doing that without talking about things, because I never know where I am, or where you are, and if I'm making you sad or confused, because that is the last thing that should ever happen here. That is definitely not fun. I want to avoid that at all costs - that I do not just think so; I know so. And I guess that's all, sorry. UGH FUCK.

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Dear 1234, I had a ton of anger toward you. Key word: “had.” I’m still tense around you, but not so angry anymore. I think it’s because I’m actually, proactively doing things to heal now. I’m getting myself all the healing I needed at 10, at 13, and at 18. You got to forget your inaction, and move on with life, and that’s why I was angry. I was also angry because you weren’t there for me— for years of severe depression, anxiety attacks, and bullying. I needed help, but I didn’t get any for years. But I understand now. You didn’t get your healing either. When your brother had all the family’s love and attention, when your parents fought, when your mother passed away when I was born. How could you heal and help me when you hadn’t healed yourself? I get it now. I’m still struggling. But now, I want to end our intergenerational trauma that’s really all too common in immigrant Asian families. Key word: “want.” I’m working on it: I’ll say, “I love you, mom”, again.

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To 1234567— We used to have late night skypes. I won’t pretend they were exclusive— they weren’t—but they were something that had turned into something of a tradition. One night, you told me you liked someone, and as you hyped yourself up to get the nerve to tell me who it was, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want that name to be mine. So, when it wasn’t my name you said, I’ll admit my heart broke a little bit. But it wasn’t your fault—how would you have known? I kept, and I still keep, a lot of things to myself, but I will always know that you know some things about me that nobody else knows, and the reverse. We may not play the roles in each other’s lives that we used to, but I will always have a special place in my heart for you. Maybe it’s because I still like you or maybe it’s because closing my heart off to someone I opened it to is too scary for me to imagine. Other crushes have come and gone, but my mind always returns to you. I don’t know what that says about me or us, if there even is an ‘us.’ But regardless, I will always remember you, and hope the best for you, no matter who or what that may be. You made some of my favorite memories, and I hope that we cross paths again, even as friends.

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To my first crush: It’s probably really weird that I’m writing this to you since we haven’t spoken in five years, which is a shame, because I wish it was more often. I just wanted to say that, when we were in 8th grade, despite being the gross and awkward 12-year-olds we were, I thought you were pretty cool. I know that neither one of us was a particularly social butterfly and the only full conversation I’ve ever had with you was during an English lesson about poetry that I had to pretend that I was interested in, because you were. You were so intelligent and well-spoken—so much so, that I used to be jealous of your academic success and wanted to be more like you, making me like you even more for some reason. Over the years, I saw your name pop up on school assignments as an example of high- achieving work and although by this point, I no longer had a crush on you, I was reminded of the reasons why I did like you. I was never brave enough to ask to be your friend or have a conversation because you were intimidating and arrogant, but for some reason, 12-year-old me found you so attractive. Don’t get me wrong, you’re still easy on the eyes, and I still admire you greatly, but I’m now very aware that we were so different, and we were just kids back then. Still, I’m so proud of you for getting into 123456789 University, and I hope the very best for your future. You’ll never know that you were my first crush; how I used to try and impress you during English lessons, how the few words that you’d occasionally say to me, and the glances from across a science lab uses to make my stomach flip upside-down. We were so young and carefree back then. So, all I’d like to say is, I’m glad you were my first crush. Thanks for being pretty cool. From Z

