Letter to My Teenage Self

This week, Emily Freeman who writes one of my favorite blogs, Chatting at the Sky, is challenging her readers and fellow bloggers to write a letter to our teenage selves. This was an interesting exercise and I must admit, quite therapeutic. It is longer than I had intended, big surprise, so you might not have the time, or interest, in today's post. Unless you are my mom, or future teenage daughter, then I am sure you are interested. Happy reading!

(draft 1)

Dear Teenage Self,

I was challenged to write you a letter. And so I am. But I also know you so well that I know nothing I say will change a thing you do or don't do nor would I want you to alter the course of our life so, carry on.

Your Future You

(draft 2)

Dear Teenage Self,

You are kind of half spaz, half idiot but you turn out okay and get us here alive (although I think that is more divine intervention than anything you have done!) so enjoy the ride.

Your better self

(draft 3)

Dear Teenage Self,

There are far too many things I want to tell you and I know you will have a hard time listening because you don't like people to tell you much of anything. I get it.  It can be hard to look at yourself honestly, to hear the truth, to learn from mistakes. But I promise you it is okay to be wrong. It's okay to make mistakes and you won't die when people call you out on them. A little vulnerability won't kill you. So pay attention.

See that scrunchi on your wrist? You might consider getting rid of it a decade sooner than you think.....just saying.

Being a teenager is not easy. But you will look back fondly on it like you do of most things. You are lucky. But for those harder times, the times you don't expect to happen but they do anyway, the times where you feel like crawling into a hole and never coming back out, the times where your laughter and joking are replaced by tears and sorrows and you can't seem to find your way out of that darkness, for all the times when the only thing you can do is pull the covers over your head and sob silently into your pillow, (no, I am not trying to freak you out but s#!t happens) here's what you need to know. It's going to be okay. It's normal to feel ups and downs. It's normal to feel like a misfit; it doesn't mean anything. It certainly doesn't mean you are.

And you might not know it now, but you are stronger and more secure than most people your age. You roll with the punches, you ooze resilience, you laugh in the face of, well, everything. And that will be your greatest gift so no matter what anyone says, hold your laughter close. (Just don't hold it in because you might implode!) People will remember your joy (read; obnoxious laugher) and quite frankly, that's a pretty good way to be remembered. (You might want to lay off the dairy now though so that your joy is the only thing they remember....)

But, I know, even in your confidence, you are confused and you hold onto some inner demons. So, here it goes. When you listen to stories other middle school girls tell you about all the things they "have done" with boys, it's okay to feel bothered by that. You aren't weird if you don't feel that way about boys. Trust me, that will come in its due time, kinda like a hurricane (with the same potential for utter destruction....). It is normal to have mixed up feelings and ironically enough, most people you know feel that way at some point, they just don't tell you. But if you open up, others will, too.

When a friend convinces you to throw a huge co-ed party at your house, it's okay to feel out of place and uncomfortable, even in your own home (and especially in the solid salmon colored outfit).

Partying will never be your thing....actually, large groups in general will never be your thing, and while it doesn't seem so cool right now, it really isn't a bad thing at all. You will go with the flow with that party and everything will come out all right but remember, when the stakes get higher, it's okay to say no, loud and clear. Saying no will sometimes be really, really difficult but more often than not it is the difficult thing that is the right thing.

And no, I am not referring to your homework. You need to say yes to that much more frequently than you do.

When your best friends tell you in the locker room that you are built like a boy and have no hips, and that you will have a hard time giving birth when you are older....well, let's just say you don't need to lose any sleep over it.

I know you struggle because you have been told repeatedly that you are ugly. But you are not. Your brother is in pain and he tells you lies to hurt you because he thinks it will make him feel better. One day he will say he is sorry and he will mean it. Try to forgive him now and ignore everything he tells you. You have no reason to be self conscious about your teeth or your smile or anything else. I know your inner critic believes the lies and so you think you are the ugly duckling of your family.
Perhaps if you feel that way you ought not draw attention to yourself with the explosive shirt, although, I think I'd still wear that one....which is your fault.
You see yourself as homely and plain. I wish I could convince you otherwise but since I know you won't listen, just know that your adult self sees your beauty, inside and out, and one day you'll see it, too.  Just keep fighting off that voice in your head that tells you otherwise.

Believe it or not, boys will actually be a huge source of stress for you, LIKE EVERY OTHER GIRL YOU KNOW. It will be a challenge to keep things in perspective. And you aren't going to have a lot of guidance in this area, at least not that you are going to listen to, so pay attention.

