Greetings, Teen Carey, from the glorious future.
How glorious is the future, you ask?
We live in a place we love, with a husband we love and friends we love, and we spend our days doing work we love.Well, let’s see.
We’ve seen R.E.M., Natalie Merchant, Davy Jones, Peter Tork, and They Might Be Giants in concert.
And most importantly?
The thing about the future, though, is that—
You wanna know more about the boobs? Seriously?
OK, fine, they’re big.
Wait, what? You wanna know the CUP SIZE?
Good lord, Teen Me. Let’s at least keep something a surprise, OK?
OK. So here’s the thing about the future: It only happens if you make it through the present. And right now, I know, that’s not something that feels too likely.
It’s not that you want to kill yourself, necessarily. It’s not even that you want to die. You want to disappear. Fade away. Hide in a cave or crawl under a rock, with “Everybody Hurts” on repeat, and never have to see the world again.
There’s a reason you feel this way, just like there’s a reason you freeze up and panic in social situations, and a reason you worry constantly about everything from your inevitable bad grades in math to the inevitable death of everyone you know. These reasons have nothing to do with your worth as a human being and everything to do with brain chemistry. In short, they are not your fault, and you can—and
WILL—make them better.
When you’re 17, you’ll start answering in class again—something you haven’t done since fifth grade. It’ll start because you feel sorry for your teachers, but pretty soon it’ll feel completely normal. Just like
it did when you were little. And little by little, you’ll start trusting your voice and your ideas for the first time in years.
Then you’ll go off to college, where you’ll study Victorian literature and comparative religion and second-wave feminism and other things that will make your brain explode. You’ll also learn that you are not
Let’s go over that again.
In fact, some people will say that you’re pretty. And some people will even fall in love with you.It turns out that in the real world, outside of your school and your hometown, people do not bark at you when you walk down the street. Nobody stops you and goes, “Hey, my friend wants to go out with you!”
while their friend doubles over laughing and protesting, “Ew, FUCK, no!” beside them. Nobody calls after you, “DAMN, girl, you is UG-LEE!” when you pass them on the sidewalk, or refers to you as a “FUCKIN’
UGLY REDHEAD” when you sit next to them on the bus.
But that’s not the point. The point is that, once you’re out of your hometown, you’ll realize that the people there were wrong about a lot of things. And you’ll start gaining the confidence you need to rebuild
When you’re 21, you’ll fall in love, graduate college, and start living on your own for the first time.
When you’re 23, you’ll start to understand what’s going on in your brain—those chemistry issues we were talking about earlier—and you’ll start getting help for them. It’ll be scary, and hard work, but it’ll mean you get to stay alive.
When you’re 26, you’ll finally figure out what you want to be when you grow up. I’ll give you a hint: you know it already. It just takes a while for me to catch up with you.
When you’re 28, you’ll get to marry your very best friend. Someone who complements you. Someone who gets you. Someone who—wait for it—still has his membership card from the Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan club.
(I know. That’s hot.)
And when you’re 31, you’ll start writing a book—a young adult novel about marching band. (Yes, you’ll include that. And that. And a whole lot of other stuff you won’t be able to imagine right now.) You’ll
have a total blast writing it, and when it’s done, you’ll start sharing it with other people, and they’ll love it as much as you do. And you’ll start taking the steps toward maybe, someday, seeing that book on the shelves with all the books you love right now.
Trust me, Teen Me. You don’t wanna miss any of this.
A few more pieces of advice before I go:
1. On January 20, 1996, make sure you’re listening to the folk show on WETA, because you’re going to hear the song that will change your life. It’s called “The Christians and the Pagans,” by Dar Williams,
and everything that’s good about your life right now can be traced back directly to it. I’m not even exaggerating.
2. In June 1997, do not—I repeat, DO NOT—wear your “Migraine Boy” R.E.M. T-shirt to work. In fact, NEVER wear that T-shirt to work. It’s been 14 years now since the unfortunate incident with the bleach
water, and we STILL haven’t been able to replace it.
3. For the love of God, stop wearing the troll earrings. Also, stop with the trolls in general. Trolls are not cool, and they will never be cool, and you could be putting that money to much better use. Like CDs. Or books. Or, hell, at least a few rounds on that Simpsons arcade game. Just…no trolls. Seriously.
Other than that, just keep writing, and reading, and playing, and singing. Just like you always do.
Lots of love to you, Teen Me.
I’ll see you soon.