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*To 12345678,

Happy birthday. It seems like you're loved by your friends. That’s great. I should be happy for you; be glad that you're so loved by your friends, and feel reassured by the fact that even the worst of us are loved. I don't though. Ironic. Not really. I don't miss you at all, and I’m glad I never have to see you again. I probably will, but I’m just glad I don't have to see you in the way I remember you. In the dark. With your hands between my legs, down my pants, your fingers hidden under my underwear. So, no. I don't miss you at all. But this isn't a 'you're a dick and you deserve to die' letter. No, this is a ‘You're a dick, but you deserve to be loved too’ letter. 7 years later, I still stare up at the ceiling sometimes, forcing myself to cry silently in fear of worrying someone. 7 years later, I still blame my past self for not doing anything. 7 years later, I still can't get that horrid feeling of hopelessness and self- disgust out of my heart. But that time, those 7 years, full of pain and disgust and self- hatred— those 7 years have taught me to love. I don't know if you can. I’m a bad person. I talk crap about people nonstop. Almost everyone and everything irritates me. But 12345678, I know that we're all broken. 12345678, I know that you're broken, but so am I. 12345678, I don't know how you feel about what you did. I’m not even sure if you remember what you did. but I know that when I finally have the courage to say something to you, when I can finally say "Your actions led to my self- disgust and self- hatred and my bitterness against the world"; when I can finally tell everyone what happened for months and years, when I can finally learn to be truly selfish sometimes, and tell everyone what happened without thinking about the repercussions, when I can truly love myself despite what you did; only then, I can love you. Because I forgive you. Not completely, but somewhat. But I think that something is better than nothing. It's a step, right? And no, I don't plan on loving you any time soon. I can't see myself doing that either. But yes, I know I can. Because I deserve better, and I need to before I can truly follow God's calling to lead others by serving them, by caring for them. So, 12345678, happy birthday. I hope you have a great day, and that you don't remember what you did in the past. The guilt would probably eat you up. Or maybe not. Regardless, I don't think I want anyone to feel that much guilt. Until I write you another unsent letter, 123456, 2017

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Dear 12345678, It’s been 3 years since I last wrote you a letter, but I think I can write one now without crying. A part of me still wants you to suffer, but hearing you were in a car accident last year and seeing you relying on religion is quite shocking, to say the truth. When I first saw the “Feel better, brother” posts on my story, I had to put my phone away for the day because it was so sickening; you took away the comfort of being in my own body and gave me a lifetime of pain and disgust at myself, and to see you being supported by so many people was disgusting. You took away my childhood - you have no idea how depressing it is to hear, “You’re so mature!” all the time when the only reason for my behavior was what you stole. Would your ‘brothers’ react the same way if I went public with the fact that you assaulted me for 3 years?? Your classmate?? But I’ve grown a lot in the past 3 years – I’ve went and visited the school we both went to, and I even talked to the principal about the things you did. Yeah, there was no changes made, but a part of me left the guilt at the school as we drove back. Seeing your face still makes me nauseous, but I know it wasn’t my fault. It was yours, and there was nothing I could’ve done. It's interesting because I’m so conflicted; a part of me is upset that you found religion and am at peace, while another part of me is telling myself that it’s a good thing for me to know you’re in a good place. I don’t think I’ll ever come to approach you or talk about you when I talk to my friends from elementary school, but I’ve made peace with myself, and I don’t cry myself to bed every night like before. I just hope, and pray, that I’m the only one that’s suffered at your hands – I don’t want anyone else to feel the way I have for the past 10 years. I know I said 3 years ago that I can only love you as a brother in Christ when I truly love myself, and forgive you, but I don’t think I’m there yet - maybe I’ll never get there. And honestly? I’m okay with it. I want to believe that God will understand if I don’t forgive you until the day I die. I’m glad you survived that car accident; it seems like a lot of people rely on you, so good luck in life and I hope you stay well. Until the next letter, 123456, 2020

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I used to be very naive because I thought that most people were genuinely good people, and by “good�, I mean someone with good intentions without having another motive for themselves. You made it seem like we were both in the same situation, because we both were debating on whether it would be a good idea to still date our significant others while we were 9,000 miles away. You had already gotten over your ex-girlfriend, so you insisted that it would make me happy since I was so far away, but you gave me that advice so you could take advantage of me. You took advantage of my kindness and willingness to be a friend to you, and I regret meeting you in the first place. You made me feel worthless, and I truly hope you learn how to approach women without having another motive in mind. I am dating someone now, and it feels like I cannot have male friends anymore— because of people like you. I do not trust men anymore, and it seems like everyone always has an ulterior motive. Most men that approach me do not even care that I am dating someone. They do not respect me, and they do not respect my boyfriend, and it is horrible. Why can't I have platonic friendships with men without it turning in something more?

