If You Could Write a Letter to Your 14-Year-Old Self, What Would You Say?

Letters to young girlsI’m a single mother, so I don’t have the benefit of having a husband to co-parent with me on a day-to-day basis. And that can suck, though I don’t spend a lot of time boo-hooing about it. (It can actually have an upside too, since I don’t have to squabble over decisions, either.) I am, however, blessed to have a wonderful support system, my “village” composed of blood relatives, extended family, folks from church, and teachers, both past and present.

My girlfriends are a huge part of my daughter’s life, too. They’re always encouraging her and cheerleading me—especially my best friend, who’s also Skylar’s godmother. My friends and I conference call each other monthly, which has been great for more than one reason, and when we last talked, one of them suggested they all write letters to my child to encourage her and impart a little wisdom they wish they’d had when they were her age. 

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Just to bring you up to speed, fellow Stir-ettes, I mentioned before that we’re in the midst of teen angst here in the Harris household. I’m sure it’ll be the subject of plenty other blog posts too, so the poor, dead horse will be beaten for a bit longer. But hopefully, not too long. Jesus, take the wheel.

Anyway, I was touched by their offer and thought it was an awesome idea, though I’m not sure how effective their efforts will be. Surly, sometimey teenagers haven’t built their reputation by being open to the advisement of other people, particularly women who remind them of their mothers. But I’m sure not going to turn it down because you never, ever know the word, the thought, the statement that could spark that a-ha moment and ignite a new way of thinking. And that’s just what we need at this point in time.

Coincidentally enough, #dear14yearoldself, a trending topic on Twitter, brought up a similar subject a few weeks ago. In the great circle of life, your mother’s life experiences seem like they were wrought in the boulder-and-stick rubbing era of ancient history. Even though I was a teenager when I had her, I know Skylar is no different. But if I can’t write a letter to her (that she’d read, anyway), I can at least ponder what I would tell myself back when I was 13 or 14.

Dear Janelle,

First of all, let me give you some heartbreaking news: you never married Chris Kelly, the guy from Kris Kross you had plastered on your wall and secretly kissed in the mornings before school. I guess now it’s safe to admit that it wasn’t the sun fading just that one spot on his face where he had been kissed and rekissed and kissed some more. You should also know that Cross Colours did go out of style and big hair, though still popular, does not include an abusively hairsprayed crest of bang in the front.

But I’m not writing to give you fashion and style tips. Just dropping by to give you three things that I’ve learned since I’ve grown up that I hope that you’ll at least consider and, if I’m lucky, listen to. First of all, stop trying to figure yourself out by checking in on what other people think of you. I can tell you now that you won’t have the same friends when you grow up that you have now—brace yourself, but you and Sherry and Erin really aren’t BFFs, even though you’ll stay in touch throughout adulthood—so you’re going to have to figure out who you are for yourself, not who your friends say you are.

Secondly, I know it sounds clichéd, I know it sounds corny, I know this is the same thing your mom is always drilling into you, but education really is important. (So is credit, but that’s another lesson for another day.) You have a chance to go to college—the first person in your family to have that privilege and opportunity—so don’t squander it. Seriously. Study, focus. You can play around with your friends and have fun, but balance that because when you’ve grown apart and they’re gone, your education will open doors for you.

And that leads me to my last point: don’t sell yourself short for a guy. They come and go too, and at your age, they’re not worth a whole lot of aggravation. In fact, they won’t start being worth any kind of effort or trouble until you’re in your late 20s, so until then, don’t flip out. Flirt if you want, but don’t expect maturity for a long, long time. Most importantly, though, figure out why you love you. When you do, you’ll be much less willing to put up with guys' foolishness. (And there will be plenty of it.)

Love,

Janelle

What advice would you give your teenage self? 


Image via redcargurl/Flickr

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