Saturday, March 11, 2017

Saturday Sentiment: A Letter to Sixteen Year Old Me

My birthday was in February; I turned 33 this year, so I thought this would be a good time to write a letter to sixteen-year-old me. Yes, I know that if I'm dividing by two I'd be sixteen and a half, but by sixteen and a half the half didn't matter as much to me anymore, so sixteen it is.

When I was sixteen (and a half) it was the year 2000. I had just moved from Florida to Tennessee with my mom, and my life was changing in every possible way. The decision to move had been resting on my shoulders for a long time, and I hated the circumstances under which I was forced to make it; I hated saying goodbye to my friends (those to whom I even had a chance to say goodbye), and I was heartbroken that I didn't have a chance to say goodbye to my father. I hated knowing that I was leaving behind a solid network of beloved friendships, headed for the unknown where I would be The New Kid.

The only "plus side" to it was that my boyfriend was moving with us, and I was comforted by his proximity, by his presence, by the certainty that he would be someone familiar to me - someone that was on my side, in a place where I knew no one, a place where the surrounding family mostly didn't like me or approve of me because I was an overweight teen, because my mother is financially illiterate, because her financial ignorance kept us dreadfully poor.

When we arrived, my boyfriend was informed that he wasn't welcome after all, due to the two-faced calculations of certain members of my family. They had used him - he drove our u-haul up, and had even paid to rent it. Everything he owned was in it, along with mine and my mother's possessions. When we arrived, he was packed on a bus and sent away - and I was utterly crushed. I'd been shamed for even having such a serious relationship at such a young age, and my boyfriend was spoken to as if he were barely better than the dust on the ground.

He was sent to his mother's house several hours away, making it basically impossible for us to see each other anymore. We tried to maintain a long-distance relationship, but that was a lot harder back then - we didn't have social media and cell phones to keep us close. We had expensive long distance phone calls, and letters that could never be as personal as the close proximity we were so used to. He went to a party, got drunk, cheated on me with another girl. His conscience made him confess - he told me in a letter. We broke up.

And that's where I was in my life when I was sixteen and a half years old. Brokenhearted and displaced, an utterly lonesome and totally misfit teen.


Dear Me,

Everything's a mess right now, and I know that. You're scared and hurt, and most of the time, you feel like no one understands you. Most of the people around you seem to think you're too much of one thing or another, and the people who don't think you're too much seem to think you're not enough. Neither of these extremes is the truth, and the only thing truly wrong with you is that your life is filled with the wrong people. I wish I could tell you that this changes, but it doesn't.

For the next sixteen years, you'll continue to have people in your life that find and feed on your insecurities - and it will open you up to trouble of a progressively damaging nature. Get ready, because life isn't getting easier for you anytime soon, and you'll need to rally the inner fire that's helped you survive so long.

I know I could warn you of everything - I could give you the gift of foresight, and I could tell you what to watch out for, what to steer clear of, but I won't. Instead, I'll give you encouragement, because although the years to come will often be painful for you, they are necessary to create the woman you're going to be when you're me.

Hurting over the end of your relationship with J, you'll enter a relationship with a much older(than-you) man, and you'll think L is amazing and mature, steady and full of potential. He has his own issues though, and those issues are going to drive him away from you long before you're ready, so appreciate him while he's yours. Once he's gone from your life, you'll want to spend the next several years kicking yourself for answering the phone on the night that changed things between you and L, but don't fall into the trap of regret.

Even though you won't realize it right away, in time you'll see the truth of L's own insecurities, and you'll understand what made him too afraid to stick around - you'll see the echoes of his past hurt in that last phone call, and you'll understand. When you do, take the lesson from it and release the pain - some people are only meant to enter your life for a season. And as trite as it'll sound while you're crying over some of the best poetry you'll ever write, you'll still need to understand this: it's true that some things just aren't meant to be. Take the gifts L will give you - your new appreciation of the depth of your own feelings, and the realization of how important good conversation will be to you in the future.

Eventually, you'll learn some things through the grapevine that will make you grateful for when it ended - but don't let the pain of it ending negate the beauty of what it was. Plus, he's a spectacular kisser, and you'd better enjoy that while it lasts. You'll miss it like fire when he's gone.

Romance will come and go in your life, and each new relationship will teach you just as much about what you want in love as what you don't want. Be open to those lessons - they lessen the pain that will strike you as you enter some of the scariest days of your life.

Hold confidence - you can do this.

By the time you're me, you'll have experienced so many things - the excitement of impending motherhood, the crushing pain of miscarriage, the triumph of live birth. You'll know the exhaustion of new parenthood, the fear and uncertainty of divorce, the insecurity of single parenting, the excitement of new love. You'll reconnect with friends you'd thought long gone from your life, and you'll embark on a journey that changes everything.