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Lola— Without you, I would not be the person I am today, literally. Had you not given birth to my mother, I literally would not be here. Had you not crossed the Pacific Ocean so many years ago. Had you not left the familiar behind to raise a family in a foreign land. I would not be the person I am today. You are tough but not hardened. You radiate love. You turn checkout lines at Seafood City into family reunions. Pews into Sunday brunch. When I call you, you pick up the phone and I feel your embrace through the static. Your ‘I love you’s remind me that it doesn’t matter how old I get. I’ll always be the little girl that sat beside you at morning mass. I’ll always be the fussy eater and the oddball. I’ll always be yours. I am empathetic because of you, Lola. You raised me to put others first and to always lend a helping hand. You taught me to stay hopeful and that there’s always something that can be done. I know kindness is magnetic because people can’t help but to be drawn to your light. People hurt you and took advantage of you. I hate them for you. You remind me that life is too short to harbor hatred. I am funny because of you, Lola. Or at least I try to be. I remember sitting across the table with you at an ice cream shop and bursting with laughter just because you were laughing. Sometimes, you surprise me with old wives’ tales and nuggets of wisdom that leave me amused, confused, and sometimes concerned. You could be having the hardest day, but you smile just so your loved ones will. I am sentimental because of you, Lola. You are bursting with love. Every hug, tear, interlaced finger is warm with the love of a thousand lifetimes. You wrap the world in your arms, and when you hold me, I am at the center of the universe, enveloped in safety, and I am at peace. I love that you can find a song for every moment. You’ve reminded me to “smile though my heart is breaking” and that I’m “your sunshine; your only sunshine.”

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Lola, I am so proud of who I am. I am proud of the person you raised me to be. So proud that it breaks my heart that you’ll never know all of me. I am tough like you. I overcame emotional trauma and physical tolls to get my degree, but I can’t muster the courage to tell you I almost didn’t graduate. I am kind like you, but I can never tell you about the times I mistook lust for love and now my trust is a wounded dove in my hands, handled with anything but care. I am loving like you. My love is boundless, untethered, unrestricted by gender. There is so much I want to tell you. I tell myself I don’t need to. I love you so much, and you love me so deeply. I ache at the thought of hurting you, of making you feel like you did something wrong. I’m afraid that telling you will change how you see me. I won’t be the little girl that sat next to you at morning mass. I won’t be the fussy eater or the oddball. I won’t be yours anymore. And I can’t have that. I am holding out hope that I can tell you in this lifetime, that you can be proud of the person you raised. But I know when you’re watching over me, I can show you that I’m still all those things. You didn’t fail me. You raised a great person. You’ll finally see all of me. But until then, I’ll keep being the granddaughter I know you love. I’ll keep making you happy when skies are grey. You’ll never know just how much I love you. I won’t take your sunshine away.

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Dear Right Person at the Wrong Time, I hadn’t connected with someone like you in so long, and honestly, I wanted to do everything with you. I wanted to be so much more with you and grow together—as people, as dancers, as friends, just whatever. I was looking forward to what the future held for the two us. Last time I saw you, obviously, it was a great time, but at the same time, I didn’t like it because it was the last time. It was bittersweet, and since then, it hasn’t been the same. So, what I wish I said to you was how I genuinely felt about you. I want to tell you that I really do like you as a person... dareisay love you as a person—and I feel like I’ve known you long enough to understand my own feelings about you. I guess I’ll say that I did love you and I wish I told you how I felt, because I see the person you’re with right now. And I really am happy that you’ve found someone that can make you happy, but I’m also in a lot of pain that I can’t put into words, but I know that I can’t be upset about it. I just regret not saying what I wanted to say to you. Maybe things could’ve worked out, maybe things could be different, maybe I wouldn’t be feeling the emotions that I do right now. I try to distract myself with other people with the aim of moving forward, but when I see some social media of you and him, I’m reminded of the pain and longing for you. It doesn’t go away, and though I’m still happy for you, my heart still breaks. But, if you were to read this anywhere, well... here’s my two cents. I hope you’re doing well, but, honestly, I thinks my feelings still linger for you. If it ever works out in the future, maybe, hopefully, something can happen? I guess it was the right person, wrong time, for me. I’m happy for you. Sincerely, Someone who misses you more than you’ll ever know

