Dear Teenage Me

Published in the Ferndale Record, April 29, 2015

I’ve been thinking about you and what I would tell you if I could. Now that I’m a whole lot older than you, and have a wee bit of experience, here goes.

First – you are perfect just the way you are. I know this because our dad, who always spoke the truth, told me this on several occasions. I don’t think he meant ‘perfect’ in the sense that you and I never made mistakes, just that we didn’t have to try so hard to be something we’re not. That’s what I’m telling you, Teenage Me, you are good enough, and much better at most things than you think.

Don’t use a small voice, ever. Keep laughing too loud, talking too much and acting too silly. When people say you are too ‘something,’ take it as a compliment. You’ve become a woman who, frankly, is too much at times. It has caused only occasional problems, but mostly served you well. Keep it up. Be bold, live out loud. Don’t cower.

Next – you spend a lot of time being afraid. You fear the death of a loved one, spiders, not understanding, failing, succeeding, what other people think. Stop it. If you’re going to be afraid, save it for something really big like skydiving. Otherwise, roll with it. Stuff happens. People die. Life gets messy. Meet these things where they live and don’t smudge your innate curiosity with worry.

Also – boys and clothes are important. I get it. But they’re only miniscule parts of your huge life. Spend more time thinking about what you really like (besides boys and clothes). Go deep into music, writing and dance. Don’t think, not even for a second, that the dark-haired boy (who almost has a mustache) in your French class, or the sweater you have on layaway at Lipman’s are tickets to personal happiness. If you get how great you already are, those things won’t matter anyway.

Another thing – money. The older you has learned hard lessons about this. So, even though you’d rather spend than save, develop a healthy respect for what money can and cannot do. You know those three part time jobs you have? Be grateful that people pay you to baby sit, sling tacos and teach children piano lessons because there are days ahead when jobs and money won’t come as easily. I think you know this, so really enjoy what you’ve got, and it wouldn’t hurt to sock away a little of your extra dough – and you DO have extra.

The other thing about money: Don’t rely on anyone – the government, your parents or a man – to pay your way. Money comes from work. This is a tough lesson you don’t want to know, but it’s the truth.

So, Teenage Me, here’s the deal. I don’t really want to be you anymore. But if I could, in a Star Trek kind of way, go back in time for a few minutes, I would hug you hard, brush your long hair, and tell you all of this. Then I would assure you that you will love and be loved by many, I’d ask for a piece of our mom’s German Chocolate Cake, hug you again, and magically re-inhabit my current life.

Thank you for your part in our ride. I still feel like you sometimes.

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