On a recent flight on Southwest Airlines, I came across a feature in their Spirit magazine. A book was just published called ‘Dear Me: A Letter to my Sixteen Year Old Self’, edited by Joseph Galliano, which is a collection of 75 different letters by a variety of different celebrities (actors, comedians, writers, etc) writing their own version of a letter to their sixteen year old selves. I have to admit, it caught my attention and made me remember all of those times I was young and told myself, ‘when I have kids, I will never do …..’. To this day, I have no idea what any of those things were, I just know that my eight, ten, twelve, sixteen year old self made a mental note.
I’ve always been a huge supporter of journaling and reflecting on my day-to-day life, not only to sort out the troubling times but also to keep those exciting, adrenaline rush memories alive. And, most importantly, to get to those ‘AHA!’ moments; because, if you write just to write, whatever you are feeling, without judgment, and with the expectation that not even you will be reading what ends up on the page, you WILL get an ‘AHA!’ moment.
The idea of writing a letter to your former teenage self is such a unique way to reflect on what was most likely a time of self doubt and self-absorption and reflect on all of the lessons you’ve learned since then.
So here is my version of ‘Dear Me: A Letter to my Sixteen Year Old Self’:
You have curly hair! You have to stop fighting it and accept it. Yes, it may take you until you are 25 to be able to figure out how to style your hair, but you do finally figure it out, and everyone is jealous of your curls (you even learn how to blow it straight!). You will one day find your hair stylist soul mate who knows exactly what to do with your mane, and despite what you think now, a ‘wash and wear’ hairstyle that does not require any blow drying will never work for you.
It is okay if it doesn’t seem like you have found your clique of friends yet. Your best friendships are yet to come. You will have great friends in life. Friends that know exactly what cartoon bird video to put on to make you feel better, friends that you will stay up all night with for no reason at all except that the conversation never stops. Friends that encourage you to follow your passion and friends that encourage you to leave your comfort zone, but are protective enough to say, ‘make good choices’ before you embark on a new adventure.
You will discover that school and grades are not everything. Yes, you will have a fluke genius moment and get 100% on your first calculus test when you were sure that you had no idea what you were doing. (It was short-lived and lasted only for that one test). It is not so much what you are learning, but the work ethic that you learn from your dedication to school and extra curricular activities that keeps you moving forward and rising to the top; and, ultimately allows you to enjoy life to its fullest.
Don’t worry. You end up doing so much more than you ever thought you would. You do not take the traditional route that you think you are destined for. You discover a fork in the road that you did not even know existed, and for your willingness to take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves to you and your commitment to take a chance on the unknown, you are rewarded with a career filled with travel, excitement, and a sense of confidence in your abilities that will stay with you always. Trust your instincts because they have proven to be trustworthy and make sure you take risks, because they always seem to put you in the right place at the right time.
And boyfriends? It’s okay that you’ve only had one boyfriend back in 7th grade (there is another one in your future before you graduate). You are picky, and you don’t waste your time on crushes. You like who you like, and if you aren’t absolutely positive that you like him, it means that you don’t. Unfortunately, you will experience heartbreak but you will also experience a love and companionship that still surprises you. It’s supposed to be easy, and when you find the right person, it is. And guess what? He’s American!
28 year old Traci
I am so glad that I came across the excerpt from this collection of letters. Feeling a bit of writer’s block lately, this inspired me so much that I felt the need to take out my laptop and write this 35,000 ft in the air somewhere between Denver and LA. It’s nice to know that with all of the pop-culture, media-diluted content out there, that these pieces are finding their way to people and that a few words from the heart can still make such an impact.
** This post was Freshly Pressed on December 13, 2011 **