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I stopped being important to you at some point, and I’m not sure why. Your boyfriend took priority, and your other friends, and before I know it, I’m alone after my grandpa’s funeral trying to reach you, but you’re out drinking with your priorities. A lot of my years went into a friend who never wanted to give if she didn’t get more. You’d think that would make me more cautious, but I still hurl my trust at anyone who will take it because I still want what we had so long ago. I hurl my trust because, even though you say it’s why we drifted, I haven’t changed at all. Now I pretend like it’s all water under the bridge to spare everyone’s feelings, but my own. One day I want to abandon diplomacy and finally tell you: “You really fucked me up, fam.”

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Dear 12345678, The first thing I want to say is that I’m sorry. I know you've heard this before, as prone as I am to over-apologizing. I’m sorry for the little faults of my personality that make me difficult to understand, difficult in general. How do you help someone who doesn't want to be helped? Somehow, you still try. You still try, and sometimes I turn you down, saying that it's okay and that I can handle it. And sometimes, you catch me carrying a burden that seems too heavy for just one person; one that I wouldn't have, had I just learned to accept your help. But you say nothing. I’m sorry that, even though my track record of reliability is nine times out of ten, you had to experience that tenth. I know that if I bring it up, you'll say that instance was such a small matter in the grand scheme of things, but it's the idea of disappointing the people who mean the most to me that really drives the guilt home. The second thing I’d like to say is thank you. I know you've heard this quite frequently as well, but I’m still not sure if there are enough words in the English language to express my gratitude. I take to a lot of non-verbal acts of appreciation, and I just hope that through the small gestures, you can begin to understand how much everything you have done means to me. On really bad days, talking to you grounds me. The magic is in the details: how attentive you are, how you give me a chance to understand and explain and digest information, how you bring up questions or issues I had barely begun to consider myself. These conversations are few and far between, but each one is dear to me. Thank you. One of the many things I admire about you is your ability to connect with people. I admire it because I don't have that same talent, but I think you have a really special way of making meaningful connections with the people around you, and every place you've been has that touch of love and magic. Everything you touch turns to gold. You care so much about people and you offer so much without expecting anything in return. Your selflessness is probably one of the most admirable aspects about you, but the truly amazing part is that you have the talents and the abilities to support it. I don't know how any one person could be that gifted in so

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many things. I don't know if it's quite fair to the rest of us. But at the same time, if there were any more of you, natural selection would probably just come for the rest of us. I have to admit that at some point along the way, I fell a little bit in love with these things about you. And then it was the way that you smile, the sound of your voice, the way you see life. I became enraptured by the way that you light up every room you enter, amazed by how easily you sit in the center of attention and how naturally charismatic and genuine you are in that place. And yet, at the same time, I’ve seen you sit down with someone and give them all of your attention, and in that moment, the entire world was just the two of you. Somehow, in some seemingly illicit manner, I’ve managed to get caught up in the way you look when you talk to me, the shared eye contact, the innocent bumps or nudges. And, considering the circumstances, I know that I shouldn't even entertain the idea. But sometimes I can't really help it. But despite the way I might feel, the one wish that I have is for you to be happy. I hope you're happy where you're at right now. And if you aren't, I hope you make the choices that get you there. I mean, whatever you want, whoever you want, that makes you happiest. I hope that whoever ultimately ends up with you understands in every moment how lucky they are to get to share the world with you. If that's not with me, that's okay. I just want you to be happy and have everything. Even if I’m a little bit in love with you, as long as you're as happy as you can possibly be. In many ways, this letter is an easy way to say, “I love you.” But I don't think there's really ever an easy way to do that. You seem content with where you're at now. So, really, the last thing that this letter is saying is that, as much as is possible, I’m sorry that I love you, and I’m sorry that I’ll never tell you.