Boys are not worth your time until you are at least 18, so focus on practicing piano and violin a lot more, will ya? 

Sigh....still not listening? Ok. Here's the truth. When you are in ninth grade, a nice boy is going to ask you to the school dance. You say yes and then this unexpected thing happens. A knot begins to grow in your stomach. You worry that people will think you like him in a way you do not. And you worry that you can't tell your parents because you don't tell your parents anything personal. The worry eats away at you and you put so much weight on it that it becomes a huge, intrusive, ugly monster and right before you get swallowed up by it, you tell him you can't go with him. (That happens all in like 24 hours.) That monster is called anxiety. Get used to it because you'll see it from time to time and you need to learn to deal with it. I won't tell you to go ahead and go with that boy but lighten up. It's okay that you are all of a sudden uncomfortable with the idea of boys or worse yet, talking to your parents about anything relating to, well, anything. But it won't kill you to just tell your folks what is going on in your life. I know your siblings' stories now so trust me, they'll think nothing of it.

When your interest in boys reappears, it's okay. You don't need to feel guilty about it. And when your mom has a complete conniption fit because at fifteen you start to go out with a twenty year old from another church, Well Hello! You are only 15! What are you thinking?! Seriously, can you really blame her? (No, it has nothing to do with the fact he is Presbyterian...try again.) You will be the one to crush him though. The truth is, you have a very competitive nature that really enjoys "the chase" and winning over the boy but is not so into the actual relationship part. Don't worry, you'll grow out of it soon enough. Just remember, every time you break a heart, yours shrinks just a little, so ease up on the boys. They have feelings too and you will hurt far too many along the road if you aren't careful. Remember, it isn't all about you. Oh, and you know Karma? You don't want to be on her hit list.

When you get to high school, you will fall for a guy that is really not a good fit for you (as if the last one was). You know what? Go for it. You need to learn about love and failure, with someone your own age! But try not to let boys get in between you and your friends, or you and your education, or you and your music, or you and God. You will miss a lot and experience a lot of heartache by hanging out with that boy and his buddies instead of your girlfriends and your music and God. Guess who will still be in your life years down the road? Be patient and have faith that you will meet the right person one day. (Psssst, it isn't him....nope, not him either.... You know how you dream of owning an Italian violin and having a pet wolf like that friend of yours does? Well, let's just say one day you'll meet an Italian Wolf. And you won't have to house train him either! Score!)

Now, on to your parents. They only want the best for you. They will love you and support you and will forgive you so many times that you will lose count. Reach out to them. It will make things easier even if communication with them seems like an impossible feat. And don't forget to forgive them, too. Sometimes even parents make mistakes.

And savor your time with Grandpa, he won't be around much longer. Listen to him closely, okay? One day you won't be able to remember the sound of his voice and your heart will ache.

And your mom? She is right a lot more than you think. When she suggests that maybe you shouldn't put all your eggs in one basket, (or wear that particular outfit) there is a darn tootin' good reason. Listen a little more, will ya?

Seriously, you let someone take this picture? In knee high socks with shoelaces printed on the front and jean shorts? And what's with the midriff?  Show-off....or could you not afford the rest of that shirt? Yeah, I do sound like your mom.....get used to it.

Speaking of your mom, one day your dad will tell you that your mom is the strongest person he knows. That is probably true, but Karen, he is not talking about muscles! Stop taking everything so literally. You don't have to rush out and lift more weights so that you can be strong like her. You already are.

Oh, and when your Aunt tells you at the regional track meet that, "Wow, you sure have slimmed down," she is not saying you were once fat and now you look so much better. You look like an athlete and not a little girl, that's all. It doesn't mean you need to take your fitness obsession to a whole new level. The goal is not greater vanity. Good health is fantastic but your worth is not based on your personal fitness, how much weight you can lift, speed, agility, strength, tone or any other physical attribute. And no one, especially those who matter most, will ever care if you have six pack abs and striated shoulders...(Although I have to admit, your older self is impressed....look at those abs! Oh, sorry, no, don't focus on that. You spend far too much time doing crunches....go do your homework!)

You can't believe it now but your body will one day fail you. Try not to get too attached.

At the same time, for crying out loud, DON'T GIVE UP! When you see that you are running 5th in that track meet and you know that you have to be in the top four to advance, don't slack off because when you do, you will miss out on a chance at state. The person in front of you....Actually, you know what? Do it your way (you will anyway). Either way, you will learn a huge lesson.

