This is the first guest post in what I hope will be a series: A Letter to My 16-Year-Old Self . Thank you to Kim for being inspired to write a letter and being willing to share it with me (and you). You can find more of Kim’s writing at Blooming Boy. I invite you to write a letter to your 16-year-old self. If you want, send it to me.
Dear 16-year-old Me,
You’re not fat. You are so not fat. I would gladly trade my body for yours.
You could read a lot more books if you didn’t spend so much time curling, teasing, and spraying your hair. Please stop immediately.
Your boyfriend is not the love of your life. And you are not the love of his. It’s really okay.
No matter what Madame Weigant says, do not bother taking the AP French exam.
Don’t wear so much makeup. You don’t need it. I know your Aunt Peggy spackles it on and you are emulating her, and that it’s still 1986 where you are. But you are pretty without it. On second thought, I would give anything to see Aunt Peggy and her blue eyeshadow again, so maybe you should go ahead and pull out the blusher. It’s not going to kill you. It didn’t kill her. That was something else entirely. Which reminds me, I’m glad you don’t smoke. Don’t start.
On a related note, don’t spend so much time arguing with your dad. Actually, scratch that too. Go ahead and argue with him. He’s pretty busy these days and isn’t paying enough attention to you. So talk back. Be sassy and sarcastic. Get his attention. Don’t make the mistake, however, of thinking that he doesn’t love you. Because he does. He really does. He’s doing the best he can. Try not to take him for granted, because he won’t live forever either. Enjoy all those Sunday breakfasts he likes to make for you.
It may seem like it now, but the Challenger explosion is not the biggest news story of your lifetime.
When it comes to college, don’t bother applying to UVA or Cornell or American. The University of Maryland is just fine, despite the whole Len Bias thing. Later, your heart will tug every time you spread out that tattered wool picnic blanket covered in Terrapins, which you will keep in the car and bring everywhere.
When you get to UMD, do not spend so much time pining after buffoons. Most of those guys do not deserve you. Or even if they do, they don’t deserve so much of you, so soon. Respect yourself.
While you’re there, try not to pick three majors that sound vaguely interesting or like something somebody ought to major in but don’t fire up your soul. Just save yourself and your college counselor the time and angst and choose a major based on what you love—reading and writing. (Just don’t expect to make any money.)
Love your friends, but don’t be sad if they drift away in the coming years. You will meet many more new friends at every stage of your life. Some of the old friends will come around again in surprising ways, and then before you know it, the new friends will be old ones too. Cherish the rich pageant of people you meet.
Also, and this is very, very important: There will be a tall guy with spiked hair who can’t stop looking at you at a recycling conference in Orlando in September 1997. Don’t laugh. There really are recycling conferences and you will actually go to one. Anyway, the spiked-hair guy. Pay attention to him. He figures prominently in your life story.
Finally, dear Kim, don’t worry about getting old. Here’s a secret: When you are my age, you will still feel much the same inside. You will still be you. Love yourself. Or, if you really don’t know how to do that yet, know that I love you from here. And I’m still looking out for you.