On Good Morning America this morning, they were profiling a new book which was made up of letters that various people wrote to their 16 year old selves. Some were celebrities, athletes, authors, people from all walks of life. It got me thinking. What would I tell my 16 year old self. Just before my 16th birthday, I started my Junior year in High School. I was deeply ensconced in the shadow of an older sister who was a senior, a basketball hero and bigger than me, and I was trying to find my own way. I was doing so many things, trying desperately to find the thing that felt right, that made me feel "all right" and "good enough." I had friends, but struggled with the idea that there were people with whom I did not fit in. I had a boyfriend and constantly wondered if I was good enough and was always waiting for a reason to break up, so that I wouldn't have to wait for him to break my heart and leave me. I was tall and gangly, projecting a secure and upbeat persona to the world and hugging my teddy bear at night. I dreamt of a car for my birthday, and instead got a desk for my bedroom and a teddy bear that I picked out at CostCo. Here is what I would say.
Dear 16 Year old Me,
Having been through a few more years and seen a few more things, I wanted to give you some notes to help you through the next few years.
Family - Go sit down and talk to Grandma Wolf and Grandpa and Grandma Norton. Find out all that you can about them and take notes. Video tape them if you can. Ask them to tell you stories about when they were children, where they came from, their siblings and what life was like. You won't have the opportunity to really know your Dad, so ask Grandma Wolf about him. Get as much information as possible from her about who he was as a little boy and what his life was like. Ask Grandma Norton about Mom. Find out what she was like as a little girl. Learn the secrets that even at 37, you still haven't learned directly from her. There will come a day when your grandparents will be gone and you will wish that you could give (and get) one more hug and spend one more day talking. So go do it now.
Sports - Using something I heard this morning, "Play your own game." Right now, you are still "Trixie's Little Sister" or "Wolf 3." It may not seem like it, but there will come a time when you will succeed (or fail) on your own merits, when the people that you play with will not know your sister and will have no idea what she did before you. On the volleyball court, I know you are struggling right now with riding the pine, hoping for that day when you will "shine." It will come. You will excel, you will succeed and you will be a star in your own right.
Men - ugh. To quote (probably incorrectly) something I have seen and heard many times before: "The boys who make you cry aren't worth it. And the boys who are worth it won't make you cry." Or something like that. It holds true. You are not defined by the guys that you date or don't date. Even when it seems like everyone else is in love or in a relationship, be secure in just being you. Don't give in to the pressure to have a boyfriend or a date just because everyone else is doing it. And in February of you junior year, when he really puts the pressure on you to "take the next step" in your relationship, just say "no!" There is plenty of time to experience sex and trust me, you are not ready for it. Something else - get to know yourself and who you like to be when no one else is around. Only when you are comfortable being by yourself, will you be comfortable being with anyone else. One more thing - this year's guy is not "the one." And next year's model is not "the one" either. They will show you things about yourself that will make you stronger, but they are not the solution to your problems or the keepers of your dreams. Don't let them be. You are the solution and the key.
Life in General - Don't compromise! People will continue to laugh at you and tell you that you cannot accomplish all that you want to. Ignore them. You'll get there. But just a warning, you will have to eat ramen noodles for a few years while you are in grad school. It gets better though and there is Prime Rib in your future! You will have days that will break your heart. You will make friends and lose friends. You will laugh and cry, smile with utter joy and scream in pure anger. You will make it through all of that and you will come out on the other side. You haven't written your novel or screenplay yet, but we're still working on it. You will continue to take pictures and you will drive everyone nuts with it. When you are older and have kids, you will have scrapbooks full of pictures from you senior year in high school, so make sure to save up now for the film. Your older daughter loves looking at pictures of you in high school.
School - No matter what Mr. Havens says, you probably will not use that math in real life. Tell Mr. P. that he will run for office someday. We suggest a certain "Oval" office would fit him nicely. Remember to thank Mrs. Pelton for introducing you to mystery novels. But tell her that you still read romance novels too. There will come a time when you will not be called a "nerd" or a "geek" for liking school, so keep at it. Believe me, there are places where people compete to have the best grades (and some are pretty cut-throat about it too!)
There is a big, big world outside of Jefferson, Ohio. You know it even now at 16, and you often dream of seeing it. You will. Trust me, you will.
Love, You at 37.