Wednesday, December 14, 2011

a letter to sixteen year old me

Dear me,

I know you think your life is over because M. dumped you for G. and he dedicated your song to her at the roller rink. But trust me on this: he is not the last boy you will love. In fact, you won't find the one you are meant to be with when you are 20. Or even 30. It will take years and years, and finally when you have nearly given up, there he will be. It will be so worth it, because you will appreciate love more than if you had it for the taking early on in your life. And even though you will be alone so many years and spend so many breakups sobbing on a series of kitchen floors, you also will met a series of fascinating, odd, unsuitable men who weren't quite right, but who will take you all sorts of places and teach you all sorts of things: how to fly fish, how to walk in the steep mountains, how to fix your own brakes. You don't want to miss out on that. And BTW, Air Supply? Luckily, your musical tastes will change. P.S. You dodged a bullet. M. gets fat.

Cherish your independence. I don't know where you found it, but keep it. In the years to come you will fight fires, drive across the country alone numerous times, hike off-trail, rappel into caves, skydive, and backpack solo. There are few women who will do some of these things. Don't wait around for a man to come along. That's not your style.

Lose the self-criticism. Your New Years resolution is to "Walk Better." I know it's hard to be sixteen, but rest assured: soon, very soon, you will find a place where you feel beautiful. In the wilderness, you can forget your hairbrush (and use a fork instead) and it will be the one place where you feel completely comfortable. It's coming, just wait for it. High school does not last forever. And it's true, you will never need to know chemistry.

But speaking of that, do you have to think you are going to major in English with an emphasis in creative writing? I realize you love writing. But think about it. You love being outside. Take a biology class, would you?

Don't run so much. You will be obsessed with it for years, and your knees will take a beating. You will run marathons and half marathons and countless 5 and 10Ks.  On second thought, keep running. There's no other feeling like it. You will run in the coastal rainforest, in the baked-hard desert, in the swamp, you will run everywhere. Enjoy it while you are young and fast and can run a sub-21 5K. Your times will slow as you get older, believe me. You won't like it, but you will learn to love running for its own sake, not for a PR or a medal. But stay off the pavement!

Honestly, you don't have to work every month of your life. You will never take unemployment, even when you are stuck washing dishes. You will pass up some interesting turns in the road because of this. A man with ice blue eyes will offer you your own cabin, accessed across the Salmon River by a cable bridge. You will hesitate, not because of the man, but because of the chance to live winter-deep, writing by a wood stove, skiing out your back door. I know what you will do, but you don't, not yet.

Yes, you will get out of this town. In fact, you will travel for years and years, trying to find a place you can call home. Even when you think you have found it, there will still be times when you think: New Zealand. Bali? Costa Rica. Stanley, Idaho. You're just one of those restless people. Live with it.

That perm? Lose it.

Sunscreen. Stop that "lying out" with Tanning Oil. Sun-In will not turn your hair blonde either. Wrinkles are not pretty.

Take care, sixteen year old me. Your life ahead is full of excitement, tragedy, rivers, mountains. Go out and live it.

Love, Me

Please share! What would you say to your sixteen year old self?


  1. I don't think my sixteen year old self would believe all the things she'd do later if I were to tell her. She and I, yet the same person, are so remarkably different in more ways than not. Probably the best thing I could say is this: High school ends, so just get through it. The best years come afterward, I swear. Also, lose the perm. haha.

  2. I love it! I think my 16 year old self was too stubborn to listen -- my mom tried to impart all this wisdom but my brain wasn't developed enough to compute.

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  4. Who knows what I would say to 16 year old me. Maybe plan more and party less. Look at what you love to do and comes easy to you. That is your career.

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  6. Great letter. My own would probably read something like yours. I would definitely tell her to stop obsessing over that one guy who was completely aloof for the entire three months they dated, and might even divulge that three years later she'd find out he's gay anyway. That her life isn't really going to turn out anything like she thinks it's going to, so she might as well enjoy the strange saga that is high school, and attend as many smoky basement punk rock concerts as she can, because she's going to get too old to tolerate those fast.

  7. I would tell her: Everything's gonna be okay. Or, okay enough. You will be given what you need. THings won't be how you expect or what you think you want, but they will be good. Be willing to take what is given, and you'll get great things. PS as long as you're healthy, being fat is not the worst thing in the world. It's not as bad as being unkind, for example.

  8. Thanks for all the great comments so far. Let me clarify the "fat" comment because it sounded, well, a bit mean. I realize some people are overweight despite their best efforts. However in my life I need a companion who has the desire and ability to do something--anything--athletic. My health is so important to me and so is being physically fit. I wouldn't have anything in common with a man who did not like to exercise and who cared about the extra effort his heart had to go through to support being overweight. I have to disagree that fat is healthy. We all have our little non negotiables and that is mine. I certainly do not mean to offend anyone who is trying hard to be fit. In the case of M., that was not true.

  9. Love it. I will have to think about what I would tell my 16 y/o self and get back to you later on that.

    I agree totally with you on being physically fit as a non-negotiable. It is and was always one of my first priorities in life. If you cant keep up with me then I guess you just aren't the one.

  10. I have to agree with Danni, my sixteen year old self was not good at listening or taking advice. But I would tell her that there will be a wonderful life waiting, outside this small town and the family will have many professional paths and spend most of your life with a wonderful, supportive, fit, non-critical man. You'll have some real sorrow but also two wonderful daughters who will go out and carry out some of your own dreams!


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