A Letter to My 18-Year Old Self

Dear 18-year old Keiko,

Taken my first weekend of college in 2000.

It’s early November 2000. You’re swamped with school work; you’re already reconsidering the major you came in with (music ed/vocal performance) and you’re euphoric that you and Larry got back together just over a month ago.

It’s a big time in your life. You’ll lose your virginity next month and yes, it’s totally awesome. You’ll change majors next semester and you’ll be relieved not to have to study music theory anymore. And this time next year, you’ll experience what is the worst episode of depression in your life. But you’ll come out of it. Jesse, your counselor, is amazing.

But I want to talk to you about something that will happen in just a few short weeks. You’ll go bowling Thanksgiving night, bowl the lowest score in your life (an 11) and then meet up with some high school girlfriends the next day for lunch. You’ll feel like crap that evening and then spend the night in the emergency room. They’ll send you home.

And then Monday afternoon, you’ll lose your ovary.

Now, I’m not saying that if you press the ER doc on Friday night to keep you, you’ll be able to keep it. From what I understand, even 11 years later, that ovary was going to come out no matter what. But what I am telling you is…

Don’t believe them when they tell you you’ll still be able to have children.

You won’t.

Trust me, I know.

In fact, ditch the birth control altogether. Go read “Taking Charge of Your Fertility.” Truth is, even once you start having sex, you’ve got a 20% shot of getting knocked up. Shocker, right? A bit of a deviation from the pregnancy scare mantra of high school health ed, but it’s true.

Look, I don’t have much time here, but your future self has these gems of wisdom to give you:

1. Find a different doctor. You won’t learn until junior year of college that she’s literally batshit crazy and even though she diagnoses you with thyroid disease next year, she will do absolutely next to nothing to treat it. You’ll need your blood tested more than once a year. Tell them to look for anti-thyroid antibodies – it’s autoimmune and you won’t learn this for another eight years.

2. Study abroad. If you’re worried, pick an English-speaking country. But seriously? You’ll appreciate it so much more by the time you’re my age but not having an eight-year gap between your next international trip from the trip to France you took your senior year in high school.

3. The idea of having children is quite foreign to you right now. I understand. I remember how nervous you were about getting pregnant – the late nights Yahoo-ing the likelihood of getting pregnant while on birth control AND using condoms. I remember them well. But you’re going to marry that boy, and he’s going to love the crap out of you, and you know, the minute you walk down the aisle together – he’s going to be a great father one day. And you’ll move heaven and earth to make it happen.

4. Drinking that bottle of Mike’s when you’re on cough medication for that awful cold sophomore year? Yeah. Reconsider that decision.

5. When Pat says, “Did you know you can download custom items for The Sims?” kindly reply, “Why yes, yes I did” and then forget that conversation. Write your papers. Go to class. You’re going to get bored with The Sims anyway before the year is even out.

6. Go visit your sister more often. She’s getting married next year and things change when people get married.

7. Listen to your body. There will be clues over the next few years: the weight gain. The fatigue. The depression. Don’t just assume that a pill will make it all better. Get checked out. Find out what’s going on now so it won’t be so hard on you later. Start charting your cycle to see if you ovulate on your own. Also? Don’t wait until you’re 25 to start using tampons. For the life of me I’ll never understand why you waited so long. So much easier.

I don’t want to leave this all doom and gloom. You’re going to have an amazing time in college. You’re going to discover a feisty, brave young woman inside of you who doesn’t take shit from anyone, who stands up for what she believes in, and who is wildly creative with words. Don’t stop writing. Spend more time with Amber – she will be gone too soon from this world.

Just whatever you do, don’t give up. Don’t sabotage yourself because you’re too afraid to fail. I know your tricks and I’ll tell you this: you’re going to miss so many opportunities because it was easier to walk away than not take the risk. (Just don’t take the really stupid risks. Like walking to the 7-11 by yourself at night. It’s hella far and you’re only a couple of miles away from downtown Trenton. Not smart.)

You’ve got so much to give and so much yet to do: soar.

Just soar.

Gotta run. You take it easy the next couple of weeks; post-surgery won’t be fun. Make Larry visit you more while you’re home recovering. He’s going to do just fine in college.

See ya soon.

~ Your 29-year old self.

Keiko Zoll Portrait Profile

You're gonna do alright, kid.

P.S. Learn Hebrew now. You’ll convert in a few years and it’ll save you some money later on so you don’t have to take another Hebrew class later on.


This post, in addition to being a part of NaBloPoMo, is also for NHBPM – National Health Blog Posting Month. WEGO Health is running it all month and this was post was inspired by one of their prompts from last week. Check it out.

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Comments

  1. says

    This brought tears to my eyes, it’s so poignant. How I wish it was possible to receive a letter like this, and to act on it.

    • Keiko says

      Thank you so much. I could have really used a letter like this when I was in college. Would have made that bout of depression I mentioned a WHOLE lot easier.

    • Keiko says

      Hindsight, 20/20 and all that… but I enjoyed writing this if only to take stock on how far I’ve come in 11 years.

  2. Claire says

    Keiko,
    I was thinking about our conversation the other day, and about after reading this letter, I’m wondering if there is potential for you to do a workshop series for younger women, frosh in college potentially, to talk about becoming advocates for their reproductive health early on in life. As in, right now you’re only thinking about how much you don’t want to get pregnant, but here’s what I wish I’d known. I don’t know, just a thought. There may even be a group you could jump in with already.

    • Keiko says

      Claire, that is fucking genius. It’s an aspect of reproductive health that gets overlooked by a lot of college-aged women’s associations (Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW, etc.). They’re so worried about protecting reproductive rights that I feel like they forget to talk about reproductive knowledge, too. Brilliant idea that I need time to think about.

  3. says

    This was a great post. You’re a great writer.

    I wish I could go back to November 2000 – I had just gotten married a couple of weeks prior, and freaked when I left my bc pills at home when we went on a trip. I remember lying to the pharmacist to get more…I should have just said screw it!

  4. says

    I love this post. I’ll have to think about what to tell my 18 year old self … great prompt! And I wish we could tell more 18 year olds what you tell yourself here …