Shelley Watters, demonstrating the ever popular “Feathered Bang”. No animals were hurt while trying to mimic a bird’s wing on her head.
Dear Teen Shelley;
My advice to you can be summed up in one simple word: RELAX.
You know what I’m talking about.
Your mind is a vortex of worry, about everything. About what others will think of you. About disappointing people. About people liking you. Over-analyzing every word that came out of your mouth during every conversation. About the consequences of every single action.
One day you will wake up and realize that the only thing all this worrying did was held you back from living life. You’re a beautiful, brilliant young woman who can accomplish anything you set your mind to. Don’t let anyone, and I mean ANYONE let you think differently. Relax. Let go of the worry. Live in the moment. Take that chance. The only chance you will regret will be the one you don’t take. (Except for drugs/alcohol/smoking/anything illegal—you will NEVER regret not trying that.)
Don’t wait until you’re eighteen before deciding NOW is the time to choose to make your own decisions, the chance to be your own person. The people who put the doubt in your mind will still try to do it, even when you’re in your mid-thirties and married with your own kids. And you’ll look back on your life and see all the places where you held back when you should’ve pushed through. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Shelley Watters (BURN ME)
Molly with Narcissus papyraceus, paperwhites.
Dear Teen Me,
This letter is hard to write.
Hemerocallis fulva. Ditch lily. Remember when Mom taught you how to hybridize daylilies? Those days are over. Here you are organizing the pantry. You can’t breathe. You want to bring order to your world, even if it’s only a small thing. Your house is in this huge stressful mess—Mom’s piles of books, trash, clothing, artwork, bottles, seed packets, too much STUFF to name. It’s also stupid that Mom hasn’t got out of bed in weeks. You have to care for HER horses, goats, chickens, plants, and your sister, and you suck at all of it. Mom fakes to the world that everything is okay WHEN she manages to get out of bed, but you know the truth—something is terribly wrong.
Platycerium superbum. Staghorn fern. Mom showed you how to mount these ferns on a board, but those days ended. Do you remember the day you noticed Mom had changed? I do. It was when the tornado ripped through the greenhouses. You were in the eighth grade and had stayed home alone. The greenhouses exploded when the funnel ripped through the property. All the ferns, begonia, orchids and bedding plants rocketed into the air. It sounded like an airplane crash in your backyard. You peed your pants, believing you were going to die. Mom came home and screamed at you because you let a tornado destroy her nursery business. Your mom would have hugged you and told you she was so happy you were alive. That was SO not her. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Molly Blaisdell (PLUMB CRAZY)
Dear Teen Heather,
Teen Heather and her sister!
This might just be the best opportunity either of us has ever had. I mean, writing to yourself? Being able to impart words of wisdom to you from a much older you? Who else understands you like you do?
So, here we go.
One of your best friends wants me to start off by telling you that you are not fat. And yes, she’s still one of your best friends. You are spending too much of your time worrying about whether you’re bigger than this person or that one and it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t. You really aren’t fat, but even if you were, so what? You still have friends. You date (even if that part of your life is on a need to know basis, more on that later), you still have a family who loves you. Give yourself a break and learn to love who you are.
You will embrace who you are but even as an adult, you’ll have a skewed body image. You will continue to grab one to two sizes two big off the rack. I’m trying to work on that and so should you. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Heather Young-Nichols (UP FOR GRABS)
Christine Hurley Deriso at age 16 on a school bus, thinking she’s got it all figured out.
Dear Teen Me,
You are so much stronger than you think you are.
When a rapist—a craven, damaged, opportunistic stranger—crawls through your bedroom window in the middle of the night just a few short years from now, you will not only survive, you will thrive. In the moment that you awaken to see his face looming over yours, you will summon every ounce of strength in your bones to live to tell the tale. You will see not only your past flash before your eyes (trite but true), but you will see your future as well, knowing you are so not done yet living your life and so unwilling to have it snuffed out prematurely. You will dig into reserves you never knew existed and know with more clarity than you’ve ever known anything before that being his prisoner in body does not make you his prisoner in soul.
You will manage the next few moments calmly, adeptly and cleverly, and you will never again doubt your ability to do so under any circumstances that life may throw at you. You will discover spiritual depths you never dreamed of and realize in a way that has nothing to do with religion that you are not alone in this world, that a wellspring of love surrounds you every moment of every day. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Christine Deriso (THIRTY SUNSETS)
Dear Teen Me:
First of all, one simple bit of advice: look around. Slow it all down. Savor each moment. That stuff that seems like it will last forever? It won’t, not any of it. While the bad things will look increasingly small in the rear view mirror, the good things will, too—and then one day you’ll find yourself flipping through old photographs, from glossy Polaroids to faded Kodak prints, wondering where all the time went. Here’s one thing that it’s easy to overlook: Life, at its barest essence, is distilled into a series of precious small moments. Conversation among friends, the beauty of a glowing sunrise over the surging Atlantic, and the simple joys of reading something splendidly written are some of those moments.
So I am warning you, right now: be ready.
Life, from here on out, is going to be a whirlwind. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Mark Murphy (THE SHADOW MAN, THE CURSE OF THE THRAX)
Teen Neal. Stop wearing tank tops, lose the necklace, and get a freaking haircut.
