Dear Me: A Letter To My Teenage Self {a favorite repost from the archives}

Dear Me.jpg

I’m reluctant to repost things; it sort of feels like cheating. But I’m busy with a writing project this week and the deadline is right around the corner. Since I’ve got almost six years of blog content, there’s a good chance this is a new one for many of you. So today’s post is a remix from the archives.

I picked this one because I’ve been thinking quite a lot lately about the “angsty” and complicated season of life known as adolescence. I’m sure it’s because I have a teenage girl in the house and I’m remembering so much about my own teenage years all those decades ago. We all have things we wish we could do over. And even though I filter everything through the lens of grace and acceptance, I still think about those years.

Having a teenage daughter is a bit like having a living, breathing, fun-loving, Instagramming, eye-rolling, temperamental mirror walking around the house. Sometimes I hear the stuff that comes out of her mouth and then I hear the stuff that comes out of my mouth and then a little voice reminds me of truth: “Marian, she is you. She just has less of a filter and 28 years less life experience. For the love, show some grace. Also? You can learn a thing or two from her.”

Without further adieu, here you go: “A Letter to My Teenage Self.”

When this post was originally posted, it was to celebrate the release of a book for teen girls, Graceful, by author {and friend} Emily Freeman. She extended an invitation to write a letter to one’s teenage self. So I did. 

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Dear Me,

You are 15. Your limbs look like chicken legs and for this you are often teased. Your teeth are still gappy and you don’t know what to do with those ever-thickening, unruly tresses of yours. Just hang on. Everything has a way of sort of coming together eventually.

Because you will never know as much as you do right now, I doubt you’ll listen to this advice from Future You. But just in case, here’s some stuff I want you to know:

Be glad that the internet and cell phones have not been invented yet. Your silly and impulsive antics, unrestrained emotionalism, utter foolishness, and love of crazy photos {like the one of you stuffed into a locker} would have come back to haunt you.

Dads will one day put bullet holes in their kids’ laptops for such senselessness. {A laptop is a computer that’s small enough to hold on your lap. For real.} You came of age and got a clue after the advent of social media and for this you should be eternally grateful.

Going out for the track team in the 7th grade is one of the smartest things you could have done. Keep at it.

Right now running provides safe community, fun competition, a sense of identity, a voracious appetite, and ridiculous nylon shorts. But in a few short years it’ll provide the love of your life. You’ll meet him on your college cross-country team. Don’t worry, you’ll know who he is.

The gifts of running won’t stop there. When you’re a mom, running will provide some much-needed sanity. And also low blood-pressure. Seriously though, invest in good running shoes now. Do not run in Keds, navy blue or otherwise, ever again. Your future knees will thank me. Don’t be too discouraged that you’re not really very good good at running. You’re determined and in the end, that matters more than sheer talent. You’ll be 40 years old and still running. No, you will not be a grandma by that point. Forty isn’t as old as it sounds.

In the words of Stonewall Jackson, “Don’t take counsel from your fears.” When I think of the one word that best describes how you feel most of the time, it is this: afraid. Track and adolescent antics aside, the stuff that really matters is on the inside and girl, there is a lot going on in there. Bless your heart. I sense that most teenagers feel afraid but they’re too busy trying to cover it up with attention-getting foolishness or withdrawal or striving.

You’re afraid of so much — afraid of failure, afraid of disappointing anyone, afraid of what they’ll think, afraid of going unnoticed, afraid of being too noticed, afraid of the strong and powerful ideas and feelings that pulse within but have yet to find a way out, afraid of pain, afraid of your sin, afraid of God or even worse, afraid that He’s not there at all.

Learn to share your heart with those who are closest. They’re safe, I promise. You don’t need to carry this fear around day in and day out. Open up to your parents even though the thought of it kills you. Maybe even ask them to find you a counselor, not because you’re crazy but because your well runs deep. You live in the depths rather than in the shallow end. For this reason, you could use a bit of gentle guidance as you navigate those overwhelming waters.

Not everyone needs this sort of thing but God made you this way and it’s okay. It is so okay. Believe it or not, it’s actually a gift, even though it’s a tough one to carry and to steward. But one day you’ll be able to speak into the human experience in a way that will encourage others and make them feel a little less alone.

Write in your diary as much as you can. It may seem like a waste of time but for you, writing down your insides has a way of calming you on the outside.

Let’s talk about God for a second, shall we? I’ll keep it brief. I know how much your teenage self hates sermons. He is there and He is okay with all of your questions. He is not offended or angry that you secretly struggle to believe He exists. He wove your DNA so of course He knows you came into this world a bit skeptical.

Embrace your questions the way God embraces you.

You don’t have a clue yet about his boundless love and amazing grace; you haven’t really received them yet. You’re too busy striving and this breaks my heart. The Christian life is not about duty; it’s about delight. The delight that your Abba Father takes in you. Yes, you — the one who feels so insignificant and so unworthy and so unimpressive. Rest in his love. I have so much more to tell you about this but you’re already rolling your eyes so I’ll stop.

