write a letter to my teenage self

Write a Letter to My Teenage Self

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What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson


I am really excited to have this chance to talk to you. I want you to know that high school is hard, it never actually gets easier for you, but you’ll survive!

I know that these people and this place feel like the entire world, but you will be so surprised at how quickly high school and these people who make you feel less than will cease to matter. You won’t even think of them again almost from the day after graduation until this strange new thing is invented, called Facebook. So don’t even worry for one more minute what their opinions of you are because there is so much more in life than the classrooms and hallways of high school. 

I know that you worry that you are a weirdo and a freak and that’s okay. The good news is that you are okay. The bad news is that even as a grownup you still feel that way and still struggle with feeling worthy and good enough. But the real secret if you can embrace it and thoroughly believe it (I’m still working on that) is that everyone feels that way. Even the popular, successful kids. It’s part of the human condition that none of us are escaping from.

Your parents are weird and frustrating but I want you to cherish the time that you have with them. Enjoy them more, ask them questions. Go to Taco Bell with Mom or to McDonald’s for sundaes with Dad whenever they ask. Eat more black jelly beans.

You won’t have nearly enough of your adult life with them that you want so enjoy it now. I know that your relationship with Mom is hard. It always will be. But she will change someday and you will move into a parent role.

Adulthood is hard without your parents’ guidance, but you will be fine. There is nothing in this world as true and deep and safe as a parent’s love and you will miss it when it’s gone, so wrap up in it and don’t hassle them quite so much. They are so glad that you exist. They think that the sun and the moon and the stars all rest upon you. I know it doesn’t always feel like that, but it’s because they don’t exactly know how to say it and they’re doing the best that they can with what they have. Life is hard for them too.

Family is the truest and deepest bond. I know that it’s hard sometimes, but these are your people. Be there for them. They will be there for you and it’s totally worth it because your family is willing to do anything for you. They will never leave you out in the cold. Spend time with them, appreciate them, even when they make it difficult to love them. They are doing the best that they can. 

True friends are hard to come by so never let go of those true friendships. Facebook will be a strange thing. It will enable you to become a voyeur in someone’s life that you don’t actually know all that well. You will see what all those popular kids who won’t give you the time of day are doing with their lives and unfortunately, they will be pretty amazing for the most part.

Seeing those people again will bring up all the pain and rejection of high school and you will still kind of hate them even decades later. But all that still doesn’t really matter because you have an amazing and beautiful life in spite of how they treated you in school. 

I know that you have crushes on so many boys and none of them even know you exist. It’s hard to go through high school and see all the couples and how many boyfriends your friends have. But there are so many other cool things to do in high school. Focus on your studies, spend time with your friends, and hang out with the folks, those things will reward you so deeply with memories and fun that dealing with the drama of relationships in high school won’t even be worth the effort. Just have fun!

You are beautiful, smart, funny, kind and perfect just the way you are.

You have dreams right now and most of them don’t actually come true. But even without those dreams you create an amazing life with an amazing man and have beautiful children and you find new dreams and so much happiness and fulfillment that those dreams of high school seem childish and weird. Don’t stop dreaming, just let go of the dreams that don’t come and enjoy the hell out of the ones that do!

You will always be the weird kid, even as an adult. And it’s fine. You are okay, you are worthy, you are smart and funny and amazing and see the world in a way that few people do and that’s part of what makes you so spectacular. Embrace it. Believe in yourself because I do. I worried so much about what people thought about me that there were so many things I didn’t do when I was your age. Do the exciting and scary things and ignore anyone who says you can’t.

You live in an amazing place and an amazing time. You have parents that love you. You know where your next meal is coming from. You have running water and medical care. Be grateful, pay attention, not everyone has those things. You live an amazing and blessed life, acknowledge it and appreciate the hell out of it!

Travel whenever you get the chance. You won’t get a ton of chances so take every single one that comes along. Traveling is the most amazing way to learn about yourself and the world around you. You will regret every travel opportunity you give up. Don’t make that mistake.

All of the stuff that feels so hard right now will pass. It doesn’t last forever and you will find your place in the world and it will be worth it. Don’t for one minute buy into the lie that you are not okay or worthy of a great life because you are!

If I can give you one piece of advice, it’s to try new things. Stop being scared or feeling not good enough, not talented enough, just not enough generally and try all those things that make your heart sing. Join the choir, try out for a play, run for NHS president, write short stories and poetry and read them out loud in class. No one in high school knows what they are doing or what they want, they’re just not afraid to try. You might fail, so what? You might succeed!

The big wide world of adulthood is scary and hard. You will make stupid decisions and you will feel the consequences of those decisions. Being an adult never stops feeling hard, but it is a different kind of hard from being a high school student. You have so much more control over your life, you get to make ALL your own choices. It is wonderful and magical and you will be so glad someday when you have grown up. So stop worrying about the future and enjoy the now. Because being in high school is pretty great too!



The author and her parents in high school (1991)

What would you say in a letter to your teenage self? Let me know in the comments below.

Email: Katie@KatieMerrill.com

Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough.

Charles Dudley Warner

P.S. If you enjoyed this letter to my teenage self, pin, and comment please =)

writing a letter to my teenage self

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