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Dear 123. 123456, I hope this letter finds you well, and I hope you are happy and healthy during this time. I know it has been many years since I last saw you and talked to you, but I wanted to tell you how grateful I am for all the years of piano lessons and everything you taught me. I so admire your gracefulness, your calm strength, and your patience and compassion for your students. Your presence and influence in my life has greatly impacted who I am today in the best way possible, and I want to thank you for that. I have grown so much the past few years - I am 20 years old now! It’s crazy to think that you were my piano teacher from when I was only 5 years old and saw me grow into a young teenager at 14 years old. I was still so naive and shy back then! I still remember the days when me and my sister would play with your dog, Sunny - we loved her so much too. I wish I had cherished our time together more because you were the one who taught me everything I know about music and allowed me to grow in my love for piano. I always look back on our lessons so fondly and I truly miss your teaching so much. I love going back and playing the beautiful pieces you chose for me - you knew me so well. Through piano, I was even able to come out of my comfort zone more and more by performing in front of others. I remember how nervous and shy I used to be during recitals or testing. But your gentle guidance always gave me the strength and confidence to persevere. You always believed in me and my potential even when I didn’t truly believe in myself or realize my own capabilities. Thank you for all the knowledge and wisdom you imparted upon me and thank you for always supporting me and even giving me the little pushes that I needed to grow. I just wanted you to know how much you have meant to me throughout my life and how I always have and always will look up to you. Sincerely, 123456

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Dear Dad, I want to tell you about…me. Not the me that you now see, or the me that you want me to be. Just me. I know I’ve left most of things on your to do list for me undone. No kids. Not married. No house. No Mercedes. No big bank accounts. I did manage to get that Harvard degree, though. I remember, right before graduation, you were calling family members and telling them about a dream you had…that there was a big, fat goldfish swimming in a pond and you thought that goldfish was me. It was the first time you seemed proud of me, and it felt nice to know that I finally did something right. You called me a couple months later, and asked me, “Do you feel different?” I could hear the elation in your voice and then the perplexity when I answered, “Not really.” A year later, I was able to get a respectable corporate job, and it seemed acceptable until I revealed my salary after you asked. “That’s it?”, you responded. And once again, I did not seem good enough. Harvard was supposed to get me a six- figure salary and a grandiose title, but it didn’t happen because that’s not what I wanted out of life. I wish I could share with you what I do want out of life; the things that bring me joy and happiness; but it seems that, when I do, it only brings you worry and sadness. Like that time when I told you I was going to selfpublish a book, I really thought you would be okay with this project, maybe even proud and supportive that I wanted to write books in my spare time. But instead, I was told I was ruining my life by doing so. I know that everything you are doing and saying is because you love me, and I feel stuck between your happiness and mine. Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m not willing to sacrifice mine for yours because I know that you have sacrificed your life to make mine better. I wish you could be happy for me. But I want you to know that you have made my life better because I have been able to choose how I want to live, and I am living according to my dreams…and I am happy.

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You have always wanted me to have bigger and better things, and I have discovered them…in writing. There is a richness in words that I wish I could share with you and there are worlds that I have created that can be found in my stories that I would like you to live in. One day, you will be in one of my books and it will tell of your life…how you didn’t have the chance go to school because you had to help your parents, that you came to the U.S. from Hong Kong with only $200 and worked hard to save enough money to open a restaurant and eventually become a successful business man. It will tell of your strength and tenacity; of all the hardships you’ve had to overcome. After all, you are a tiger and they say that those who step on a tiger’s tail will always get bitten. It will also speak of your vulnerability; your love for your family, and especially your children. Your life will be an inspiration for others as it has been for me and mostly, it will show how proud I am of you and how much I love you.