A few more random pieces of advice:

In many ways, you will never feel like your outside matches your inside. You will always appear more conventional than you really are. For Heaven’s sake, take some risks while you’re young and can still get away with it. It’s okay to indulge that artsy, bohemian spirit of yours. Let people think what they will. In the words of Madonna {who you listen to under the radar when your parents aren’t paying attention}, Express Yourself.

Quit hoping to be important and let your gifts be your guide. You’re not going to law school after all so when you get to college, ditch the Economics major and maybe the Political Science one while you’re at it. Keep the History major though. This will be your livelihood and you’ll love it. Maybe add in Journalism and French instead. Or Art. You’ve got creative gifts that don’t feel legit to you; therefore you ignore them. This is a crying shame. Your gifts should always be your guide. Don’t pursue something because it’s big and important; pursue what makes you come alive.

Boys. Be glad they don’t notice you yet. They are a complete waste of time at this stage in their development and yours. Enjoy your friends. Go to the prom with a group of girls and dance ‘til you can dance no more. Boys will eventually come into your life and it just gets complicated after that. You’re simply a late bloomer and this is a blessing in disguise. Trust me.

Accept how you look and be patient. You’ll get braces next year and you’ll love your smile a lot more after that. That curly hair of yours will get wilder every year until the end of college. Your friends are paying $100 for spiral perms yet you rage against the curls you got for free. Oh my word, stop it. It is 1989, the pinnacle of huge hair. Your hair is in its glory day, so rock that curly mane of yours! One day you’ll have babies and pregnancy hormones will be the death of your bouffant tresses. Love your big hair while it lasts.

Celebrate scarcity. It is making you quite resourceful. I know the budget is tight and you resent that every girl in the world {except you} has Guess jeans and expensive loafers. You’re forced to raid the closets of everyone in the whole house but you somehow leave for school each day looking relatively put together, albeit running late. But guess what? One day you’ll be the girl your friends call to help them maximize their wardrobe and redecorate their houses using what they already have. Limitations aren’t always a bad thing.

Love your family. They are a treasure. Your younger siblings are mere children right now and you sometimes long to be an only child in order to have more attention. But one day you’ll all grow up to be amazing friends. You’ll vacation together and love them {and their families} like crazy so how about loving them a little bit more right now?

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Okay, so you’re not actually a teenager in this picture but it’s Future You’s favorite family photo. Look how you’re toting a matching purse and Emily’s clutching a Bible the size of her head. Your perfect accessories had nothing on her righteousness.


I’m almost done but just hear me out on a few more things:

Solitude is your friend. You’re not actually an extrovert; you just get all of your worth and value from people and that’s why you “need” to be around them. You don’t. But you won’t figure this out until you’re in your 30s. Spend more time buried in books, journals, and sketch-pads. Take a walk by yourself. These are the ways your contemplative soul recharges.

Busy-ness and stress are killing you. Slow down and rest — please. Rest is more important than attending every single youth activity and skipping a social event won’t kill you. Learn to say no. Naps are your friend. Staying up crazy late to study is so not worth it. Every so often you have a breakdown and I suspicion it’s simply exhaustion. Sleep equals sanity. Please believe me on this.

Your mom has given you some profound advice but you already know everything so you’re not listening. Besides, it sounds too simple to be profound:

You be you.

Camp out in this advice. Talk to her about it. You’ll spend the next twenty years trying to be everyone but you. Identity will always be a struggle but it doesn’t have to be. There are clues all around; you just need to take some time to notice the becoming.

But first, go take a nap. You stayed up too late finishing homework while watching The Love Boat. Again.
Love,

40-year-old You {And quit rolling your eyes…it’s not as old as it sounds.}

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I’ve found that remembrance is often the gateway to grace. When I remember the insecurity, the fear, the awkwardness, the emotional volatility — I’m so much better at picking my battles. I’m better at absorbing the unwelcome behavior and seeing what’s driving the issues my child is struggling with. Remembering has a way of supplying wisdom and tendering my own frustrated spirit.

What would you tell your teenage self? And for those of you with teenagers in your house, what do you want them to know? What life lessons do you hope to pass on to them?

*book link is an amazon affiliate link

Comments

  1. mom says

    Hindsight, whether it’s 20/20 or not, produces reflective wisdom that is both screamingly hilarious and soberly pensive. I loved this . . . again! And I love you . . . forever.

  2. Kristen says

    I read and loved this when you originally posted it but it seems even more poignant to me today. My only daughter will be 15 on Sunday. Thank you for the reminder to give her more grace! Posts like this cause so many memories to come flooding back! Also, I think we had the same Easter dress in 1982? The navy sundress with white jacket! Love it! Mine also had a little red cherry pin/corsage thing on the jacket. Tan hose and sandals included!

  3. Deborah Vischer says

    Such insight from hindsight. All moms need this letter for their daughters. Love, mom in law

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