I can't promise it'll all be good - in fact, I can promise that a great deal of it won't be good. But I can also tell you with the utmost certainty that you're stronger than you think, and that your ability to survive will inspire everyone who knows your story. I can tell you that you'll grow and learn so much, that you'll reconcile with God. You'll become the kind of strong woman that repels the insecure, and while this will be especially painful to experience, it will help you cleanse your life of toxic people.

It's going to be a wild ride and you're going to come out dizzy and damaged in so many ways - beaten and broken and lost. But you'll have learned so much over the years, and by the time you're me, you'll be strong enough (and finally confident enough) to reach out and look for help. You'll find the right diagnosis, four little letters that explain SO MUCH - and when those four letters finally click for you, you'll start an entirely new journey - one that will change everything, finally, for the better.

Get ready.
Me.

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Questions for the Comments Section:
  • Have you ever written a letter to a younger version of yourself? If you have, what sorts of things did you tell you? And if not - what's the one thing you would say now to the you of the past?

36 comments:

  1. I've never done that but if I did I tell myself. One "Never forgot how strong you actually are. You are a survivor!". Two, Listen to your gut cause I had I would not have married my first husband even though he asked 3 times. 3, Follow your dreams no matter how old you are.

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  2. Self reflections are always the best! loved this!

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  3. O man. I have not yet wrote a little to the younger me. Maybe when I'm older and the kids are out of the house. I feel like it would be a never ending letter....

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    1. Yeah this one took me a while, deciding what to mention, looking back.

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  4. I should do one of these letters. I have A LOT to tell my 16 year old self. We've come a long way, huh?

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  5. That is a rough move! But it's great that you can see how strong you've been since then!

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  6. This is such a great idea of writing letter to yourself. I think I have to write one soon! I can't wait to see what will I be in the future!

    xo,
    Molly
    www.allaboutgoodvibes.com

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  7. I was the new kid more than a dozen times in my childhood and sometimes it was in the same town but a different school. By the time I got to high school I pretty much new all the kids in my class and they new me so I became the popular kid. A couple years later my mom remarried and was moving a thousand miles away. I refused to go and moved in with my grandparents to finish my senior year then joined the Army. A few years back, I was visiting my old home and deposited a letter I wrote to myself in the hopes that some day time travel would be discovered and my younger self could find that letter. I'm sure it hasn't happened yet, or I'd know about it... I think. Richard B

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  8. I have never written a letter to my younger self, but it seems so cathartic. If I did, I would tell myself to believe in yourself and never settle!

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    1. It's definitely a good thing to think about now and then. I love what you would say, too - so many of us struggle with that.

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  9. I wish I could back and talk some sense into a 16 year old me. I would tell myself that any problem I had at that time was inconsequential but that the decisions I make for the future had serious consequences to last a life time.

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    1. Yeah, no kidding right? It's amazing the impact one or two little choices can make in the long run.

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  10. I have not done this before but I can only imagine what it would read. As a teacher I have my students write letters to historical figures as if they are writing to a younger version of themselves.

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  11. This is a beautiful post. I also wrote something similar on my blog. If only we could go back in time right?

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    1. I know right? I wish I could sometimes - but then, if I changed anything, that might have repercussions I didn't want in the now (ie. staying away from an abusive relationship would have resulted in one of my daughters never being born, etc.). It's like that movie, The Butterfly Effect - one little change changes everything.

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  12. This is something that I think a lot of people have to do as a writing prompt in school and don't take it seriously, but can be an amazing lesson in insight and introspection. You have an amazing way with words, and your letter really touched me. I think I may be writing a letter to 16 year old me soon... Thank you :)

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    1. You're welcome, Alicia ... and thank you for your sweet compliments!

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  13. I love the way you write your blogs and this one is just awesome. I wish i could write a letter to the lil me like the way you've written

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  14. This is really touching. It's so funny. Not a few hours ago today we were discussing talking to our younger selves. Have you ever wrote a letter to your future self? You're such a good writer, bet that would be really interesting to read.

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    1. I'll keep that in mind, and see what I can come up with. Thanks for the prompt!

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  15. What a beautiful post! I need to write something like this, and maybe something to my future self too!

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    1. If you do, feel free to come back and share it with me!

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  16. Such a beautifully written post. I wish I could tell my younger self to tell her everything is going to work out perfectly fine.

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    1. Thank you! I think a lot of people wish that.

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  17. So relatable. I should take the time to sit down a write some of theses, even some for future selves and save them for a rainy day.

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  18. This is such a classic! It never gets old! xoxo

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