Dear 14-Year-Old Self

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.

You’re welcome.

Love,

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?

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amandamarieg

Amandamarieg is a lawyer who does not work as a lawyer. She once wrote up a plan to take over the world and turned it in as a paper for a college course. She only received an A-, because she forgot that she would need tech geeks to pull off her scheme.

11 thoughts on “Dear 14-Year-Old Self”

  1. I think I would have to address mine to 13 year old me, because 14 year old me was starting to get her shit together, but it would go something like this.

    I know the bullying sucks right now, but next year you will actually make the bullies at your new school scared of you because you will be so much stronger then they are. They will try and intimidate you and you will laugh in their face. The whole school will think you’re a bad ass. It’s going to help that the bullies in your next school aren’t nearly as good at it as the ones where you are now. They will write that you are a “looser” on the bathroom stall wall. You and your friends will laugh for days about that. Which brings me to my next point:

    I know you feel like a friendless, unlovable loser, but you are about to meet some of the best friends you will ever have. They are into the same nerdy stuff you are. Some of them will even be boys. And they will keep on being your friends for a very long time.

    High school will be awesome, and college will be better still. You are going to go to art school, so everyone who says you aren’t good at art is wrong.

    Your mom is a lot better to you than you realize at the moment. You should probably be a little less horrible to her.

    You have not dodged the braces bullet. You will get them way after everyone else and your palatal expander will give you a gap between your front teeth for a while and a temporary speech impediment. No one will say anything about it because you will have a reputation for being tough by then. Don’t worry about it. You won’t have a cross bite after it’s all done, which is actually kind of nice.

    And finally, you’re right you won’t have a date for the prom. You will go though, and you will take a cardboard cutout of James Kirk as your date. All the boys at the prom will ask to dance with him. You’ll have a ton of fun.

  2. Seriously, kid, ask your teachers for help. They’ll do it if you act like you care. Trust me on this. Then you’ll get better grades, which will make it easier to get into a good college and to get financial aid. Without having to wait until you’re 23, after a military enlistment and a few years of crappy jobs.
    Also, think about going out of state. North Carolina State University, maybe. Don’t get so hung up on the Baptist College. And get social while you’re there, try new things (like new churches). And don’t commit so totally to the idea of being a teacher; try other classes first, so you have a lot of knowledge to work with.

    That church you grew up in? They’re a serious mess. Start backing away now. And don’t get so caught up in that youth group or the (way too much) older guy. Really. Really really. You’re not his type, and he’s really not yours either.

    You ARE smart, believe it. You just need to figure out how to get into that academic groove. Seriously, ask teachers for help. Yes, you CAN be good at math, you just need to figure out the best approach. And you have good teachers. Really. (Also, don’t take Statistics. Trust me.)
    Keep writing, too. Write everything. Anything. Try new things.

    And you are in no way fat. Or ugly. You will look at your yearbook photos in ten years and wonder what the hell you were thinking. Just focus on healthy food (sure, cookies are tasty, but don’t get into the habit of eating them every day). And don’t drink so much freaking soda. It will destroy your teeth and will be a harder habit to break later.

    Finally: it’s okay to date. But only date guys if YOU want to, not because you want to make someone else happy. In 14 years, you will be a bit of a badass (yes, REALLY!), so start working on that now. And feminism isn’t a terrible, anti-Christian thing.
    Oh, and one last thing. You’ll stay friendly with a few people from high school, but you won’t be best friends with most of them after graduation. When the CC vs Christina thing happens…stay in closer contact with CC. Don’t try so hard to “save” Christina. Things will work out for her.

    1. “Also, don’t take Statistics. Trust me.” Love that. Don’t you wish we could actually give advice to our younger selves? I know when I wrote this, one of my rules was that there could be no specific “future” advice, just reassurance. But I found it really difficult, because there are so many things that I could have not fucked up had I just known how everything turned out. But then I wouldn’t have learned all the important things. Or that’s what I tell myself.

  3. That mom is right about being nice to people and ignoring mean people. Work your ass off at school. Don’t get too attached to Toast, he’s an ass and will not be good to you- and trying to deal with it will destroy the last semester senior year. I know you have the plan not to date until your thirties because you want tenure, but really it’s not that horrible. Except for Toast, if you can avoid that one do even if it seems amazing at first. Sleep with your girlfriend BEFORE she dumps you for her dude ex, not after. Really, she is interested but nervous. Get help early with financial aid. I know it seems like it will happen, but you need to make it happen early or it won’t happen enough. ditto with dorms and stuff- you should be picking stuff earlier than that. When you get sick first semester, don’t brush it off as your normal being in pain- it’s serious, go to the doctor so that you don’t miss the finals because of an emergency hospitalization.

    Also Anthro > History. Even Medieval history. And NEVER be ashamed of your crazy pants brain. You’ll figure out what is actually going on with it, and it’s actually pretty awesome. Being disabled is something to be proud of, not to hide- and it doesn’t have to stop you from doing awesome stuff. It can mean doing awesome stuff, including travelling to talk about disability rights. So stop the shaming yourself inside right now.

    Oh and google fat acceptance- the dysmorphia and crap you have now (with the pictures looking off a little?) will only get more distressing if you don’t work on that shit now. As in, not recognizing yourself without context. It sucks, so work on that now. Aka again stop shaming yourself right now. And the pain you have all the time? It’s a real thing, and it isn’t because you are fat. Promise.

    1. Have you seen Phoebe in Wonderland? There’s a quote from it that I love:
      “At a certain point in your life, probably when too much of it has gone by… you will open your eyes and see yourself for who you are… especially for everything that made you so different from all the awful normals. And you will say to yourself… But I am this person. And in that statement, that correction, there will be a kind of love.”
      Technically the quote refers to disability, but I think it really speaks to anyone who doesn’t feel quite “normal,” whatever that really means. Different doesn’t feel good until you get old enough to appreciate it.

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