Dear Teenage Self,
As I begin to write this I am overwhelmed with the desire to sit down next to you and give you a giant hug. Yes, I know you don’t care for giant hugs, but I wish I could give you one right now anyway, because I know that at any given moment you could use one. I know that you are sad a lot and torture yourself too much for what seems like no reason at all.
Also, as I am sitting here writing this, I am peeking over the computer at our daughter (yes, our daughter!) and I can’t help but see you in her. She has our nose (the one before our six year old self broke hers) and our height.
Darling, I have so much to tell you that will make your life significantly easier and more enjoyable. I do hope you’ll listen, although you probably won’t because you are one stubborn girl.
1. Please pay more attention in school. I know you think you’re destined for a swimming scholarship, and you will get one, but it will only last one year (that dang shoulder again). Regardless of paying for college, this is the time you are setting a foundation for your life. Although it seems infeasible, you will one day graduate from high school, college, and graduate school. The future is inevitable. School work can dictate what college you go to, what you major in, and impact the trajectory of the rest of your life. I know you think you’re doing okay with B’s, but I implore you to try harder. Once you do (because you will) it will ignite passions and skills you assume are impossible.
2. You are smart. I wish you could hear that more often. You are smarter than you realize and with a little hard work you can accomplish so much more than you give yourself credit for. Now that you know that, please refer to #1.
3. You know your best friends that you spend so much time with? Several of them are still my best friends. Continue to nurture those relationships. You are exceptionally blessed to have those girls in your life, both then and now. On the other hand, learn to gracefully let go of friendships that are not destined for Lifetime Status. Just because someone was your best friend at one point in time does not mean they always will be. Appreciate your time together and continue to make new friends.
4. Pursue your interests. I see that you really enjoy crafts, taking pictures, writing stories, and making pretty things. These are not silly. These are fun and promote creativity. It’s important to have hobbies other than sports.
5. You are pretty. You may not have super model status and that is okay. Oh dear, I hope I didn’t hurt your feelings. You truly are beautiful, but I don’t think you have a modeling career in your future. That’s okay! Not many people do. You are so much more than what you look like.You are kind, smart, funny, loyal, generous, creative, friendly, athletic…
6. Your body is beautiful and triumphant. I see you looking in the mirror, pinching your stomach, and contemplating how to get rid of your lunch. Please don’t. Your body does and will do amazing things. Your body perseveres through several hours of training a day. Your body is strong and will lift those who aren’t when you are a therapist. Your body will grow another human being and sustain her life throughout her infancy. I realize that at a (respectable) size 8 you are larger than your teenage peers. You do not have to be a size 2 to be beautiful. Rather than focus on your size, please focus on what your amazingly strong body can endure. (And yes, you will eventually grow breasts. You are a late bloomer in this area.)
7. It is up to you to cultivate the life you want. Contrary to what you’ve been taught, successful individuals aren’t born lucky. They work hard and aim high. You can do this, too.
8. Darling, please ease up on the boy craziness. You are torturing yourself by spending hours on AOL waiting for your current crush to sign on to Instant Messenger. You and your friends are so good at playing it cool (despite it taking four of you and many conference calls to write the “perfect” away message), but I know your heart is burning for a boy’s affection. It will come. Although it is painful right now, be grateful most of the boys you like don’t like you back. I am, because 99% of them grow up to be major tools. You grow up to marry the perfect man, so please spend your precious youth on more fulfilling and worthwhile pastimes (see #1 and #4).
9. Save your money. You are incredibly fortunate to have an awesome Summer job. Seriously, the best Summer job for a teenager ever. Save your money for college, please (you’ll need it when you study abroad). And never, never, never get a credit card!
10. Cherish your grandparents. Spend as much time with them as possible. Learn from them. Listen to their stories. They have been through a lot. They are all incredible people.
11. Take your time. I know you’re being told to accomplish all sorts of things in short periods of time. That’s great. But take your time. You’re going to burn out. Take time to discover what you are good at, what you enjoy, and how you can use this knowledge to serve others. You may be surprised by the answers you find when you aren’t in such a hurry.
12. Life is not a pass through. Each phase is temporary, but nonetheless shapes who you are and who you will become. Do not discount certain periods of life or wish them away. Understand that getting through one phase in life does not guarantee your struggles will be over: there will always be struggles, but you will grow more equipped to tackle them gracefully.
13. I am in awe of your dedication, determination, and perseverance in life. Thank you for working so hard and overcoming several obstacles. If you hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t know I am capable of so much.
14. Thank you, thank you, thank you for not drinking in high school. Thank you for never trying drugs. Thank you for never accepting a single puff of a cigarette. We are so much better off because of your decisions.
You are a lovely girl and I know you just want to be better, do better, and be an inspiring woman. We are continually working on it. Together.
Your 30 Year-old Self
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