Dear Teen Me,
Here’s what I wish I had known when I was a teenager:
Growing up takes a lifetime.
Writing is a joy and a salvation. Start early.
Good friends will always be there for you. Nurture them.
Family is forever.
Give thanks for the blessings every day.
Hmm, now that I list these, maybe you DID know these things at the time.
I wish I’d been able to contact you to tell you to start writing earlier. You were always outstanding in Language Arts and English classes, always excellent in writing, always loved a good book. Oh, how you loved to read powerful, deliciously written books! Why didn’t you take the hint and put pencil to paper when you were seventeen? Who knows what you might have written if you hadn’t waited twenty years to start writing?
But maybe you needed to live a little, learn a lot, weep a little, laugh a lot. Maybe you needed the lessons of life so you’d have something to write about!
You have so much potential. All your teachers and counselors tell you that. (Well, most of them–ignore those negative personalities who will try to discourage you.) One day your potential will bloom and you will be able to inspire others. You will remember the teachings of your parents, and you’ll take it all in stride and work hard to be humble and thankful for the blessings.
But girl, you’re going to the White House seven times! You are going to meet three Presidents! You’ll travel to Africa and China and Russia. Your books will win lots of awards and be translated into many languages. People from all over the world will read what you have written. Seventh graders who won’t be born for another thirty years will think you are awesome!
So smile in the sunlight, teen Sharon. Take your time. Climb the ladder. Read a zillion books. Scribble a thousand ideas on notebook paper. Then, when it’s time, start writing, and see what happens. I think you’ll like the twenty-first century.
All my best,
Sharon M. Draper is a New York Times bestselling author who has received the Coretta Scott King Award for both Copper Sun and Forged by Fire. Her Out of My Mind has won multiple awards and is a New York Times bestseller. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, where she taught high school English for twenty-five years and was named National Teacher of the Year. Visit her at SharonDraper.com.