Dear 16 Year Old Cindi,
You feel like you have to be perfect. It’s a lot of pressure.
You hold back who you want to be to make everyone else happy. But sometimes—okay, a lot of times—you feel like a lie. When you start to let yourself show, wear that odd, bright-colored outfit and rock some blue-tinted lip gloss and funky shoes, people give you odd looks. When you actually make that joke that you think is pretty clever—yep, more odd, she’s-such-a-weirdo looks. You decide you’re a huge, awkward nerd. (Luckily, you’re only a sort-of awkward nerd, but you learn how to own it. Eventually.)
It’s not like your life is so hard or that people are super mean or anything, but you’re lonely. Every friend you’ve ever made has moved away, and you don’t really have anyone to talk to or hang out with. You’ve got your family, and you love them and they’re awesome, but you feel so much pressure to be the perfect child that it totally stresses you out. So, yeah, downer part, life kinda sucks right now. But here’s the good stuff: You’re about to start spending a lot of time with a girl you’ve known distantly most of your life, but never really knew. She thinks you’re funny, even when you make the jokes you’re used to holding back. She experiments with fashion with you. She lets you be yourself, and that’s really all it takes for you to say, screw it, I’m going to be myself more. People start to wonder what happened to you, and while some of them still look at you like you’re ridiculous and nerdy, some actually start talking with you more, laughing with you, asking if you want to hang out. Turns out all you needed to do was let go and allow yourself to be you.
Now comes the part that’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Your parents aren’t very happy about it. The pleaser personality in you is crushed. You feel a little lost again. The end of your senior year is one of your best and hardest because of this struggle to find the right balance. And I’d like to tell you that you figure it all out, but there are still times you disappoint people you love because you’re not exactly who they want you to be. But the good news is, they still love you. They sigh a bit when you dye your hair pink or make inappropriate jokes or write characters who swear and have sex, but they love you anyway. As for the fashion-loving part of you that you used to repress, you go all out now. You wear crazy shiny purple pants with approximately 300 zippers and awesome shoes and funky jewelry when you feel like it. And when someone makes a passive aggressive comment about it, you just smile and think to yourself, I’m sorry you don’t like who you are, but I like who I am, so leave me alone. It’s so freeing and awesome. (Oh and pants aren’t so high-waisted anymore, and let me tell you, they look WAY better!)
Also, you meet a guy in college, and he likes that you sometimes match your makeup to your clothes. He thinks you’re funny, and adds his own inappropriate jokes to the mix. He gets you most of the time, and loves you even when he doesn’t. Oh and that friend you’re about to meet? She’s still one of your best friends, despite the fact that people told you high school friendships don’t last. She’ll be in your wedding, you’ll be in hers. You’ll call her when you’re going through some of the roughest years of your life. She’ll cheer for you from the very first book you write and keep on cheering when you finally get a book published. You’ll still get together and laugh until you cry.
So I guess I just mostly want to say, it’s gonna be okay. You can stop trying so hard to impress everyone and being who you think everyone else wants you to be. Start being true to you, wear what you want to wear, and go ahead and make that joke. It might fall flat, but go for it anyway. Eventually, you’re going to use that humor in your writing. And when you start dreaming big and then worry it’ll never happen, go ahead and keep on dreaming. You’ll be amazed what it plus a little hard work can do.
Cindi Madsen sits at her computer every chance she gets, plotting revising, and falling in love with her characters. Sometimes it makes her a crazy person. Without it, she’d be even crazier. She has way too many shoes, but can always find a reason to buy a new pretty pair, especially if they’re sparkly, colorful, or super tall. She loves music, dancing, and wishes summer lasted all year long. She lives in Colorado (where summer is most definitely NOT all year long) with her husband and three children. She is the author of YA books All The Broken Pieces and Demons of the Sun and the adult romance novel Falling for Her Fiance. Find out more at http://cindimadsen.com