Today, my dear friend, fellow dog-lover, and aspiring writer, Gill Kenny joins me in the attic. She’s written a beautiful and moving letter to her 22-year-old self.
Gill left Ireland at the age of 18, to learn French while working as an au-pair in Paris. She believed she would return to her hometown after a year, but that never happened. Instead she worked her way around the world, learning languages and meeting amazing people in awe-inspiring places. With four languages under her belt, she settled in London and worked in publishing where she got to learn from the best. She has had interviews, travel articles and news reports published in various magazines and newspapers, but her dream has always been to publish a novel. A couple of years ago, she came to the conclusion that this dream couldn’t be realised if she hadn’t written a novel, so today she is struggling through a second rewrite but nowhere near ready to show it to anyone.
Gill dedicates herself to caring for her two children, aged ten and eleven, and her dog, Gracie the Groodle, who is one-year-old. She is married to Damien, a tall, dark and very funny Irishman. In her spare time she likes to practice yoga, play Scrabble and read. Her topics of interest include Psychology, Irish history, Nutrition and Natural Therapies. Gill has a diploma in Reflexology and admits to having a penchant for feet. After years of globetrotting, Gill has settled with her family in Perth.
I found your diaries in a dusty box under the stairs and started reading. I’ve just turned fifty and I felt it was time I revisited those difficult times. Now that I’m in a very good place, I have a yearning to reassure you, to comfort you and to tell you that you are courageous and lovely.
I’d forgotten how much you love to write. I have the beautiful little notebooks you wrote in when you first left Ireland in 1984. I’ve kept them in boxes and they’ve accompanied me on journeys that have spanned many countries and many years. I feel a certain apprehension as I open each one—there are at least thirty of them—as I know I’ve forgotten a lot of the detail of how my life unfolded. The musty smell from each page reminds me that I’m getting old and I still have so much to do.
You’ll probably be annoyed to hear that I still haven’t finished writing that first book you said you’d write way back in the 1980s. I have written the first draft, though, and I’m building myself up to tackle the second. At least that’s something. The good news is that I’ve been busy living my life and enjoying the simple things about it.
I can tell from your efforts back then that you loved to escape with a pen. I can also tell from the words you wrote that you were eager to make a point, and many points you did make. The main point seems to be how your inner turmoil impacted on how you saw the world. You want to trust people and you try, but you mostly end up pulling away because deep down you don’t think people could actually like you. Because you, after all, have been brought up to believe that you are essentially bad and nobody’s ever going to love you.
You’re twenty-two-years-old, living in Spain and in a relationship with Rafael. I know that you’re blown away by how handsome he is, and how he reminds you of Eric Estrada. Of course I haven’t forgotten the TV series Chips from when I was fifteen. I loved it and fantasised about being whisked off into the sunset on the back of his motorbike. But what you don’t know is that Eric Estrada also went on to become a wife-beater in real-life.
My heart goes out to you in your suffering. You are so young and innocent and you have a burning desire to be somebody, to accomplish things in your life. I can still feel the pain of indignity as he strikes you when you’re down. The way he kicks you full force as though you are an animal in his way, all to reinforce your belief that you are worth nothing more. But you are worth so much more. You’re kind, caring, strong, intelligent, interested in life, and you’re also very beautiful.
It breaks my heart to see you so low, to watch you crawl along your destructive path.
If I could walk up to and change one thing, it would be to hug you so strongly that all my belief in you is transmitted through to your heart and you start to walk tall and know that you have every right to be here and be happy.
The fact you still take out your notebook and write most nights is a sign that you’ll pull through because you’re putting into words your innate survival instinct. You know this can’t go on. You’ll eventually find the strength to leave him and in doing so, you’ll develop some much-needed self-esteem.
I’m not going to give away all that lies ahead for you, suffice to say that in taking the first step to change your situation by moving to London, you land on your feet in a job that involves writing which allows you to earn a good living.
I’ve always believed that the Universe conspires to help us when we show a willingness to change, to move away from what we’re used to and step into the unknown. This you’ve done well throughout your life so far, and it will always serve you well.
Let me reassure you: your life ahead is colourful and full of amazing things. It won’t be free of down-days, that’s for sure, but you’ll take them in your stride, with the help of friends and psychologists. You’ll meet the most wonderful people, especially a caring and supportive husband. And best of all you’ll become a mother to two of the most gorgeous children to ever walk the earth. They’ll fill you with the love you have craved and you’ll love them as you have never loved before.
I’m so excited for you.
Lots of love, Gill.
PS. You’ll notice I reverted to the correct spelling of my name xxx
If you’d like to write something for ‘Writers in the Attic’, let me know via the Contact page. The topic is what writing means to you, but it can be taken as broadly as you like. A length of 600-1000 words seems to suit best, and I offer a small gift as a thank you for your time.
If you’re stuck for ideas on what to write, I have a Q&A I can send with some prompts, so let me know.
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