Monday, March 10, 2008

Dear me

I ran across some photos from high school while I was moving that I hadn't seen in years. There was one of me at a drama camp my senior year that in particular made me think, "oh funny, insecure little girl, the things I wish I could tell you about the life you are going to have." So today when I saw a book called Letters to My Younger Self, I couldn't help but sit and read almost the whole thing. Each letter is addressed to the woman at a specific and important time of her life and gives advice from her older self. The letters are so tender and sincere and so of course, I wanted to come home and write one of my own.

This one is to my 17 year old self on the night of Homecoming my senior year, one of many boy's choice dances to which I was not invited. A rough night as you can imagine. Here's what I wish I could say to her.

"Dear Miss Katie,

I'm really sorry that you aren't going to the dance tonight. I hope it's at least a little better because if I remember correctly, the boy you liked senior year doesn't even go to your school. That probably sounds like a dumb and not helpful adult thing to say though doesn't it? (What if I tell you that you will see that boy on the street in about five years and you will look adorable and he will look, well, not?)

I wish you knew all the truly amazing things that are going to happen to you in the next 15 years. You will have experiences and opportunities that you don't even know enough to daydream about yet. But one thing I will tell you is that you aren't going to grow up to be a dater. Boys are always going to be one part of your life where you will fail way more than you succeed and will be a near constant source of frustration. My advice to you is that right now-as you are sitting there telling your journal that your grades and your friends and your lead roles in plays and the enormous amount of effort you put into making good choices don't count because you didn't get asked to the dance-is that you learn to stop giving your dating status any sort of power over your happiness. Over the next few years, plenty of boys are going to come in and out of your life. Some of them will feel really significant and then when it turns out they aren't, you will end up wasting a lot of time and energy explaining away the great things about yourself because they weren't interested in you. I'm not trying to depress you-there are some lovely romances ahead I promise-but the overriding state of your love life will be sorta grim. Even now, in my "older and wiser" state, I'll admit to still panicking every once in awhile that I will die alone. But I will also promise you that your thirty one year old self can look back and say that not one of those marathon crush boys you've had or will have is someone you missed out on. There will be some awesome men in your life and some real turkeys too, but worrying and fretting won't change either of those facts. You really won't want to trade the experiences you WILL have for more dinner and a movie nights with random boys. The sooner you can learn this lesson, the more you will be able to enjoy what's coming up. I know somewhere in your heart you know this but getting a boyfriend is not an accomplishment. It's obviously a great goal and hey, I hope we get married one of these days too kid. But if set your worth in the areas of your life that you can control on something that is entirely subjective, you set yourself up for a pretty sad and ungrateful life.

You are such a good little person and it's frustrating as an adult to look back and see how often you tied yourself up in knots over the opinions ofsixteen year old boys. Although if I'm honesty with myself, it's not just you. I suppose the sixty year old me will probably say something similar one of these days about the men around me now.

Let yourself cry tonight, there is nothing wrong with wanting to have those quintessential high school experiences and being sad when you think you are missing out. Just know that "missing out" is relative. It will shock you someday to talk to your current classmates as adults and discover that even alot of the kids at that dance right now spent high school feeling just as lost and insecure as you do. But tomorrow try to do something outside of yourself. Help with your little siblings or write a thank you note or something. Just don't wear yourself out on something that you simply cannot control.

Your life is pretty different now from what you imagine and sometimes fear right now so go ahead and cross "senior prom" off your list. You aren't going and yet somehow, you will still manage to get into college and speak french on your mission and kiss plenty of really good lookin' boys someday. Go easy on yourself, it'll be super helpful to me one day.



Laurie said...

It's such good therapy thinking about what you would say now to your younger self. I love your letter. That's was a tear-jerker.

By the way, I wish my 17-year old self knew your 17-year old self back then, because we totally would have gone to the movies that night. Or at LEAST TP'd the houses of the two boys who didn't feel like asking anyone to Homecoming. (My husband is one of those boys, by the way. I still give him crap for ruining the opportunity for a girl dying to go to her homecoming dance or prom.)

chloe elizabeth said...

