To My 16-Year-Old Self, On Falling in Love for the First Time

I won’t tell you not to do it, because in the end it will teach you more about life and love and yourself than you ever thought possible. The business of regret is a dangerous one.

If I could, I would tell you this: you think you’re starting the adventure of your life; just don’t lose yourself along the way. Not everything is meant to last forever. And that’s alright.

I would tell you: stand your ground. It’s OK to get angry, even if says he loves you. There will be other boys who say it and mean it more than he ever could. At the end of the day, don’t blame him. He is just as young and scared as you are. But don’t ever, ever blame yourself. The things that make him unhappy do not have to be your undoing.

I’d remind you to be kind to yourself. Being 16 is hard, no matter what happens. Please know that you are loved more deeply and widely than you know, and by people who will stay in your life much longer than he does. Don’t forget that for a second.

I’d tell you that you are beautiful. But more importantly, you are vast and brilliant and infinite and brave and witty and flawed, and you pretend to like tea and you always cheat at “Clue” and it’s endearing how you put too much thought into your Halloween costumes but sometimes forget your own birthday. And you are improbably good at rapping and solidly mediocre at driving and you can out-quote just about anybody on Harry Potter, and most importantly of all, I would tell you that not a damn single one of those things has anything to do with him.

You are not what he thinks of you. You are the books on your shelf and the song lyrics Sharpied on your arm. You are five feet of blood and flesh and sinew and spirit, and you have existed for 16 years without knowing his name. There was a you before and there will be a you after. And in the grand scheme of things, three years of your life isn’t that many. Don’t get caught up in semantics. Don’t wallow in self-pity. Don’t let him make you small. When you are up past 2AM and crying because he won’t answer your texts, just go to bed. The next day when he smiles and shrugs it off, don’t just nod and take his hand. Don’t let him make you feel guilty about spending a Friday night watching scary movies with your friends.

Don’t be afraid to be loud and messy and brash just because he might not approve. And when the day comes, at 19, when a two-minute phone call effectively ends a three-year period of your life, leaving you gasping for air on the floor of your tiny dorm room, don’t let it ruin you. Let yourself be sad. Buy ice cream. Cry on the phone to your mom. Call him bad names until you run out of them. Revel in the past tense.

You have loved. You will love again.

Learn to be by yourself. Make new friends. Apologize to the old ones. Go to rock concerts and take road trips and laugh too loud and silence the part of your mind that wonders what he’s doing. Know that a blissful sunny day will come when you’re driving in your car and that song will come on the radio and actually make you smile. Trust in yourself. Most importantly, never stop believing in love stories.

And one day, when it all comes around again, you will be ready. You will be cautious and guarded. You will not give yourself over as easily and completely as you did at 16. You will stumble and cry and worry. But it will be so much better the second time around.

Lizzie Benson is a blogger, a theater student, and a cat enthusiast. She can probably out-quote you on the X-Files and she’s 99% certain she was a mermaid in another life. When she grows up, she wants to be a writer, an actor, or a vampire slayer. On her blog,, she writes about lifestyle, fashion, DIY, and anything else that tickles her fancy.

Filed Under