Dear Teen Me,
There you are lying on your trundle bed with your feet on the wall, listening to your Beatle records over and over, with your mom gone, and your older brothers grown up and off, and neighbors calling with advice, and your younger sister and brother to take care of, and all you want to do is LEAVE.
I know you’re wishing you had a group of friends to escape to, who would give you that sense of belonging missing from your life. As you listen to John and Paul sing about love, you worry you’ll never find your people and you’ll always be excluded with taunts about your clothes, your awkwardness, your causes, and the things you ponder. I see how ridicule has rolled new thoughts off the tip of your tongue and back into your head, making you lonely and desperate to connect with someone. And I want to reach through time and tell you to SPEAK anyway.
I wish I could tell you that after high school your family repairs itself, but it doesn’t. I wish I could tell you that the boy you like falls for you, but he doesn’t. I wish I could tell you you’ll always be accepted, but you won’t be. You’ll meet others you like so much who are interesting and funny and smart and who just won’t feel the same about you.
What you don’t know is that it’s okay. It doesn’t mean that you’re weird and they’re great or that they’re evil and you’re good.
Try to let go of that, if you can, but don’t beat yourself up when you can’t.
Be kind to yourself.
Let me say that again: Be kind to yourself.
So let me tell you what you will have.
Your life will overflow with joyful, fascinating people you love so much who love you back. The surprisingly awesome thing is that you’ll meet them all the time. You won’t stop making friends in your teens, in your twenties, in your thirties – it goes on and on. You’ll discover delightful, accepting people everywhere and around each deliciously scary corner of your life.
You’ll make brave, compassionate choices even when you’re afraid and even when you’re hurting. This may not seem very important right now when you’re worried about your family and what college you’re going to and whether you’ll ever be kissed, but it will turn out to be one of the most important things.
You’ll realize that your imagination – which is keeping you company when you’re lonely or afraid – will actually end up making you a little money, and bring you lovely experiences and new friends.
You’ll change in some ways, but in many ways, you’ll be just as you are, and – I know you don’t believe this now – but that will be a good thing.
So relax and enjoy yourself, Jenny Mckissack. You’re about to have some fun.