Dear Teen Me, from Writer Heather Shellen

Dear Teen Me,

Well, guess what? You are totally going to have a grownup crush on Justin Timberlake. Don’t roll your eyes at me, it’s the truth. That boy has some serious pipes and he is damn sexy. But seriously, about the studying and the stress you put yourself through for those near perfect grades of yours: I hate to tell you but this continues into college. Sure, there is now beer involved, but you are still pretty hard on yourself. Perhaps a bit too much at times. It does pay off in the end, though. You will graduate summa cum laude, which you and your family are are still very proud of today. In fact, none of your other friends can say that about their college careers. However, I want to let you in on a little secret. That guy sitting next to you at graduation? He didn’t graduate with honors and he earned the same piece of paper that says what you’ve been doing for the last four years of your life. And you want to know what else? He’s going to get a job just as easily as you will because it was the degree that really mattered in the end, not the GPA. Nevertheless, I’m still glad you worked your ass off. Well done, me.It’s probably close to 1 a.m. on a Wednesday and you are still working on that paper for English that has to be just perfect. You’ve turned off the radio because that horrible *NSYNC song is on again and instead you threw on one of your Tori Amos EPs that you’ve listened to approximately 27 billion times.

I also remember a girl who loved having the solo in show choir; a girl who wanted to sing so people could hear her. Unfortunately, that’s no longer true and it is rare that anyone but the inside of your car gets to hear you sing these days. But you are still creative. For example, you are writing, and not because a teacher is telling you to. These days, you actually choose to plop down on the couch, turn off the TV and write for fun. And you can cook a mean pot roast—because now you are old enough to afford a real Le Creuset French oven. You have no idea what this is right now, but a high-quality enamel French oven is going to change your life. Christmas 2009 is the one that will forever be remembered as “The Christmas of Two Le Creusets.” Let me tell you, that Christmas morning was better than sex as far as I was concerned, which I realize you haven’t had yet. Don’t worry, you will have that someday too and when you do it will be awesome. In fact, you will think, “could anything be better than this” and I am telling you, they are non-stick, durable and they will impart so much flavor on the food you cook. Seriously.

It turns out that your sister is not just the annoying little snit who begs for attention and steals your clothes. She is actually a remarkable human being, one that you will truly admire someday. Who knew?! (She is going to continue to steal your clothes though. Sorry.)

Some of the friendships you think will last forever will slowly fade away, making room for different relationships with new and exciting people. Some of the relationships you thought were untouchable in high school will break apart beyond repair. You will even find yourself avoiding them on the social networking sites that exist on the Internet of today (the Internet which is HUGE by the way. So much more to it these days than Geocities and chat rooms). By this I am referring to a little thing called “Facebook.” In a nutshell, Facebook is a place where you will spend countless hours wasting your life when you could have been outside talking to real, three-dimensional people. It is also something you will thank your lucky stars that you didn’t have to deal with as a teen. But don’t worry, Brittaney is still around. You were right that day she saved your ass by bringing your license to you at the DMV (you’d left it in her car) so you wouldn’t have to be photographed again by one of Satan’s minions, and you thought to yourself, “I think I’m going to be friends with this girl for a very long time.” She is, without a doubt, your best friend. And even though you live two hours away from each other now, you still try to see each other as much as you can. Well, as much as your husbands will allow, anyway.

But then, something really bad is going to happen to you. In fact, it gets so bad that at times you aren’t sure if you will make it out whole on the other side. I’m not going to tell you what happens though.Yes, I said husband. You and Grant are married, of course. But really, I didn’t have to tell you that, because you knew all along that someday you would marry that little boy who sat behind you in 7th grade and pulled your hair. Your marriage isn’t perfect. What? Did you expect me to say that it is? Well, is your relationship with him perfect now? Of course not, because right now I bet you are in a fight over the fact that he can’t go to the movies because his room isn’t clean. But, your marriage is great. Really, really great. And you have had so much fun together over literally half of your lives. You go to college, get jobs, and go on amazing trips to random places. You buy cars, a house, a fully-stocked wine fridge and liquor cabinet, basically all on your own. It really is everything you imagined it would be and that is the honest truth.

I can’t. Because if I tell you what it is, I’m afraid you will try to avoid it or change things to keep it from happening and that you absolutely cannot do. Instead, you must live through it. You need to cry every tear and face every setback. You must spend every day that you thought you couldn’t get out of bed in that stupid bed. Go to every counseling appointment and take every antidepressant. You must keep living in a world where you feel paralyzed by fear, anger and sadness. Every moment, every breath must happen exactly the way it did. Please, you have to trust me.

Because this is the only way you will get to experience the most amazing thing that has ever happened to you. It is something more perfect than anything you ever thought possible. And in that moment you will realize what all the pain was for. And not only that, you realize you would do over again. As many times as it took, you would suffer again, for this.

Congratulations. His name is Charlie, and he is beautiful.