Dear 16 year-old me,
I got your letters. Sorry it's taken me so long to get back to you. I'm really not much of a letter writer, to be honest. Well, you know how it is: you think up all these really great things in your head, but getting them down onto paper with the intention of actually sending them to people just kind of makes it all seem really stupid and exposing.
I also know that you're craving advice and for someone to see you, and there's nobody there. Even as you tell yourself that's totally not it at all. I get it. I just wanted to share a few things with you that I wish someone had shared with me at your age.
1.) They Really Are Wrong. All those people --yes, all of them-- who seriously make you wonder if you're even worth the air you breathe, they're all full of it. Yeah, you're naive and they get a lot of things that you don't right now. Trust me, that's a strength. I know it doesn't seem like it right now. Being "out of it" is the worst in high school. But please believe me. You don't want to lower yourself as much as it'll take in order to be "in it."
2.) Don't Chase Him. Seriously. He's not worth it. None of them will be, and it'll be just a parade of wrecking balls on your self-esteem. You're a fantastic writer, and I promise you, you will be published some day. It'll happen so unexpectedly that you'll walk around in shock for weeks afterward. You're also a phenomenal singer and pianist. You have a very sharp brain between your ears. The world is yours for the taking. Please appreciate your talent. Do whatever you dream. He'll just get in the way. All of them.
3.) It Gets Better. All that stuff at home? You survive it. You're stronger than you know, and it's not your fault. You'll understand why, and you won't be confused. Instead, take the time to listen to your intuition; it will serve you well in the coming years once you learn how. Learn earlier and it'll save you a lot of time making up lost ground.
4.) Appreciate Your Allies. Your younger siblings are the strongest allies you have. Take more time to get to know and appreciate them. High school sucks, but the less time you wander around stuck in your own angst will be better spent savoring every moment you have with them. In a few short years you'll be in a place where years, decades, will go by in between visits with them, and the phone calls will turn to emails, and then to infrequent text messages. Savor the time you have to go down the hall and hug them any time you want.
5.) You're Stronger Than You Know. Know this.
6.) It's All Small Stuff. All that stuff you hate about high school? It's all small stuff. Don't sweat it. All those power games and popularity contests, the stupid teachers and feeling lost, it's all a rite of passage. Besides, it's not like you'll ever want to go to any of those lame reunions anyway, to preen and prove to all these people who never made a difference in your life that you're better than they are ten, fifteen, twenty years later. It's all the same drama and you're better than that. You know who your friends are. They're still around, and you love them. I know it's awkward at that age, and nobody gets your sense of humor except your strange family and your two closest friends. You're not a dork! You're off-beat and see things in unique ways. Guys will find this irresistibly hot in your late 20's and early 30's. But before you get all giddy, re-read #2 again for me.
7.) Forgive. All that stuff with your parents is tough, yeah. But I can promise you in ten years you'll gain a new understanding of the larger picture and just how hard and complex, and cruel, the world can be sometimes. When that happens, you'll work really hard to not only forgive, but to gain a friendship with your dad that you'll treasure.
8.) Keep Going. You aren't crazy. The rich world inside your head really is more vivid than the one you live in. That's okay, and never you mind what they say about it. All that time you spend inside your own head, with your own thoughts, is actually really great training for the insights and appreciation you'll have a bit later. Only maybe, if you learn to value it now, you'll save me about fifteen years of wrestling all that self-doubt. Call it enlightened self-interest from your 33 year-old self. =) Oh, and keep those awesome skirts and bell-bottoms. You might be the only one now, but that look comes back in a few years and I would kill to be able to find those fabrics again!
9.) Trust Your Instincts. I know, this one kind of goes along with learning to trust your intuition. But in a couple years, if you trust your intuition, you'll save both of us from a night of trauma that will leave its mark on us. And when you're just shy of your 31st birthday, it'll save you two years of desperation and misery when you do the wrong thing in your effort to do the right thing. Being a single mother is not so bad. And yes, you can do it.
10.) Never Lose Sight of the People Who Love You. You'll know who they are. The amazing thing is that they're everywhere. You will love them so much you will invent an entirely new family tree and graft it onto your existing one just to fit them all. There are some dark days coming ahead, but if you take my advice you'll avoid the worst of it. Giving the benefit of the doubt has never served you, and you know this already. People do show their worth by how they treat you, and it's not "rude" to stop letting them trample all over you. It's strong. If you disagree, see #5 again.
And even if you take all this and toss it to the four winds, that's okay, too. You will see us through, and we turned out just fine.