As a matter of fact, in all that is right and noble, NEVER GIVE UP! And even more, DON'T QUIT BEFORE TRYING! You will continue to struggle because you want to be the best and the fact is, you won't be. There are always bigger and better fish in the sea. You won't begin to learn and understand that until college and beyond so for now just be the best you can be in all you do but also go ahead and try your hand at some things that are new and challenging for you. That will take you a lot farther than letting your fears keep you from trying things at all. Certainly, you will fail, over and over, and that is okay. It won't kill you.

But that gigantic, fiberglass horse might....get away from it quick, please!

Your heart is big, so much bigger than you know, and you want to give the people you love everything you can and you want to love everyone. You come by that honestly but be careful. There are a lot of broken people in this world and some of them will take advantage of your giving spirit. Don't let it break you.

And speaking of love, the people you love the most will often hurt you the most. Forgive them and move forward. They are holding on to pain you can only imagine. Love them anyway.

And when your school experiences the year of terrible tragedy and Callie is killed in that car accident, trust your instincts and go hug her brother, whom you don't yet know.Your sadness over a life lost is not a sign of weakness. When you see him in the hall and are filled with that sudden urge to do something for him, well, it's called compassion. You will know it when it hits and you will do the right thing.  That one act of kindness will mean the world to him and as a result, you will find yourself in the company of some wholesome new friends. Trust yourself. Harness that compassion and hang on tight. Love is the way to life.

Don't sell yourself short when it comes to school either. You place a much higher premium on your many extra curricular interests (mostly boys) but in the end, your education is important to you. Listen in that AP English class. Your teacher will like you more (which isn't saying too much since she doesn't like you at all) if you settle down, stop joking around and especially stop the incessant giggling. Just give her some respect. She is old and has been teaching a long time. When she tells you that you are not good at writing (which, by the way, is not really what she said if you had been paying attention....) and that you can't mix metaphors, don't stop writing silly, just try harder. Your writing will one day save your life. Or at least get you through some tough times. And for crying out loud, READ THE BOOKS YOU ARE ASSIGNED! You will really like them. Trust me, they're awesome. But really, just pay attention to what she has to teach you. She will die the next semester.

Finally, when it comes time to look at colleges, remember, there is a much larger world out there than the university your boyfriend is going to. You already know he isn't right for you. You already see the red flags but you are afraid of change. And you are stubborn. And you don't want to let anyone down. That's okay for now. I am not going to tell you to go somewhere else because those experiences will shape who you become and that road will lead you into an amazing life of love and laughter and loads of children. (Yes, loads!) But if you really want something, go for it. (Except for that entire head of cheese covered broccoli....I highly advise not going for that! Oh, and one day your ego will lead you into a Goldschlager drinking contest against a guy twice your size.....big mistake....huge! Although I must say, the resulting alcohol poisoning is great prep for labor....) But I digress, don't putz around wondering if you should or shouldn't do this or that. Paralysis doesn't get you anywhere. Trust yourself, you are wiser than you think (minus the parenthetical above of course). Just get up and go to it. Don't look back. Let go of resentments and regrets, let go of your fears, let go of the safety you feel in the small world of the known. They don't get you anywhere. And when things get tough remember, sometimes the roads you take will not be familiar and will not feel safe. But it's okay because you are in good hands and all those roads lead to home.

Good luck and keep laughing! You'll need it!

Your Older Self

p.s. Look out for school buses when you take your drivers test.....and for God's sake, pay your speeding tickets BEFORE they suspend your license! Better yet, SLOW THE HECK DOWN!


  1. So, that party picture? I remember it clearly although if I'm in the picture I'm so fuzzy I can't even see myself. I also remember spending most of it in the kitchen with your mother.

    Also, was that picture of you in a seat on a bus the trip to Tallahassee? Just had to ask.

  2. Why yes, it was in fact that trip. I had thought about throwing a picture of you in there with me form that trip but didn't want to have to take the time for permission. Hee hee.....fun times. And thanks for talking Depner into taking me as that third student. That was quite kind of you and I am fairly certain it wouldn't have been me otherwise....I still think about that trip every time I hear that one song....which thankfully isn't too often. :)

  3. I heard it on Sirius radio last month. Cracked me up. I have no recollection of talking him into sending you, but you're welcome. It was a great trip. I recognized the side of my face anyway.. :)

  4. Hmmm, so much for my vague memory. I could have sworn he asked you who that third person should be and you told him to take me. Or maybe I just didn't think there was any other reason he would have chosen me. Whichever. It was fun.


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