Dear Thirteen-Year-Old Neal,
You inch forward as you approach your target. The Alabama sun beats down relentlessly, reminding you once again how much you would rather be swimming, riding your dirt bike, or doing just about anything besides what you are doing right now.
She is in pain. Her labored breathing makes her torso expand and deflate rapidly. She lies on her side and pretends she doesn’t see you. Maybe she knows how much she needs you right now. Still you move slowly. At over three hundred pounds, she is not only the largest sow on your hog farm, she is also the meanest, not a people person at all. You even named her “Meanie.” Her sharp teeth could do some serious damage to your short little frame, no matter how much of a macho you think you are.
You move up beside her and she lets you. You have watched enough sows give birth to know something is wrong. You rub her belly. No matter how mean a pig or hog is, rubbing their belly makes you their instant friend.
Raising hogs became an on-the-job learning experience two years ago when your dad decided the little thirty-acre farm was going to waste as he was away from home most of the time driving a semi-truck across the country. Building fences, ringing noses, castrating the new born males, and every other aspect of this endeavor fell on you. But you are the oldest son, and such is expected. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Neal Wooten (RETERNITY, THE BALANCE)
Dear Teen Me,
Kami at graduation with her friends Joan and Joanna.
I’m going to keep this fairly short because I know how hard it is for you to pay attention to things that bore you, like Algebra. And I know you’ve always considered yourself pretty boring too, even though you’re not. Trust me.
You might wonder how I know this. Well, I did something you always feared someone would do. I confess. I read your diaries.
Stop hyperventilating, they weren’t that bad!
Yes, I saw the warnings. The instructions to burn the pages rather than read them. The privacy notices. I read them all. (Along with all the rest of the words you wrote with multi-colored pens. Sorry!) But I figured that since I am you, kinda, I get a pass. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Kami Kinard (THE BOY PROJECT, THE BOY PROBLEM)
Dear Teen Me,
Teen Katia, backstage with the band.
You hate surprises, I know; but this one cannot wait. Sit or lean on something sturdy for support. Are you ready? Good. Read these lines carefully: You will not die at the age of twenty-three. You will make it. The year is 2014, and you are still alive. I am living proof of that. That’s the surprise. You see, I am you—your new and improved self—the future tense YOU, the Now-you. We made it. Intact. And that’s not half of it.
Sitting in trigonometry class, you frown because the exam is too easy. The teacher senses that you’re bored. He gives you a second worksheet. You finish it too soon. The teacher is impressed with your advanced math skills, and credits your hunger for learning to your foreignness. He nods approvingly, but your mind is busy trying to solve a greater problem: You have 8 years to live, and you want to make each one memorable.
As your twenty-third birthday approaches, you will struggle to recall how or why you formulated the ‘dead at 23’ theory, but you will not receive an answer. For 8 years, life will become a frenzied race against time. Dreams and aspirations will drop like casualties of war. You will lose years. Precious years. If only Now-me could reach through the years and talk with Then-me about this impending doom thing! We would save time.
In spite of all the worrying, you will celebrate your twenty-third birthday with flair. Thirty-three will find you in New York City, where you will live for many years. You will sing lead with a band. You will act in plays, musicals. You will stop counting the years, knowing that if you lived through twenty-three, you just might see one hundred and three. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Katia D. Ulysse (DRIFTING, HAITI NOIR)
Young “tom boy” Beth.
I know why you are sobbing into your pillow. How could that social worker have called your mom? Kay told you to confide in her each week and then she betrayed you. You told her how much you enjoyed talking to Fran, your camp counselor, every Thursday night on the phone. She must have decided there was something wrong with your friendship. So, she called your mother just now and told her it wasn’t right for you to be friends with a woman who was 20. You are 13 and Fran means the world to you. But your mother has just come in to tell you Kay called and told her you should stop calling Fran.
You scream, “That’s not fair.” Your mother says, “Kay is right. So, you cannot call Fran any more.”
Your pain is deep and overwhelming. I can tell you that you will find a way to survive your sadness. And guess what? When you are 20, you bump into Fran at the Memorial Concert for Woody Guthrie. She is 27 and when she sees you she screams out your name and you race toward each other. It is now over forty years later and you have remained close friends ever since you reunited at the concert.
Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Beth Rosen
Dear Teen Me,
Jen at 13 with her little sisters. She really needs better glasses.
Hey. I know it gets rough sometimes, but let me tell you something. All that stuff you put up with silently? It does go away. I know it’s hard when you get spit on in homeroom and the teacher just watches. I know you’re too embarrassed to tell your parents. Just file those experiences away, because when you get to be my age, you are going to be an AMAZING teacher who will not tolerate any of that and stands up for her students every single time. And all those stories you write? Don’t worry about that teacher telling you you’re not good enough. You are. Even if it’s just for yourself that you write, you ARE good enough to do anything you want. And you will. You’re going to accomplish everything you want to. I know the anxiety is tough. Believe me. It’s something we haven’t outgrown yet, even at twenty-nine. But it’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Because even though it doesn’t feel like it will ever go away and you’ll never be able to do anything socially, you will. You are going to grow up to have the strength to push through those anxiety attacks and stick them out until they fade. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Jennifer Lavoie (TRISTANT & ELIJAH, MEETING CHANCE)