Letter to Myself: Cassie Hartnett

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Image Description: Photo of hand-written letters and ink pen with the words “Letter to Myself” in the center with the ELM logo, right of center. 

Dear Younger Cassie—
This isn’t going to be one of those letters where I tell you about a bunch of stuff that’s going to happen or warn you not to trust that friend or wear that outfit. First of all, that’s cheating, and second of all, you definitely won’t believe me. You are, as one of our therapists will say, “committed to that narrative.” (There’s a freebie—future you definitely goes to therapy).
But more importantly, if I gave you advice based on the wisdom we’ve gleaned over the past ten to fifteen years (how old are you, anyway?), that would take away your chance to live those years in all their devasting, beautiful, ridiculous glory. If I have any advice to give you without spoilers, it’s that life is heartbreaking and absurd and wonderful and your job is to live every bit of it.
Although it sometimes seems like it, God didn’t form you from a chaotic box of cosmic Legos. Every part of you—even the ones you hate, like the talking too much or having a chubbier stomach than the other girls in ballet—is perfectly made to connect with others. And I know that’s hard to believe. Trust me. It’s something we still struggle with; we go down the rabbit hole of blaming ourselves because we’re not over it yet. Hence, therapy.
But chickadee, I have to tell you it’s so true. You are made of love, for love.
Right now you want what you think love is—the magic, the meet-cute, the cosmic alignment of the stars. Your attitude about fairytales is that “the idea doesn’t just pop into someone’s head if it’s never actually been real.” It’s been ages since we read fantasy novels under the desk during math class, but I’ll tell you a secret—I still believe that. Just not in the same way you do.
All the wildest things you can imagine could be true. I could tell you that there’s a path to a magical land in the back of that weird closet in church and I could tell you that kissing girls is one of the best things you’ll ever do—you have no way to know if I’m lying. We’re not the most patient of humans, so this drives you bananas, but the only way to see what happens next is to mess around and find out.
It will be painful. Loving God and loving the world and loving yourself is so, so hard. But it is also everything. Let yourself be in awe. Let it bring you to your knees. Let it turn you into someone who you genuinely can’t imagine right now. Don’t give up dreaming of what could be beautiful in the world, and go out there to find it. If you can’t find it—well, chickadee, someone has to create it, and why not you?
(Also, wear the red lipstick. It’s not too much and it looks great on you.)
Your pal,
Older Cassie

Cassie Hartnett(she/her) is the 
2019 Joel Workin Scholar and a graduate of Union Theological Seminary. Since finishing a pastoral internship year in Baltimore, she has been further exploring her vocation as a playwright, birth doula, nanny, and most recently, a counselor for adults and adolescents in eating disorder treatment. She is currently based in New Haven, with a full bookshelf, rainbow cooking utensils, and her cats, Ramona and Beezus.

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