Somewhere out there is an alternate version of me whose parents loved her well. 

At sixteen, they did not try everything they could to stop her from speaking to her best friend. They did not threaten to cut off college tuition because they didn’t like said friend. She didn’t feel as though she would suffocate living in that house for another minute.

(To be clear, it wasn’t because the friend was in any way dangerous. They went to church together and sat around talking about the Bible and other books. About philosophy. About boys. There was no drinking or drugs involved. Just a girl my parents didn’t like.)

And so she didn’t need to move out ten days after turning 18. She stayed in that house, kept her job, and kept going to college, knowing that her parents would try their best to help her pay for it.

After one more year of community college (because I already took a year and a half of college credits while in high school), she could have transferred to OSU and graduated by the time she was 20. She could have used her connections to land an internship at a major publishing company, and accepted a job with them thereafter.

She could have stayed with her parents for another year, paying down her loans and saving up money for a wedding. This alternate version of me would have been with Cory for five years; this would have been a wonderful time to propose.

They would get their first apartment. Times may have been hard, but her family is well off. They could have helped where she needed it.

She wouldn’t drive her newlywed husband away, even if for a short time. They’d still live in the same apartment complex as her sister, and she’d spend time with her little niece when she could. They’d save up money and buy a house somewhere a little further south when they had the money for a down payment.

I could have had all that at 23. Instead, this me is nearly 28 years old–poor, deeply in love but almost as deeply in debt, hundreds of miles away from my support system, lonely, afraid of cooking, with a credit score in the 500s, no savings, and no chance of a home anywhere in sight.

Depression stole the best years of my life. Maybe they would have stolen hers, too, even with better parents. I can’t pretend to predict her future. Maybe it could have been worse in some unpredictable ways.

But in this reality, I wish I was 23 again. I wish I was that girl, with that hair, at that weight. 

I wish, I wish, I wish.