Dear 16-year-old me,
Hey girl. Hope you’re doing okay. It sure has been a while… we turn 21 in a couple months. It’s bananas.
I remember how you used to look at the seniors walking around your high school and think about how grown-up they seemed. You’d daydream about how nice it would be once you were finally an adult who was sure of herself and knew what she was doing all the time.
I still think that version of adulthood sounds nice. Unfortunately (and I don’t want to scare you with this, so you can skip to the next sentence if you want to remain blissfully unaware), after a few years of talking with people much older than either of us, I don’t know that it exists. No one knows what they’re doing, and that’s especially true in high school. I know it looks like everyone around you is comfortable with who they are, but really, they’re just as confused as you.
Before we really get into it, I want to tell you thank you. Thank you, High School Shelby, for being a giant nerd who was friends with primarily other giant nerds. Nerdom comes with a set of problems in high school, yes, but you never got into drugs, you didn’t drink a drop of alcohol, and you never had sex, of either the protected or unprotected varieties. That sentence probably makes you feel irrationally boring, but it makes me feel proud of you. You know what’s good for your body and what’s not. You know what you’re ready for and what you’re not. You are paranoid on a level with Cold-War-era America, and thus far that has kept you out of trouble with the law and kept you from getting pregnant. Sometimes anxiety is a good thing.
Most of the time, though, it’s not. I hurt for you. You worry so much, and it’s not your fault. I think if I could tell you one thing, it would be that you deserve to feel good. You deserve to do things that make you happy, to surround yourself only with people who make you happy, to make your happiness your highest priority.
You are worth more than letters on a report card or numbers on a scale. I can hear you asking whether you’re fat or not in a panicky voice and I know you mean to ask whether you’re pretty enough to be significant. You are brilliant and kind and funny, and you work harder than anyone I know (excluding your state-science-fair-winning dive-team-medaling Girl-Scout-Gold-Award-winning best friend, Kat, who works that hard because she draws strength from a giant-sized lithium ion battery in her left hip). Are you beautiful, good at school, well-liked? Yes. Do you need to attach that much of your worth to those facts? No.
Go easy on yourself. Work hard for the B instead of making yourself implode over the A. Eat the cupcake. Free associate sometimes, just to get your creative juices pumping. Pay attention to how your mind and body feel, and if you need help with either, ASK. You are sixteen. Nobody thinks you should be entirely self-sufficient except you.
Pay attention to how your mom and sisters react to your friends and your boyfriend. If your mom doesn’t like someone, she’s going to let you work out the fact that they don’t deserve you on your own, because she loves you and she wants you to learn. If your sisters don’t like someone, they will be vocal about it because they love you and it annoys them when other people make you cry.
It’s okay to like what you like. If you’re more into Taylor Swift than Mayday Parade, or if you’re listening to the Wicked soundtrack for the umpteenth time while all the other drama kids have moved on to some other show, you don’t have to worry about whether people will stop liking you because of it. People who pick their friends based on music taste are kind of crappy people. Besides, Taylor Swift is cool–and she’ll only get cooler in the next five years, trust me.
I’m jealous of how much you read. Don’t worry, I still have my nose in a book most of the time, but you’re about to discover the workforce and Netflix, and those two things (not necessarily in that order) are going to eat up lots of your time.
I’m proud of you. I’m proud of how hard you work and of how often you’re beginning to try new things and of the number of adventures you want to have. I wish I could give you a hug, but spacetime doesn’t work that way, so I guess I’ll just tell you that we turn out okay. You’re gonna be fine. Embrace it.
I love us,
P.S. Spoiler alert: you and Kat are still best friends.
I’m back, baby. Follow me on Twitter @ShelbyBouck or like this blog’s page on Facebook for more non-suckage.