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If I could go back in time to the first time we met, I would’ve just punched you in your bitch ass face right then and there. Step the fuck up and back the fuck away from the people I care about.

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To two of my current good friends, You guys. I actually never got the chance to sit down to write this. But given the opportunity to do so, I can finally tell you guys something I’ve been wanting to say for the longest time—since summer. Things I never really knew about myself surfaced after knowing you both and I’m surprised I have the capacity to maintain such character. Of course, I have so much respect for you two and I am thankful to have such a special friendship with each of you guys. I love hanging out with you two, but obviously, separately. Every memory we had was almost always a good one, and you guys have been there for me to give me comfort and a good laugh on my bad days. I really, really, do treasure each text, each joke, each of the stupid but hilarious Tik Toks you make, and every time we laughed are ass off together. I hate losing friends, so I try to hang out when I can, but I don’t have all the time in the world sometimes. Often times even? It’s just that, the more time I spend with either of you, the more guilt I feel for being a close friend (at least I hope so). I constantly feel entangled, trapped, and fake. And I hate being fake. Dishonesty is something that I cannot tolerate in a friendship, and I know that every time I talk to you guys, I’m pulling off a different image of myself, without choice. In some ways, I wish I never got as close to you two as I am now, because I was betraying both of you whenever I was trying to help one or the other on matters related to you two. But I couldn’t just leave any of you alone because I genuinely wanted you to feel better, not to waste your emotions and tears on one another. Was it tiring? Absolutely. But did I have a choice? Yes, but in the moment, I couldn’t have cared less about who to side with but just to be a loyal friend to who needed help, because you were in a dark place. I had the responsibility to give 100% of myself to you and to side with whoever was reaching out. To be honest, we definitely got closer through these situations exchanging paragraphs of text messages, when I had to stand in

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your shoes and understand how much you despised the other person. And you know what that entailed. It meant that I was temporarily breaking my loyalty to either of you. It was more ironic when both of you would text me at the same time. When you guys were ranting about each other to me, I was the middleman: the one who wasn’t just bombarded by opinions from both sides and attempting to analyze objectively, but also feared losing everything if the wrong message was sent to the wrong person. Because of this, I don’t think I could ever face the moment that the things I did or said to help one of you got into the other’s hands. Whenever that may happen (and I hope it never will), I know I will lose both of you. This, among other things, are some of my biggest fears given how much closer we have got. Just this winter quarter, I was so troubled when I thought I lost one of you. I would see if you read my Snapchat or Instagram stories, or if you liked my posts. I was especially hurt when you ignored me after my apologies or sent me surprising texts that I thought I would never get from you but only to realize they were short, seemingly disinterested messages for things that would only serve you. But even so, I cannot imagine losing a friend like you. Or the other. Confrontation is not something I’m good at. Look, I’m a natural listener. Perhaps that explains why I am often thrown between two people at odds, struggling to keep up with the friendship, while tearing myself down. It’s… drowning. It’s like I’m disconnecting from my values, further and further from myself, until I am no longer the person whom I aspire to be. I try to apply the expectations I have for my friends to myself, because to a certain extent, I know they do want the same in their friends. But sometimes, I can’t. I can’t anymore when I am in between you two. If I have to put it this way (but I will never say it in person), I don’t think you guys really cared about my position and how I felt this whole time. Even when you two are equally aware how much of a friend I am to the other. Do you even understand how frustrating it is to never speak about your “opinion” with truth because 1) you just want to stop hurting the other; and 2) there is no way you will spill all the secrets one told you because you are trying to be “loyal”. LOYALTY. What an actual joke. I lie when I tell myself is that I am

