I know it’s etiquette day, but I’ve been doing a lot of teaching, and when dealing with kids, feelings about your own childhood eventually come up. For me, the worst time in my life was at fourteen, and I recently thought, “What would I tell fourteen-year-old me, if I could tell her anything?” And this was the answer.
Dear 14-year-old me:
I’m sorry. I’m sorry you had to tell Mom you hated that purse, just because Abby said you couldn’t carry it anymore. I’m sorry she pushed you into the bleachers during gym class. I’m sorry you got that nasty bruise on your arm. I’m sorry you still have the baby fat going on and I’m really sorry you haven’t found a haircut that works yet. I’m sorry you’re going to have to banish next year’s school picture to the bottom of a dark box because it’s so bad. I’m sorry you don’t have many friends, and you’re not sure about the ones you do have. I’m sorry.
And as long as we’re on the topic, here’s some other things for you to know: You’re not going to drive anywhere because Mom gets even more overprotective. You don’t get a boyfriend. You don’t get a date to the prom. You don’t even manage to get kissed until your 20th birthday. You don’t figure out your hair until you’re 25, your teeth get worse, and one day you will have to stop eating bread. And pasta. And cake.
Fourteen-year-old me? Your life is not what you imagined. It’s SO MUCH BETTER.
You’re going to be the first drum major Leo High School has had in 20 years. You’ll lose all the competitions, but you’re going to be proud anyway. You graduate eighth in your class of 150, and you are a National Merit Commended Scholar. You hone your writing skills to a nice fine point, courtesy of Ms. L, the most fantastic English teacher in the universe. (Stay on her good side. It is so worth it.)
You get multiple scholarships to college. Your first kiss? Is on your birthday. In Spain. With a good-looking Spaniard who plays the trumpet and soccer. You get degrees in Spanish and Anthropology. I know you don’t know what Anthropology is, but trust me. You’ll be happy to drop the music minor for it. (No, we don’t major in music. You’ll thank Mom for that one later.) And then we go to law school. Law school, fourteen-year-old self. And you’ll live on your own, in a beautiful apartment in downtown Chicago.
Abby will one day get fired from Burger King, just so you know, and those friends you weren’t sure about are just as amazing as you are. They’re also funny, brilliant, and come through for you when you need them. Be patient.
You love a good glass of wine, but you can also enjoy a good Scotch. Your future ability to drink a single malt scotch “nearly neat” (one ice cube) is going to impress bartenders. You get to drink for free. It’s awesome. You get a haircut that works. Shoulder length, layered, no bangs, and you should NEVER wear it half up. As it turns out, you like to run, just not in front of anyone because you look ridiculous, and you’ll eventually catch up with pop music, though you’ll always like ’60s folk best. (It’s okay; it’s part of why we’re awesome.)
You have painful dental surgery, but it finally fixes that cleft palate you’re praying the bullies don’t find out about, and in the future, no one can tell you have more fake teeth than a hockey player. Four. Four of your teeth will be fake. Start coping now.
And as for Prom? You don’t have a date. You have nine dates. All girls. And you’re the center spread in the Senior Year yearbook.
Also, the Prom Queen looks like a sausage in her dress.
Your 25-Year-Old Self
P.S. Start working on standing up for yourself now. You won’t get there for years, but one day you’re going to need to be a little tougher. You would be surprised at the number of people who believe in you.
If you could tell your past self anything, what would it be?