And it's amazing how those things don't matter now. Sometimes I still think they do, but they just don't. Or they do, but it's different. They matter, to me, because of what I have learned from the "adversity" of it all. And never in a million years would I have guessed that you weren't turning boys down right and left in high school. No joke.

Cristin said...

I never got asked to any of those dances either. I have often wished the same thing - that I really could go back to my 17 year old self and knock some sense into her. Tell her that it doesn't matter in the long run. It's so hard to see the big picture at that age. I suppose its hard to see the big picture even at 30, but as a teenager it was difficult to see past one month.

tim & brandi said...

That was a great letter Katie. It's amazing how much we can learn and grow in 15 years. I remember being so "in love" with this boy who was on a mission and thinking that we'd for sure get married when he got home, well he got home a few months before I would graduate from high school and made it clear that there would be no future for us - then he proceeded to date one of my best friends. Ouch. I felt like I'd wasted 2 of my 3 years in high school "waiting" around for this dork. So yeah, I didn't get asked to Homecoming, or Senior Prom, or Jr. Prom or any other dance for that matter... and yes, it hurt back then, and it would've been nice to know that one day my prince would come into my life, and it would be A LOT of work, but it would all be worth it in the end.


Sylvia said...

Kate, this is a great post. I think all of us occasionally want to go back and talk to our younger selves. One thing I've done lately is imagine my 40-year-old self talking to my 32-year-old self - she says things like "Remember how you didn't know anything at 17, and your life has turned out so differently than you could have imagined? Well, what makes you think that's going to change? Amazing things are going to happen to you in the next 8 years; just keep trusting in God, since He has already proved He's paying attention."

It usually works. :-)

In an unrelated comment, I agree with chloe elizabeth. I can't believe you weren't the center of male attention in high school.

elizabeth said...

i wonder what 31 year old elizabeth would say to me right now. hopefully she's as accomplished as you are.

Deming Brat said...

i didn't think it was possible to love you more than i do!

Don't forget to tell her that she would be the soul greatest thing about RS in the Longfellow Park 2 ward and that this nerdy girl named peggy would thrive off of her amazing ability to speak through the spirit. that she would mourn the day she moved away from boston and nearly wet her pants the day she moved back...

speaking of which- why have i not seen you yet? there is something seriously wrong with that!

mimi said...

kate, this is really cool stuff. thank you.

thirteennecklacedesigns said...

I love this idea Katie. I'm going to write myself a few letters too. That was a beautiful letter. Thank you for sharing it.

mimi said...

you are incredible. love it.

Darcy and Adam said...

Katie... this was inspiring and empowering. I am already writing my letter in my head, and will for sure shoot it your way when it's done. It's going to be an emotional undertaking for sure, so I've gotta set aside some time :)

Thanks for sharing... my letter might just be about 4 years back -- my senior year of college -- but that girl needs to HEAR some things!

Jayne said...

I hope that somewhere in everyone's teenage head is a glimmer of a memory where their mother said many of the same things. Even though it can't really ring true coming from someone old who already says "pick up your room", we mothers all hope that there is some small comfort in our encouragement of the time.
I didn't believe my mother when she said my skin would clear up, or that boys weren't the end all be all of life. But it's nice that she said it. And you my dear child, were so much closer then to being the whirlwind of a girl you later became than you can imagine. Now you know that a very cool bunch of girls were right there wanting you to join them. You just never believed it.
I hate to say I told you so, but you have always been a bright, fun,kind and good girl with big beautiful brown eyes. And now so much more.

Rod Clifford said...

Good writing, good thoughts. Anything I might add would just sound trite, but I was proud of you back then and I still am.

Sunny said...

Wow, that brought me back. I wonder if anyone has an "ideal" prom night. The guy I liked was away at a rugby tournament and I went with his friend...not a night to remember. But it was such a big deal at the time.

So that's what I'm getting from your great "dear me" letter. It all seems like such a big deal at the time, but years later you realize that only a few things are really a big deal. There's so much I want to tell myself! Where to start?

Carrie said...

Man is that ever true, High school boys suck. The guy who didn't ask missed out! I am going to save this to give to my sons so they will know what girls go through and hopefully do something nice because of it! AOE