Letter to My 16 Year Old Self

I just read a great book called Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self, edited by Joseph Galliano.

The letters in the book are funny, sad, poignant, and uplifting by turns.  I highly recommend the book.  There are glimpses inside other people that surprised me, and others that made me feel as if I weren’t alone.

Of course it made me wonder what I would tell my 16 year old self if I had the opportunity.  I wonder if I would really tell myself anything if I could send a letter by wormhole post.  On one hand, it might give me the opportunity to avoid a lot of unneeded pain.  On the other hand, even if I would listen, I wonder if I had made better decisions if I would have ended up in a different place in my life.  I like my life now, and I think I learned some things.  Even my painful memories have value now.

So, if I were going to tell my 16 year old self something, it would probably be this:

Dear 16 year old me-

I know you don’t want to listen to what anyone says, but this is you talking, just an older and sometimes wiser you, so you should probably listen.

I get it.  I know what’s going on and what’s going through your head.  You’re not crazy (believe me, you’re a little wacky, and definitely kooky, but not crazy), and you’re not alone.  I know you feel alone, but that’s your choice.

Learn to talk to other people a little more about what’s going on with you.  That’s still a hard one for you almost 20 years later, but maybe we would have made more progress if you had started earlier.  You’re not crazy.  (I can’t emphasize this enough).  People might think you are, and that’s okay.  You spend a lot of time pretending not to care about what anyone thinks of you.  You’ll never completely overcome that tendency to say dumb things when you’re nervous and want people to like you, but there are good people out there who won’t care (or who will at least pretend they don’t).

Nothing you’re doing now is life or death.  Don’t take yourself so seriously.  Have a little more fun.  No one cares about your grades, and they make no real difference in your life.  I’m not saying not to get good grades; you just don’t have to be so neurotic about it.

Keep writing!  When you get to college, start submitting to magazines.  The psychology degree is a good choice for you, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t start getting things published now.  That being said, you aren’t as good of a writer as you think you are.  You will be, but you need to start interacting with others and taking their advice on things.  It wouldn’t kill you to take some creative writing classes in college.  People who criticize you aren’t doing it because they hate you.  Get off your emo high horse and start learning from what others have to say.

Please, please stop being such a know it all.  I know it’s just out of nervousness since it’s easier to talk about facts than other stuff, but here’s a secret that’s really not a secret:  It doesn’t endear you to people.  We’re still working on it, but if you would start now, it would help.

Computers aren’t evil and they aren’t out to ruin your life.  In fact, you’re going to grow to love them.  Your laptop is going to be one of your best friends and truest loves.  Get out and look around more.  Don’t stop writing in your diary.  It doesn’t have to be every day, but those observations are something you’ll want to look back on.  Most of all, I want you to know that you’re good at choosing friends.  The ones you have now will last forever.

If you listen to nothing else, just listen to this: get out more, have more fun, keep writing.

With love and much amusement,

Older me

Readers have submitted letters to the website.  You can check them out (or just get more information on the book) at www.dearme.org