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.