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loyal. And yet, I still tell each of you I am loyal to you and the other friend, so I won’t expose what either of you tell me. Even though I kept my word, I hated that I had to fabricate opinions just to comfort you and agree with you. Sometimes, I’m just surprised you would still want me as friend and tell me stuff like this??? Why would you even trust me? Because I wouldn’t. I know this is just a characteristic of mine; being hard to open up, even if I am asked, because I hate being a burden to others and it really does tie into multiple insecurities I have about myself. So, even when you ask, I won’t tell you everything. However, when I know you need me, I will come to you without hesitating. But please. I am also a human being with a heart that is never always strong. I might not understand the mental trauma you have, but being a middleman is a broken part of myself that I despise, because I crave for those few yet genuinely true friendships, when deep down I know I can never fully be a friend either of you can trust in totality. That goes to other friendships to be honest—it’s something I’ve begun to observe as I reflect on my social circles. Maybe that’s why I never feel like I truly belong somewhere… There are lies. There are walls that I know I can never break down. I was fake to both of you at certain times, and I’m sorry. But I’m also very much tired. And I don’t know what to do without appearing distant when you reach out for help. As long as neither of you bring up one another, I’m honestly at peace. So, for months, it was ok. But it always haunts me, that there were, and there are going to be those times when I have to make something up to defend one of you against the other. And it breaks my heart… That’s all I have to say. But I really do love each of you and hope only the best will come for your way because you guys deserve it all. And I hope to be there seeing you living out your best. Love, 123456

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I always valued our friendship, even after it was over. It definitely had an impact in shaping me into the person I am today. I hope you did the same. You taught me more than you know. Thank you for everything. Thank you for teaching me how to feel comfortable in my own skin. Thank you for teaching me that stupid mistakes are nothing but a bump in the road. Thank you for teaching me what it means to follow my own path. Thank you for the wild nights going out, and the simple ones just eating pizza rolls on your couch. Thank you for your constant love and support during our friendship. Thank you.

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To a former best friend: I sometimes still wonder about where you ended up and what kind of person you became. I wonder what you were like in high school, who your friends are, and what you talk about. I wonder how much you’ve changed. I know I was so naïve when we became friends. I didn’t understand the books that you read and loved even though I pretended to. I spent a week reading To Kill A Mockingbird only because it was your favorite book, even though I found it confusing and was too young to understand the ending. I never understood the beautifully sad stories that you wrote, because I had never felt like that before. I’m sorry I never asked if you were okay. I cried for so many nights that year when we came back to school in the fall and you pretended like I was a stranger. I didn’t understand why I had lost my closest friend and what I had done wrong to deserve it. Even though you were only in my life for a short while, you’ve taught me to love spending time at the library and to check out as many books as I can each time. You’ve taught me it’s okay to do embarrassing things in front of others and laugh at yourself. Most importantly, you’ve taught me that people will come in and out of your life and its okay if they leave. I want to thank you for all that you’ve taught me and for being my friend.

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*123456, You ruined my life. At least that’s what I thought. After that awful night in October, for months, I felt dead. You broke me, and I felt like I had no purpose. Every day, I cried thinking about you. I would cry as I fell asleep, had nightmares about you, and would wake up thinking about you. I am tired. Do you think it was easy, telling the police? When they asked me who did this to me, I wasn’t able to say your name. It wasn’t until the end of my interview that I could, and I cried so hard because I didn’t want to give up the name of the person I thought I knew. Do you think that I would ever have thought, in a million years, that I would want to turn a person I had feelings for into the police? But I know what the right thing to do is, and that is why the police are involved. The fact that I told you how much I trusted you, and then you violated me like this—that is the biggest betrayal I have ever felt: something you will never understand. Not only did you break my heart, but you stabbed it until there was almost nothing left. A few days after that one night in October, I was at the hospital and every nurse and doctor thought I was crazy after seeing what you did to me. I refused to say your name. When they asked me why I wasn’t saying anything about who did this to me, I replied, “because he is my friend.” They thought I was insane for calling you my friend. Even after the hospital, I protected you for weeks because I didn’t want to see you in jail. Even when the police and investigators were reaching out to me, I still chose to stay silent. I protected you, even though you put me in the hospital, almost killed me, almost strangled me to death, left physical bruises all over my body for more than a month and mental bruises for the rest of my life. You violated me, and made me feel like absolute shit, but for some reason, at that time, protecting you still seemed more important than protecting myself and other girls. However, I finally realized my worth and know what is right from wrong unlike you. Maybe let someone spit in your mouth, slap you, choke you, let them violate you and then maybe you will understand half of the pain I am in.

