Yesterday, I saw many posts from people writing letters to their 16 year old past selves. I don’t always jump on the bandwagon of theme posts, OK yes I do that A LOT if not always, but this one struck me as a chance to really reflect on things.
Dear 16 year old Julie:
You turned 16, the summer after sophomore year. It was a fun year, but it was a sad year. As with many 16 year old girls, the main focus of your life was having a boyfriend. The light of your world was a certain boy and his friends. They were Seniors and they would be graduating and leaving. That boy you’re madly in love with now, do you know how it will end? You will realize love is more than butterflies in your stomach. Love is more than the sensation the rest of the world is melting all around you. Mostly you will realize this because that boy will move away and you will give up everything thinking you will go with him. And when you don’t go with him, you will finally start living for yourself instead of someone else.
Back then, you looked around at the other girls in the school and you wonder why you’re not as pretty, why you’re not as thin, why people do not seem to like you as much. First, when you look back on all the photos later in life, you will see how they were not actually prettier than you and they were nothing more than other 15 and 16 year old girls. When you look back on all the pictures years from now, you will realize what you had, always had, and still do have, personality. Maybe it’s “overwhelming” to some people, but look at your smile. Look at the fun you’re having. Please stop trying to give up these moments and future moments for the acceptance of others.
You are working at McDonald’s and for a 16 year old, you’re making good money. Please stop spending it on gifts for people who take advantage of your kindness. Heads up, college is expensive and you will probably want to have something saved. The plan is to finish high school and college and get into business, right? The plan is to have a nice car and nice suits and wear heels every day? Plans change. People need you and you will care about making a difference more than making a dollar.
The friends you have now? A lot of them will still be in your life. Don’t ever take for granted precious people and their friendships. Jen will grow up to become a freelance writer in Kansas City. She will inspire you to stay true to your heart and believe in the impossible. Abby will be working on her PHD and the two of you will occasionally sneak in trips on your bikes, she has a son and recently got engaged. Andrew is still your oldest and first best friend. He will be working on his PHD too and the two of you will always enjoy baking and cooking.
You dropped out of choir because you thought you didn’t have a good enough voice. But you sing in the shower, you sing in the car, you sing in the grocery store. You have created a musical out of your own life. You gave up on track when you didn’t make the cut Freshman year…but did you know you’ll grow up to be a distance runner? Did you know it will become the largest piece of your identity?
Online you keep a virtual diary, it’s on lock down and you’re afraid of anyone knowing your thoughts without a password. In the future, there will be a virtual world of everyone posting everything about their lives and it will be considered weird not to be a part of it all. Meanwhile you’ll have a website and you proudly give away your business cards.
Over the years of high school you will be a member of over a dozen various clubs and groups. Drama, Latin Club, Choir, Science Olympiad, Journalism and Speech and Debate to name a few. By the time you graduate you will see yourself as capable of anything, but special in nothing. Realize now, that is the wrong logic. Being a specialist isn’t the only way to be special. Simply being able and willing to adapt to many situations is a special gift in and of itself. Trust me, it will come in handy when you finally land your dream job. Which you don’t know it yet, but will be as a counselor.
Sweet 16 isn’t too bad, and bumps in the road are not the end of the road. You have had a great journey up to this point and you will have a great journey beyond this point too.
27 year old me.
PS. You’re getting cats for your birthday!
What would you say to your 16 year old self?