Dear 16-Year-Old Me,
I have good news for you.
After ten years of having your license you still have not caused a car accident. You will be rear-ended in a few months, you will experience a car breaking down on you more than 20 times, but you’ll learn a lot about cooling systems, jump-starting a dead battery, and how to know when the guy at the Chevy Chase BP is trying to pull one over on you. Dealing with auto shops as a solo 16-year-old young woman will teach you to stop being so trusting. It’ll toughen you up more than you realize.
But right now you aren’t thinking about that. Right now, you’re just extremely excited about that party coming up. Fair warning, it will not be like the movies. Not even close. The police will bust the party, it will make national news, and you’ll nearly get hypothermia hiding in the woods (okay maybe a little like the movies, but not in the way you hope). The K9 dog that finds you will lick your face and be such a comfort. His name is Red and when you have to blow a breathalyzer in front of Dad he’ll stand next to you. Somehow, you’ll blow a 0.0 and get to go home. And then, you’ll get to experience one of the best parenting moments of your life.
You’ll wait at home, standing in the kitchen, anticipating the brutal verbal lashing you’re in for. When Dad gets home he’ll just say eight words: “You know that was really stupid, don’t you?” and then send you to bed. That moment will stick with you for a long time. You know how close you came to getting kicked off the track team right before states, you know you put your college acceptance in jeopardy, and Dad knew that you did. You’ll start to carefully measure the risks you take. You’ll still make some pretty bold moves over the next decade, but you’ll have carefully calculated just how much you’re risking.
A couple weeks later you’ll have a heart to heart with Mom that you think about every day. She’ll tell you about all the potential she sees for you and you’ll start to see it too. You’ll realize how close college is and how expansive that is. Don’t be overwhelmed, be enthused. Let yourself be full of passion and potential and energy. Explore every nook and cranny of who you and who you may become.
I want to talk to you a little bit about friends. There will be a lot of people that go in and out in your life over the next ten years, especially as you leave for college, but there will be one that will stay. You will be one of the lucky few people to have a friend that lasts longer than a decade. You will share laughs, tears, and deep details about who you are with this amazing woman. You will grow out of the place of jealousy you can regress into and be genuinely happy to watch your friend achieve so much. You will learn how to be happy with you, instead of pining to be someone else. Your friends will teach you how to genuinely rejoice in another’s success. You will grow into an extremely empathetic person because of it. You will feel deeply and because of that, you will hurt deeply.
You’re only 16, so you haven’t had your heart broken yet. Maybe you thought you had when your middle school boyfriend broke up with you via the carnations that every other girl was getting as a gesture of love, but you haven’t. You haven’t had that moment when he tells you it’s over and the floor drops out. That moment when your blood feels heavy as lead in your veins. You won’t have that series of moments of seeing him every day on your tiny college campus, crossing paths and sharing classes. You have two more years before you’ll truly get hurt. Consider yourself immensely lucky. When it comes to love, run your own race. I’m so proud of you for never stressing about other people having experiences before you or thinking that you were “behind”. Remember, you’re always right on time for your own life. And when you curse ever even considering locking into a degree at SMCM (a school you are now so eagerly applying to) remember that it’s the place you’ll be both hurt and healed.
Be patient with yourself. Be kind and generous and accepting. You will have a rough time in your late teens, early 20s. You will struggle with an ED, you will have your heart broken, you will see a very ugly side of the world. But for now, just relish the bliss of your ignorance and stay hopeful for everything to come. You are growing into someone who is fiercely independent and confident and capable. It’s a beautiful thing, but don’t let it make you think that vulnerability is equivalent to weakness. Ask for help, ask for support. You’re going to need it.
Be authentic. Learn appreciation without expectation. And do not give up on us because we get (or are getting) there.
So much love,
PS: I know you didn’t PR at States, but you will next year 😉
PPS: Get a haircut specifically for curly hair and let the ringlets rage.
PPPS: Stop plucking your eyebrows.