Dear Teen Me from author Rainbow Rowell (ATTACHMENTS, ELEANOR & PARK)

This is Rainbow Rowell's senior picture. She begged her best friend to let her borrow that teal brimmed hat, and was totally bummed out when it didn't show up in the photos.

This is Rainbow Rowell’s senior picture. She begged her best friend to let her borrow that teal brimmed hat, and was totally bummed out when it didn’t show up in the photos.

Dear teen me,

You read too much science fiction.

Maybe if you read some Sweet Valley High once in a while, I wouldn’t be sitting here, thinking about time travel and worrying that any good advice I give you could sabotage the timestream.

Like, I could tell you that seventh grade is the worst year of your life. And maybe I could even find a way for you to skip it – or sit it out, or spend the year with your Uncle Doug in Massachusetts – and then WHAM, you never meet your husband, I never get to have kids, neither of us ever get to go to Disney World, and the whole timestream goes string cheese on us.

I’VE ALREADY SAID TOO MUCH.

YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO KNOW ABOUT STRING CHEESE YET.

Let’s start over. Just ignore that whole paragraph. None of the junior high boys you think you might marry are actually the one that you do. Don’t overthink this, Rainbow; if I end up married to any of the idiots you have a crush on now, I’ll make your future hell.

Okay, where was I … Right. I think I’ve come up with a few things I can tell you without changing your overall direction.

Rainbow Rowell, in ninth grade biology. Thank God her friend Robbie was there to hold up her super-cool Men of U2 notebook. She was really proud of her hair that day.

Rainbow Rowell, in ninth grade biology. Thank God her friend Robbie was there to hold up her super-cool Men of U2 notebook. She was really proud of her hair that day.

(You should feel pretty good about that, by the way. I know you feel lost and miserable, but the road you’re on actually leads somewhere. Here. Where I am. With the husband and the kids and the books.) (I shouldn’t have mentioned the books.) (Yeah, I know you’re adamant about not wanting kids, but you’re adamant about a lot of things – it got tiring after a while. You know what else got tiring? writing in all lowercase letters. sorry.)

So, these are things that I think could make a difference for you, without making too much of a difference for me. Ready?

HELPFUL – BUT HOPEFULLY HARMLESS –WISDOM FROM THE FUTURE:

  1. Don’t drink diet pop. It’s stupid and gross, and you’ll regret it.
  1. Keep better track of your camouflage Vans. You’ll never find another pair that’s anywhere near as cool.
  1. Rainbow Now!

    Rainbow Now!

    Keep reading whatever you want.

  1. And wearing whatever you want.
  1. And wanting whatever you want. There’s nothing wrong with you. You’re not insane or perverted or defective.
  1. There’s nothing on your path that you can’t get through – so don’t despair.
  1. But don’t not despair either. Despair is a perfectly valid response to 1989.
  1. Be kinder to those girls you make fun of in French. They’re not going anywhere.
  1. Be kinder to yourself.
  1. And follow your instincts — there’s nothing you do that I regret enough to change. If anything, I’m grateful to you. I’m still not sure how you managed to make so many good decisions . . .

You know what? Don’t worry about this letter. Don’t listen to me – and don’t change anything.

Just stay the fucking course, kid. I’m counting on you to get here.


St. Martin's Griffin, February 2013.

St. Martin’s Griffin, February 2013.

Rainbow Rowell is the author of Attachments, Eleanor & Park and the upcoming Fangirl. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband and two sons. When she’s not writing, she’s reading; and when she’s doing neither of those things, she’s trying to figure out how Sherlock faked his own death.