In November, I wrote a post I called, "An open letter to my teen-age son." It was exactly what it sounds like – a letter, addressed to my kid. I think it was an especially effective piece of writing, and I enjoyed expressing my thoughts in that format. Since then, I’ve been trying to come up with another topic I could explore in letter form, and I got to thinking about what I might say to myself as a teen. Here’s one possible approach. (And, yes, like most of my posts, it is completely self-indulgent. Sue me.)
Dear Amy (age 16):
Ah, you sweet, shy, little perfectionist. First and foremost, calm down! The journey that gets you to where I am today (um, you, at age 40), is worth all the time and trouble. I wouldn’t want you to change a thing because I really like you, um… me … these days.
I know you won’t believe it now, but at 40, you’ll truly be the best possible version of yourself. You’ll have a self-awareness that only comes with maturity and experience. And you’ll finally have started taking care of your mental and physical health. You look good, and you feel even better. You are content, full of gratitude and in active pursuit of your bliss, professionally and personally. (An’ you don’t take no shizz offa nobody.)
First, let me assure you that all those “really big deals” right now? Yeah, you won’t remember half of them by the time you reach 40. And the ones you do remember will just amount to amusing anecdotes you’ll happily share at parties.
Oh, and that knot of anxiety that consumes you when you stand up in front of a room full of people? Yeah, it’ll barely be a flutter in your stomach, and even that will disappear as soon as you start talking. You’re going to get lots of practice being in the spotlight during the next 20+ years. (Don’t hyperventilate! You will revel in it, I promise.)
Another thing… all those people in high school who you think don’t notice you? Not only do they notice you, a couple of them are intimated by you. They think you’re too good for them, not the other way around. They also think you’re pretty and smart. Y’know why? Because you are. You’ll find all this out when you run into old classmates post- graduation, starting somewhere around 1995.
This I know you won’t believe, but I would be remiss if I didn’t advise you to treasure the body you have now. Your thighs and abs are perfect, trust me. At 40, not so much. But by then, you won’t care. In fact, you’ll wear that teeny bikini anyway, because getting an even tan is more important than what people think about how you look in it. It’s very liberating.
Girl, it’s gotta be said. Quit already with the perms, I don’t care what your mom says! They do not give your hair more body. They just fry it to the point of submission. Here’s another tidbit, I know how much you like dying your hair black now, but in 10 years you’ll go blond and never be content as a brunette again.
Another point I have to make about your body image… that 2-inch scar on your upper arm? The one that you are so self-conscious about right now that you wouldn’t dare go out in public wearing a sleeveless shirt? Yeah, in a few short years, your summer uniform will consist of nothing but tank tops, and if someone asks you about the scar, you’ll have to look down at your arm to recall what they’re even talking about. Here’s the kicker: the scar won’t be any different, but you will be.
On a more serious topic… you’ll be 10 years into your career before you'll have enough faith in your abilities to grow some ambition. It will be another five before you’ll believe you are smart enough to run your own business. At 40, you’ll be telling stories you choose. For a living. It’s just exactly as awesome as it sounds.
In the romance department, by age 40, you’ll have had some great loves in your life, full of equal doses of passion and pain. (Beware the blue-eyed ones; they seem to be your Achilles' Heel.) The laughter balances out the tears, and the lessons you learn along the way bring you to a place of peace. Yes, by the time you reach 40, you finally know who you are, what you want, and that you can be OK all on your own. You've stopped waiting for a hero to rescue you... you've gone and rescued yourself!
On a related note…. that hole in your soul you can’t seem to plug today? You’ll gain a faith that not only seals it, it fills it nearly to the brim. It stays empty for a good long while, though, I won’t lie. It’s got to, though, or you wouldn’t appreciate the solution that takes it away.
Finally, and probably most important… you are really going to love being a mom. Your son will be the single greatest joy of your life, but he will also present the biggest challenges. You won’t be perfect, and neither will he. Give both of you permission to screw up. Even on your worst days, the love and connection the two of you share can’t be broken.
No, the next 20-something years aren’t just one smooth trip down the highway. Fortunately, you have an amazing circle of friends who join you for the ride.
One thing's for certain, it's never boring. Turns out you visit some spotty back roads and trashy alleys along the way. But trust me when I say that most of the scenery is breathtaking, and the destination is pretty damn close to paradise.
With much love,
Amy (age 40)
About Amy Higgs
A former newspaper columnist, Amy takes her random, slice-of-life stories to the web. After nine years, she's still just saying.