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There are reminders of you everywhere. The places and restaurants we went to together, the music we listened too, that one show on Netflix we watched together, your little sayings and the memory flashbacks of when it was good. You are everywhere and now all those reminders just haunt me. Now you are denying everything you did in October and calling me a liar. How dare you. During these past eight months of constant crying, panic attacks, feeling so alone that I didn’t want to exist, and feeling like I was the crazy one, you were living your best life. Eight months and I still am paranoid every time I am in public, especially when I see red Chevy drive past. Every day since that night in October, I lock my bedroom door at night because I am paranoid and scared of what will happen to me if I don’t. I am tired of you and this bullshit. I deserve better. See you at court, 12345

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To Me, Whether it be the current me, the past me, or the future me, these are some things I wish you knew or should know. I wish you would believe in yourself. I wish you would have faith in your capabilities and your strengths. There are so many good traits in you; so many things that people see in you that you cannot see in yourself. Why is that so difficult for you? Why can people say positive things about you with such ease, but when you try to think about yourself, all that pools your mind is every bad decision, all the things you can't do, and all the things that make you feel like you just hurt everyone that you care about? What is this barrier that's blinding you from everything everyone reassures you about? There’s so much that's special about you. Your compassion, your love for others, and for the things you're involved in. How your heart warms when witnessing the growth of others. How you constantly put your health on the line just to put your best work out there for others to enjoy. It’s so easy to put these traits on paper, but to convince yourself that you are all these things seems so difficult. However, I am proud of your progress. I am proud of how much you've endured and pushed through these past few years. Your teenage years have shaped you so much into the person you are today. You used to be so naive, so forgiving, and so easy to walk all over. Through endless heartbreaks and being taken advantage of, you've bounced yourself back to become such a strong, resilient, and straight-forward person. People always admire your ability to call others out on their wrongdoings and how you're able to let go of others without sympathy. But little did they know how long it took to build the person you are today. I am proud of you for all the people that you had to deal with and set straight so others wouldn't have to suffer like you did. I know how you feel right now, though. I know how lost you are, how the person I mentioned above seems so distant. You keep asking yourself, "Where did she go? What happened to the girl that took you years to build?". She's still there. Although she seems to be gone because of all the current hardships and all the anxiety you're facing, she exists, and her presence will be met again. No matter how long it takes to revive that part

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of yourself, these traits that you built upon will always be a part of you, and they will never disappear. Sometimes, your characteristics may seem masked by all that's going wrong in your life, but they'll never disappear as long as you recognize their existence. Don’t worry if you don't know what's happening to you; not everything has a solution and that's alright. Working your way through it and not giving up warrants more than enough credit that you should give yourself. There are so many things you should recognize and cherish about yourself. Be proud of who you've become and be hopeful to change along the way: that will make these dark days much better. But always know that just because you've become the person you've wanted to be for so long doesn't mean there isn't room for more growth. Value your independence, but don't push away others that care for you so much. Prepare for the worst, but never lose hope that something good may happen. There’s so much for you to learn, and so many people to meet that you haven't encountered yet. Cherish those with you now and continue to believe in yourself. Continue to value and love yourself even when your mind works against you and tells you that nobody does. You have so much impact and so much power over the decisions you make and how you think. You’re an amazing person. With love, You

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Thank you.

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