All the things I wish I could tell my 16-year-old self
Dear 16 year-old me: You know what? High school really isn’t the end of you. It’s only the beginning. No, seriously. You spend too much time thinking you’re never enough for anyone (you are), too many wasted minutes wondering if he’ll call you back (he won’t), and too little of your life knowing how incredibly beautiful, talented, and amazing you really are. It probably doesn’t feel like it, but the time will fly by so fast, you’ll barely have time to blink.
If you want to get through the next decade-and-a-half with self-worth, confidence, and a truer sense of purpose, I have a few things I want to tell you, a few things you need to hear. So you aren’t wandering through your life as if it has no deeper meaning than just passing time until the next big thing, the next boyfriend, the next job, the next whatever. Because you know deep down it’s a lonely way to live, and dear me, I don’t want you to be so lonely for years to come.
Here it goes.
You want to be a writer, so write
Don’t just talk about all the things you want to write about—get busy writing them. It doesn’t matter if you’re 16 or 70. If you have a dream, you have to do the work. Not everyone will love what you write, but that’s OK. And that leather-bound notebook clutched between your palms? Don’t trash it. There’s brilliance in there, you’ll see. But like a fresh Polaroid, you need some time to develop and that, my dear, is something you can’t rush no matter how badly you want it. You will be a writer. So write.
Love won’t be easy, but don’t stop trying
You know how precious a solid relationship is, you will also want to bail the second things get hard. Because you’re scared. Because you’re sure it won’t last anyway. But keep going, and keep trying, and it’s going to work out. The truth is, you DO deserve to be loved. Don’t fret. Things are going to be alright.
Your body is beautiful, no matter what the scale says
You are consumed by those stupid, little numbers on the scale and you know what? Have you met you? I guarantee no one is talking about your weight. I know it’s hard not to get consumed about what you look like and how you feel in your clothes. But listen: Being a little heavier doesn’t make you less of a person. Your friends think you’re fab, you’ll have boyfriends who’ll second that sentiment, and you’ll soon see that you’re beautiful no matter what number is on that contraption. Your self-worth isn’t determined by your size.
Don’t give up on your dreams, even when you really really want to
This part is going to sound scary, but it’s not: Stuff isn’t going to be roses all the time. There are going to be days where you want to roll up in a ball and cry on the bathroom floor. You will shake your fists at the sky and wonder why everything has to be so hard. But it’s really important to keep going. It will be a long road and you will have a lot of near misses and make a lot of mistakes. But you know you can do it, you’ll get there. Those mistakes and missteps are part of the process. Trust.
Find people to be role models, not rivals
You’ve picked a field where you’re going to hear A LOT of “no” or “it’s not for me.” You’ll make tons of friends and acquaintances who will seem to have their dreams come true overnight. It will feel unfair and your first reaction will be to think you’re not good enough and it will never happen for you. But don’t focus on that feeling. Use those successful people who achieve their goals to inspire you. The Neil Gaimans and Stephen Kings. There are SO many writers to look up to in SO many forms who prove being a “real” writer is simply having the courage to write. Period. Learn from them. Just because they’re making things happen doesn’t mean it won’t happen for you. Believe in yourself but take constructive criticism so you can grow. At times, it will seem like the whole world is against you. They’re not. Keep your chin up.
I’m not going to lie. You have a few hard lessons to learn in love, career, and life. But you’re going to get through them because you’re stronger than you think; always have been. And in the end, when you look back at those teen years, you’ll be grateful for every hard choice you had to make, every fail, and every tear. Because they’re what made you, you.
[Image via iStock]