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Dear Me: A Letter To My 16 Year Old Self

Dear Sasha,

Happy Sweet Sixteen!

I am writing to you, right now, to let you know that I am here for you. And wish you a Happy Birthday.

You look beautiful. Yes, you do. Big Aqua Net hair and all.

I’ve seen you, obsessed, staring in that bathroom mirror, comparing yourself to other girls. Your peers. The ones who seem all confident and in control, with their beautiful smiles, their short skirts and their flirty attitudes. But you know what? They’re obsessing, too. And, while your friends may also think they know better, sometimes they know less than you do. It’s just how it goes.

Your parents can’t share some of this with you because they are immigrants, from a Communist country, and their priority right now is to be busy working hard, day and night, to pay the bills and to keep the roof over your head and food on the table.

So, I’m writing this to you, because you need to hear what I have to say.

Sixteen is a tough time. Your body is still changing. Your hormones are all over the place. Your high school is competitive and cliquey. Your parents are pressuring you to do well on your ACT, which is a full year away, so that you can get into a good college.

And that cute boy you’ve been dreaming about doesn’t know that you exist.

Or does he?

He just may, but you’re probably missing all the clues, because your body, hormones, school cliques and parents are all pulling you in a 100 different directions, and it’s going to be another good 20 years before you really figure out who you are and what you want from life. Trust me.

I’m on the other side of adulthood, the one where what you think about yourself matters more than what others do. And I just got here.

You are loved. Your body is beautiful. You are beautiful.

You are not second class.

Why are some of those girls more popular, you wonder? They simply have the confidence to think they are popular. And that they deserve the best in life.

You do, too.

High school is hard. Especially yours. It’s competitive, it’s affluent and it’s intense. Besides that, high schools, everywhere, have hierarchies. The Alpha line is cheerleaders / pom pon squads for girls; athletes for boys. The Beta line is those who are in art club, marching band or the thespian crew and chess players. After that, you have stoners and outcasts.

You chose band. Or maybe music simply chose you.

You aren’t wired to cheer for someone else. You are wired to create. Be ok with that. It will be your saving grace.

That engineer you’re dating right now, that college boy, he’s a good guy. He’s not your forever man; he is your right now guy. Do keep in mind, a man with a stable profession may lead to a stable life. Regardless of his professional path, seek stability.

Stability is very sexy.

You’re currently juggling classes, band, a relationship and a part-time job. You will thank yourself later. Real life doesn’t allow you to focus on just one thing, and good time management skills come easier to those who start early. While, eventually, others will feel overwhelmed by the demands of real life, you’ll be able to adjust. And prosper.

Your teeth are a little crooked, as you didn’t get braces when you were 13. Your braces will eventually come, and they will not be made of metal, but of transparent plastic.

So, smile. Daily. Your parents like it. Your teachers like it. Boys like it. Men will love it.

Be nice to others.

Stay competitive in school. Because real life is a competition. It’s also a popularity contest. Yes, it truly is.

Those who know all the right people and how to talk to them often get the right doors opened. This is why joining the Greek system in college is so desirable. That may or may not be for you. You’ll figure it out in just a couple of years.

You currently don’t think that you’re worth the cute guy in school. You have also decided that you’re not good enough for the top colleges in the country. I wish you could realize that you have it in you to achieve both. But this isn’t something I can ever convince you of; these lessons of confidence and acceptance you will have to learn yourself.

The good news is that some of this insecurity and rejection – much of it self-induced – will build your character and, also, provide you with a lifetime of material to write about.  Yes, you will be a writer. But you already know that. Because you already are one. And have been one since you were four years old. Your writing will save you, over and over, again. Your writing will eventually help you pay the bills. Your writing is part of your DNA.

You have good friends around you. This is because you are a good friend to others. You will continue to attract good people into your life, decade by decade, city by city. But your best friend is and always will be your Sister. She’s amazing. And she’s your number one ally, in everything that you will ever try in life, whether you fail or succeed.  Be there for her as she is for you. The challenges will be different, and more times than none, you will be the only one who understands exactly what she’s going through.

Your life will have ups, and it will have downs. You’ll live through disappointments and wonderful surprises. If there’s anything I wish you could have done differently, it’s to set limits, especially with men and with food.

But know this: You have a good head on your shoulders and a good heart in your soul. Your experiences are yours to have. Your inner instability will one day be the very thing you can tap into to help others, both personally and professionally.

For now, though, enjoy your teenage years. Enjoy high school. You’re a kick-ass drummer, and you will always, drum or not, march to your own beat. You’re also in killer shape (yes, you are), so put on that bikini, go to Oakton Pool and know that one day in the future Brad the Lifeguard will ask about you. (He will.)

Today, make a wish and blow out those sixteen candles.

Dream big. Work hard. Trust your heart.

Happy Birthday, Sasha.

I love you.

- Alex

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