This is my letter to my younger self, as per the bonus question to yesterday’s Reverb. It made me realize, in many ways, I am glad I didn’t know then what I know now.
I started to write to my former self (maybe not former, but younger), and found it is hard to write a letter to your teenaged-self without crushing all of her hopes and dreams. It’s not like I can give her all the factual knowledge I have– imagine such a letter: “Dear 14 year old self, you are currently the most awkward being on the planet. This will get better, but not much.” And how do you begin to explain things like Facebook, Twitter, blogging, and smartphones. Isn’t there an app for writing to your teenaged self?!
And on a more serious note, ten years ago 14-year-old Katie had not experienced an attack on her own country, had not watched a hurricane devastate a huge part of her country’s history and culture, had not yet felt the political and religious ripples of the death of a pope and subsequent election of a new pope. She had not yet experienced the relaxed beach culture of Australia, strolled the tree-lined and history-ladened boulevards of Paris, or walked along a ditch in Guatemala tangibly feeling poverty she didn’t even know existed. But I can’t tell her these things.
I can’t tell her that the best friend she’s about to meet is going to be at her grad school graduation ten years later, still one of the biggest champions on Team Katie. She needs to work hard (and send a hundred emails) to make that friendship work. I can’t tell her about falling in love. And then out of it. And then back in again. And I can’t describe to her the feelings of being a part of the fabulous love stories as friends quietly tell you “(S)he’s the one,” take their engagement photos, and get married. I can’t tell her how honored she’ll be to squeeze herself into some, um… interesting bridesmaids dresses. These are all the bonus rewards of being a good friend but I don’t want her to work hard to be a good friend just for a closet full of interesting dresses.
I can’t tell her about all the times she’s about to get hurt, physically and emotionally. She’ll be too afraid to try anything new. And if 14 year-old Katie is anything like current Katie, she is especially worried about things that might hurt her face. And her pride. I don’t want to rob her of the anticipation bottled up in a single envelope by telling her that she gets in to almost every grad school she applies for admission. I don’t want to ruin the magic of a first date by telling her “This one doesn’t work out. Or this one. Or this one. Nope, not that one either.” I can’t tell her everything is going to be fine, because even if for only a fleeting moment, sometimes things are not.
So what can I tell my 14 year-old self for the years ahead?
This life is fabulous. And you are fabulous in it. Be surprised, be scared, be happy, and be angry. Have days where you don’t want to get out of bed and have days where you greet every living thing on the street. Send mail. Cry in front of other people and be forgiving and understanding when they cry in front of you. Be a good friend, always. If you can do these things, you will be truly living, regardless of the events happening around you. Life can happen to you, or you can participate in it. Unlike many of the challenges you will face, there is a right answer: participate. And participate fully.
This life is fabulous. And you are fabulous in it.