The things I wish I could say

Ellie McDowell

More stories from Ellie McDowell

It takes a village
April 19, 2023

I wish I could go back and talk to myself when I was eight. There is so much I would like to say that could have solved so many problems if I had known. I could have avoided heartbreak and anxiety. I could have avoided a world of wonders and should-haves.

When I was eight, I had not yet become aware of the world around me. I was living in my own world full of childhood curiosities; I was letting my imagination lead the way and my worries were few and far between. I was living a life of innocence and wonder. I didn’t worry about what people thought of me or if I was good enough.

When I was eight, I never doubted whether I could have whatever job I wanted—this is saying something considering my dream job was a fairy princess who lived on the moon. It was so much easier then—to be who I wanted when I wanted—and it led me to believe that it would be that easy forever.

These words are pleading to be let out. These words are for the eight-year-old girl who believed that she could fly and sleep in the stars.

Dear eight-year-old Ellie,

Never forget how beautiful you are. Don’t forget how beautiful you are, but don’t forget that beauty isn’t skin deep either. What’s inside matters too. Make sure you continue to be beautiful inside and out; don’t let anyone tell you that you’re not gorgeous.

When things get hard, you’ll realize who your real friends are. Losing people will be really challenging, and it will start to trigger abandonment anxiety, but you will keep the people who actually care about you. Don’t be afraid to let go of the people who only love you on your good days; if they aren’t there on your bad days, they don’t deserve to be there on your good ones. Everyone has bad days, and you are no exception to that. 

Don’t be afraid to let people in, but wait to hand your heart over until you know who they really are. People can turn out to be malicious, and you don’t deserve that. With that being said, there are certain people who will change your life for the better. Those are the people that you should hold close. It’s hard to determine who will hurt you and who will help you, but once you learn how, it will be like a super power; I know you’ve always wanted to be a superhero. Remember that not all good people will be people you are already close to. There will be new teachers who care about you and upperclassmen who turn out to be like your older siblings.

When you find something you’re passionate about, stick up for it. Those passions are going to bring you so far. They might drag you out of your comfort zone, but take it from me, it’s more than worth it.

Don’t forget how beautiful you are, but don’t forget that beauty isn’t skin deep either.

Don’t do things for validation from other people. In the end, the only thing that matters is what you think about yourself. You have to live with yourself forever, but relationships come and go. In the moment it may seem like you can’t do anything right, but if you do things for other people, you will regret the decisions you made, potentially forever. 

Remember that it’s okay to cry. For some reason everyone says crying is harmful or weak—it’s not. It fills you with a sense of relief and calmness. You’re not the only person that needs to know this. Tell other people this too. Especially the boys that you eventually become friends with. They live in a society that says crying is weak, and makes them feel as if boys cannot cry, but that’s not even close to true. Crying can make the sadness or anxiety feel much smaller.

Relationships are not forever. You may think you love someone, but I can almost guarantee that you won’t get married, especially if this person is someone you “love” in high school. We throw the word “love” around like it’s a baseball, but it’s important to remember that love and hate hold the same power. Don’t tell every person you ever think you love that you do. It just makes it worse when that relationship ends.

High school will be difficult. You’re pretty far from it, but I want to warn you early. Your best friend not wanting to play with you on the playground will be the least of your worries in a few years. Music and writing will be your escape, so don’t let people tell you to quit. Your clarinet will ward off anxiety and fear, and the words you are able to write on a page will teach you how to put your feelings out there.

People will tell you that you can’t do things, or that you’re not good enough. Don’t listen to them. They’re just trying to make themselves feel better, and they do that by dragging other people down. You don’t need to take anything you don’t want to from anyone, especially those adults who say they care about you. Some of them think they know you, and they will tell you that your mental health will forever be in the way of your dreams. No one can ever know you better than you know yourself, don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t do. If being a band director is your dream, then you can do it. When you feel like quitting, or like no one believes in you, remember that I do. I care and I know you can achieve great things.

Learn to love yourself early. Right now you don’t care what other people think, or what other people look like. You just love yourself. In eight more years it won’t be like that anymore. You’ll see all the pretty girls who are super skinny and you’ll wish you could be too. You won’t remember that you are perfect exactly how you are.

Now that I have told you all of these things that a second-grader should never have to learn, I want to remind you that you’re still young, and you don’t need to grow up until you’re ready. Soon you will learn some shocking things about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny, but other than that you still get to grow up at your own pace. Sometimes you might be forced to grow up a little faster, but don’t let it happen. 

Remember that you’re doing great, and I love you.


The girl you grow up to be.