I've been inspired to write my teenage self a letter. Or, actually, inspired to finish the one I've had under way for quite some time now. I started this letter while sorting some things out in my mind and reflecting on the girl I used to be and I would return to it occasionally to write just a bit more as the urge would arise. Then, I came across Emily Freeman's recent post at her blog Chatting at the Sky, and I knew that now was the time to finish the letter. Although it is deeply reflective and personal to me, its also a letter to every girl and every woman.
Please click here to learn more about Emily Freeman's new book, Graceful. Many people are joining in and writing letters to their younger selves in honor of her new book for high school girls. You can grab a cup of coffee and maybe a tissue or two and read along, taking a trip of your own down memory lane. Or, better yet, write your own letter. You can link it up here.
Hello, fifteen-year-old me! You don't know me just yet, but you will know me very well twenty-two years from now. That seems like such a long time away, I know. But, guess what, it isn't. It's only a blink of an eye away and you'll be amazed at how fast time really moves along. That's why you should enjoy the days you have now of little responsibility and lots of personal time. Enjoy the days of Dirty Dancing and feeling all giddy over Patrick Swayze. I won't hold your love of Corey Haim and Ricky Schroeder and Kirk Cameron against you. They are pretty cute. I know you like your nails long and painted and your personal style mission has become having hair as big and fluffy as you possibly can. Your taste in music will stick with you and you will count Bon Jovi and Def Leppard among your favorites for many years to come. You like tight jeans and miniskirts, but nothing overly revealing. You like cookie dough and macaroni and cheese entirely too much, so stop those bad habits while you're still ahead. You're trying to find yourself and that's a good thing. You should really breathe in the freedom you have now because you'll be surprised how your plan of having only one child will go. I'm not giving away too much here in this letter, but believe me, you'll be surprised by many, many things.
Go ahead and enjoy all those books you get so caught up in and read even more, but better yet, step up and be a part of your high school journalism class and yearbook staff. You love to write and you're good at it. (And, by the way, those journals you write? STOP throwing them away! I know you're just scared of someone seeing the real you in your journals, but don't keep trying to hide yourself from the world, it's okay if someone gets to know you. You'll wish so badly that you would have kept them.) You should stop being so reluctant about showing yourself to the world and start being part of the things you love. You would be an asset to those groups if you would only put yourself out there.
Your love of photography? It will never go away, so go ahead and invest in that SLR you keep drooling over at the camera shop. I promise you won't regret the head start and I'd say, from my current vantage point, that it could possibly change your life in ways you can't imagine. Your creativity is at its highest when you are looking through the lens. It's the way you have always viewed the entire world around you and they way you'll continue to view things.
The boy that has been calling and coming over to visit, you know, the one who is four years older than you and the one your parents aren't so sure of? Yes, he's okay; and I'll let you in on a little secret: he's the one who is going to be by your side for a very long time. He's the one you'll be holding hands with and sharing your kid-filled days with. He's the one who is going to amaze you each and every day from now on. I know you're both young right now, but some things really are meant to be. It is a fairy tale in the making, so enjoy it. Besides, he loves you even when you wear your hair standing five inches off the top of your head, thanks to your addiction to Aqua Net. You know it has to be the real thing!
Also, spend a lot more time with your girlfriends, and be sure to cultivate even more friendships. You aren't the type of girl who has a large collection of friends that you can call at any given moment, but you are the kind of girl who has a small handful of really good friends that you spend too much time trying to avoid because of the boy. I promise you, you'll regret that. And, above all, there is plenty of room in your life for both your girlfriends and the boy, so don't shut them out. You'll need them later, believe it or not.
I wish you'd look in the mirror at the beautiful girl staring back at you and see her worth instead of bashing her twenty-four hours a day for all the imperfections you think you see. The imperfections that you dwell on right now will not seem like imperfections at all in twenty-two years. You'll finally realize that they were actually the beautiful parts and that you are worthy and attractive and you'll be very, very sad that you spent so much time disrespecting yourself. This will be one of your biggest regrets, I promise. Stop with the self-punishment right now because if you don't the punishments only become harsher and you'll find yourself buried under many years of self-hate. Please, I'm begging you, don't do this to yourself. You deserve so much more.
