Dear Teen Me,
Secrets. They can burn holes in your gut. Infect your bloodstream with toxins.
Yet you think you’re the only one with secrets. That revealing them will make you unlikeable. That no other human could understand. I’m here to tell you that no secret is too big to be shared.
Like the one about your mother. The weekend that your father was wilderness camping and your sister was away at university. When mom didn’t get out of her nightgown and robe. When she sat on the couch, crying and staring into space. Refusing any food you offered.
You went out on Saturday night with friends, even though you knew she was “off.” The beer tasted cold and sweet. The music dulled the roar in your head. Until a nagging feeling sent you scurrying home, too late.
She lay on top of the covers, unmoving, even when you shook her. Her breathing was shallow. Her skin pale in the light from the streetlamp. Her hand limp and cold.
How could you explain on Monday at school that you watched her chest rise and fall for hours, in full panic mode? How you found an empty bottle of Tylenol the next morning? How she didn’t wake until Sunday afternoon?
Instead, the words stuck in your throat, sunk into your belly and began to smolder.
Because that’s what secrets do.
Like the deeper secret. The one that shows up when you look in the mirror.
It begins with trying to flatten a wild curl. Will it never obey? Your bangs don’t cover that ugly scar on your forehead – the one you got from sleepwalking into the corner of a wall. Your eyes are uneven and different sizes. Your nose is too big. You’re too short. You’re body is nothing like the girls who are photographed for Seventeen magazine.
How could anyone love you? No wonder your mother would rather attempt suicide than live.
Secrets. They can poison your soul.
If I could, I’d wrap you in warm truths and tell you that you’re not alone. That others hide secrets as dark as yours. That they too feel different from “normal,” whatever that is.
I’d whisper that you’re not responsible for your mother’s choices. That your role is to support her, not to “fix” her.
And I’d promise that you’ll learn to show who you are, wild curls and all. That your life will be filled with people who accept and love you, including your mother, who will chose life and you.
Best of all, you’ll learn to accept and love yourself — your quirky body, curious mind and creative spirit. You’ll discover that secrets aren’t meant to be hoarded, but shared with people who empower you.
Just imagine what you can do then.
Maybe those words you swallowed will bubble up to become written stories that you can actually sell to publishers. Maybe you’ll travel Europe with a man you love – your best friend. Maybe your daughters will bring you more joy than you could envision.
Maybe you’ll run face first into life, wrestle it to the ground and get messy.
Karen Krossing wrote poetry and rants as a teen and dreamed of becoming a published writer. Today, she’s the author of six successful novels for kids and teens, and she conducts writing workshops to empower emerging writers. Karen has built a reputation as an author who writes honestly and unflinchingly, with the ability to create “an utterly believable, complex teen world” (Quill & Quire). Her latest titles include CUT THE LIGHTS (Orca, 2013) and BOG (Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 2014). Karen lives in Toronto, Canada, with her family. You can check out Karen’s website or find her on Twitter or Facebook.