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Taylor Year

Dear Me,

Do you remember when you were little & you'd doodle in the margins of your notebooks about your future? Me + ______ =4ever You'd play M*A*S*H to predict what type of house you'd live in, what your salary would be, how many kids you'd have, who you'd marry, and where y'all would live. You'd tell your friends how far along you'd be in life by this age & even when they laughed, you knew in your gut you wouldn't be far off.

Do you remember what it felt like the first time someone didn't want to be your friend or play with you? It was an indescribable feeling in the pit of your stomach & you cried to mom asking her, "What is wrong with me?" & she was furious. Not because the little girl didn't want to play, but because you thought of yourself as lesser based off of someone else's opinions. Through watery eyes, you thought she was being ridiculous. Now you look back & smirk at how right Mom was.

Do you remember when you had your first encounter with adults disliking you? It was subtle & in the form of an educator "being concerned" that you set your bar too high for high school admission. Instead of Mom hiding those words from you, she shared them & watched you set those belittling words on fire. You went back to school the week following admission acceptance & let her know you were accepted into all 5...with scholarships.

Do you remember your first boyfriend? The one who you swore you'd marry because his big, brown eyes sent your heart into overdrive. The one who set the tone of what you thought love should be, the one who promised you sweet nothings & you believed because being 14 & in love was all you knew. You imagined & predicted how the rest of high school would go & how you'd go to college together & get married & have kids just like M*A*S*H said. Do you remember when he broke your heart? It was a feeling you hadn't felt in years. Your "entire world" crumbled to absolute nothing, & you swore you'd never stand on your own two feet again. Many nights of tears & talks of self-worth eventually healed the wounds. But, you'd never forget the feelings he gave you--both good & bad--because you & your first love have a connection that only y'all will ever understand.

Do you remember when you wanted to fit in? You swore up & down that you didn't care if people liked you or if you didn't have a lot of friends. But, you were in high school & though you knew you were great & had a few friends, you wanted to feel accepted. I can't blame you for that. You'd straighten your hair daily, slowly forgetting about the curls & waves Mom told you were equally as beautiful as straight hair. You'd cake your lashes with black mascara, losing sight of how beautiful you were without it. You were finally "in," only to realize that being "in" didn't make you feel any better or happier than being "out." & you laughed then...just like you are now...because there was a reason God gave you 5 close friends to survive 4 years of "self-exploratory." It was because you'd carry those 5 with you after those years.

Do you remember your first friendship breakup? No one tells you it hurts just as badly, if not worse, than a romantic breakup. The memories of weekend sleepovers, family vacations, daily communications swirl in your head, and worse, they rotate daily in your heart. You can't remember what happened between the two of you to create a space you once thought would never derive. Perhaps high school & running in different crowds was the cause of it. Or maybe just having different views & values. Or better yet, maybe it was just time & it's relentless need to move on even if you aren't ready. You think about that friendship a lot--even to this day, but keep reminding yourself that God has a plan...& if she is meant to come back into your life, she will.

Do you remember college? Getting accepted, the people you met, the professors who both inspired & infuriated you, your countless jobs, your graduation. You went in thinking you'd study in one thing, only to leave four years later with a degree in three things. You stayed true to who you are & what you wanted & believed, even if it made a lot of adults doubt you. Because that's who you are--you're true to you, & it ruffles feathers for those who do not yet know who they are.

Do you remember your first audition for a professional dance team? Young, blonde, & eager to get your foot into the door. You spent most of your youth watching them at games, admiring their uniforms, hair, dance performance. Whispering to yourself, "I can't wait until I'm old enough. I'll have my own white boots." You called Mommom after passing each round on Day 1 of auditions. The excitement pouring out of your throat like word vomit. It was one of the best moments in your life...ending in a "No" from judges a few days later after boot camp. You were devastated, but that "No" did the opposite of tear you down & instead fueled you to work harder & try again next year. You walked into prep-classes & auditions with a confidence you will forever credit to your future coach--she was in your corner since that "No" & secretly rooted for you every step of the way through the process. Her love filled you in a way no one else could, & pushed you far beyond your limits. You picture her at every audition you go to because she'll always "be there if you get stuck or need a smile. Just look at me! I'll be smiling for you the entire time." & her words will forever carry in your heart no matter what team you end up on or wherever your dance career takes you. Because regardless of who your new coach will be, she will be your forever coach & the one who gave you your wings.

Do you remember when you took the biggest leap of your life & moved 3,000 miles from the place who grew you? How excited, but nervous you were to start over in a place you had only visited maybe twice as a child. You thought you wanted to pursue acting like most who move to this city. But, it didn't take long for you to discover what your true passion & calling would be. In the span of 365 days, you solidified a job, made friends, wrote your first novel, & found a human who sets your world on fire in the best possible way. A human who reignited the belief that soulmates might actually exist & love does not have to hurt. You're not sure where life will take y'all, but your learning to live in the moment with him...because he's good at that & you believe he's one of God's whispered answers to a prayer you've prayed for too many years.

The biggest thing I want you to remember is that I want you to love yourself.

Not just say it, but I want you to feel it. I want you to love every inch of you, every layer, every minor detail that most will not notice. I want you to love yourself so you understand the kind of love you deserve. So you understand the love you should receive. So that you never accept a partial love or a maybe love, but one that mirrors the one you reflect.

Here's hoping that 23 continues to remind you of how amazing life truly is--all the ups & downs--& that you are never too old to laugh & smile at how far you've come.

May your day be ever filled with love, light, and of course, an abundance of chicken tenders💜🌻✨

Cheyenne Pajardo

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