You are not dazzling at sports; and P.E. is your least favorite part of the day, but that's okay. (Oh, I won't tell anyone about the P.E. excuses that you and your friend falsified in order to get out of class.) You're not particularly cheerleader material either and you don't understand the attitudes that accompany most of the girls in that sport at your school, so you have no desire to join in. That's okay, too. You are, however, great in English and you thoroughly enjoyed reading The Scarlet Letter and Wuthering Heights when everyone else was sneaking those little yellow-bound Cliff's Notes. You really enjoyed American History, specifically Colonial American History, and you weren't too shabby in the sciences either, thanks to Mr. Ranew, your favorite teacher of all time. Math wasn't your specialty and Geometry was a nightmare, although you did manage to participate in the advanced classes. You make great grades and you should be proud. Also, why don't you apply for some scholarships? Crazy girl, stop selling yourself short. That's another thing you can eventually add to your list of regrets.
Your time in high school will be split between Christian private school and public school and you'll remember the private school moments with the most fondness. You felt good there and you thrived in the smaller, more encouraging setting. The public school was just okay because you'll struggle with peer pressure and your short-comings, never once feeling like you belonged. Your happiest day will be the one in which you walk across the stage, receiving your diploma, so glad to have spent your last day in public high school.
You're very quiet, reserved, and introverted and that will never change. You watch people and take mental notes on everything, usually being able to recall the slightest details surrounding a situation. I'm sure that's why, during your first semester in college, Sociology 101 will be your favorite class aside from English 101. The behavior of people fascinates you and it always will. Oh, and when you start your college classes in the fall after you graduate high school, stick with the university even though the size is intimidating and the independence it offers is actually a little frightening. Don't switch your enrollment over to the junior college. It's going to be too much like high school and you'll hate it there. Also, make English your major, not nursing. It doesn't matter how much money a career is promising you after graduation, you can only spend the rest of your life doing what you love, and although you have a heart overflowing with compassion, nursing is not your path. Your love of English and writing will never subside, so go for it. Even if every word you ever write is just to please yourself.
Above all else, you want to be a good girl and you strive desperately for that title. It hurts your little teenage heart to hear and see some of the things that your long-time classmates are doing and you've even written a few heart-felt letters to some of your closest friends, giving them some motivational words to hopefully keep them on track.
You want to be good for the ones who are certain that you can't be. You know who they are and it drives you crazy that they expect your downfall to happen at any time. That's part of your slightly rebellious nature. You rebel against those that try to put you down, but are never rebellious to the point of doing something you'll regret later. You are fierce and determined not to be that girl. You have never taken a drink or inhaled even one puff of smoke and you're proud of that. You often wonder why other people do and what it is that they're trying so desperately to prove by doing these things. As you grow older, you'll wonder the same thing and you'll be happy to know that you will never pick up a cigarette or a drug. You will, once in your thirties, have a glass of wine on occasion at the end of the night when your kids are staying away with their grandparents.
You weren't particularly raised in church, but you did attend church with your mom on occasion, you attended a couple of Christian private schools, and you also accompanied friends to church. You could really feel the love and hope and joy in the air, so you loved going to church. You liked the feeling of community there. As an adult, you will search for churches, trying to find where you fit in with your beliefs and you'll have a hard time seeing through the thick fog of denominational boundaries and rules and cliques therein. You'll eventually settle into a church with your family for a while, feeling determined for things to work out. But, then you'll be hurt. Really badly. You'll stop going to church for a while, but then you'll hear the call of God in your everyday motions and you'll pause and listen. You'll have more questions than can be answered. You'll have doubts that you're "not supposed to have." However, you'll find grace everywhere and when you listen to your heart, you'll find exactly where you're supposed to be. It will all work out. You'll eventually find your place.
When you get older and you begin to look back on your life, you'll see so much of your fifteen year old self still thriving. Internally, many of those same feelings are still there, but you'll look in the mirror and see outward changes you never thought possible. You'll look around your life and see so many things the same as they are now, but in the same instance, so much will be entirely different. So different, in fact, that if you don't remind yourself where you came from, you'd think your past life was only a dream. Things do change, thank God, and you'll be well and happy and fulfilled.
Here are a few more points of advice for you:
Smile more often. Smile so big it hurts. Do it and make it a habit. This is important. Otherwise you'll wish with all your heart that you could look back and see happiness beaming from your own face.
Laugh loudly. Don't be shy. Laughter is medicine to the soul. It goes hand in hand with the advice to smile more often.
Love fiercely. Don't let one moment go by without letting your feelings be known. Tell those you love how you feel and do it often. Don't let those moments ever pass you by.
Stand proud. Your beliefs and dreams are important. Don't let anyone make you feel otherwise. Be proud of who you are and all the things that make you who you are.
Be yourself. This will be the hardest and longest lesson you'll learn. It takes years to develop your you-ness. The main thing is to make sure that you're always true to yourself. You can never go wrong when you put this piece of advice first.
Let go of things that hurt,
release their weighty burden from your own shoulders.
You have so much to live for.
Take a step forward and fly.