Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dear Me: A Letter to My Teenage Self

To celebrate the release of her new book for teen girls, Graceful, author {and friend} Emily Freeman extended an invitation to write a letter to one's teenage self. If you want to write your own letter, you can link up to Emily's blog, chatting at the sky. 

Here's mine. 


Dear Me,

You are 15. Your limbs look like chicken legs and for this you are often teased. Your teeth are still gappy and you don’t know what to do with those ever-thickening, unruly tresses of yours. Just hang on. Everything has a way of mostly coming together eventually. 

Because you will never know as much as you do right now, I doubt you’ll listen to this advice from Future You. But just in case, here’s some stuff I want you to know:

Thank God that the internet and cell phones have not been invented yet. I mean it. Get on your knees and thank the good Lord and all His heavenly hosts. Your silly and impulsive antics, emotional rants, teenage lack of discretion, and love of embarrassing photos would have ruined you. Ruined. 

Dads will one day put bullet holes in their kids’ laptops for such senselessness. {A laptop is a computer that’s small enough to hold on your lap. I know, crazy!} You came of age and got a clue after the advent of social media and for this you should be eternally grateful.

Going out for the track team in the 7th grade is one of the smartest things you could have done. Right now running provides safe community and fun competition, identity and delayed adolescence, a voracious appetite and ridiculous nylon shorts. But in a few short years it’ll provide the love of your life. You’ll meet him on your college cross-country team. Don't worry, you'll know who he is. 

The gifts of running won’t stop there. When you’re a mom, running will provide some much-needed sanity. And also low blood-pressure. Seriously though, invest in good running shoes now. Do not run in Keds, navy blue or otherwise, ever again. Your future knees will thank me. Don't be too discouraged that you're not really very good good at running. You're faithful and determined and in the end, those things matter more than sheer talent.

Track and adolescent antics aside, the stuff that really matters is on the inside and girl, there is a lot going on in there. Bless your heart. When I think of the one word that best describes how you feel most of the time, it is this: afraid

Afraid of failure, afraid of disappointing anyone, afraid of what they'll think, afraid of going unnoticed, afraid of being too noticed, afraid of the strong and powerful feelings that pulse within but have yet to find a way out, afraid of pain, afraid of your sin, afraid of God or even worse, afraid that He’s not there at all.

You don’t need to carry this fear around day in and day out. Learn to share your heart with those who are closest. They’re safe, I promise. Open up to your parents even though the thought of it kills you. Maybe even ask them to find you a counselor, not because you’re crazy but because your well runs deep and you could use a bit of gentle guidance as you navigate those overwhelming waters. 

This is how God made you and it’s okay. One day you’ll be able to speak into the human experience in a way that will encourage others and make them feel a little less alone. 

Also? Write in your diary as much as you can. It may seem like a waste of time but for you, writing down your insides has a way of calming you on the outside. 

Let’s talk about God for a second, shall we? I’ll keep it brief. I know how much your teenage self hates sermons. He is there and He is okay with all of your questions. He is not offended or angry that you secretly struggle to believe He exists. He wove your DNA so of course He knows you came into this world a bit skeptical. 

Embrace your questions the way God embraces you. 

You don’t have a clue yet about his boundless love and amazing grace; you haven’t really received them yet. You’re too busy striving and this breaks my heart. The Christian life is not about duty; it’s about delight. Rest in his love. I have so much more to tell you about this but you’re already rolling your eyes so I’ll stop.

A few more random pieces of advice:

In many ways, you will never feel like your outside matches your inside. You will always appear more conventional than you really are. For Heaven’s sake, take some risks while you're young and can still get away with it. Pierce your nose, buy the black Converse high-tops, be that bohemian free-spirit and let people think what they will. In the words of Madonna {who you listen to under the radar when your parents aren’t paying attention}, Express Yourself.

Quit trying to be impressive. You’re not going to law school after all so when you get to college, ditch the Econ major and maybe the Political Science one while you’re at it. Keep the History major though. This will be your livelihood and you’ll love it. Maybe add in Journalism and French. Or Art. You’ve got creative gifts that don’t feel legit to you; therefore you ignore them. This is a crying shame. Your gifts should always be your guide.

Boys. Be glad they don’t notice you yet. They are a complete waste of time at this stage in their development and yours. Enjoy your friends. Go to the prom with a group of girls and dance ‘til you can dance no more. Boys will eventually come into your life and it just gets complicated after that. You’re simply a late bloomer and this is a blessing in disguise. Trust me.

{You should not have wasted all that precious time straightening and hot-rolling your hair. Your crazy curls would have fared much better than fake straight hair in the North Carolina humidity. Your hair ended up a mess, as did your prom date.}

You’ll get braces next year and you’ll love your smile a lot more after that. 

Your curly hair will get wilder every year until the end of college. Your friends are paying $100 for spiral perms yet you rage against the curls you got for free. Oh my word, stop it. It is 1988, the pinnacle of huge hair. Your hair is in its glory day, so rock that curly mane of yours! One day you’ll have babies and those pregnancy hormones will be the death of your bouffant tresses. Love your big hair while it lasts.

Celebrate scarcity. It is making you quite resourceful. I know the budget is tight and you resent that every girl in the world {except you} has Guess jeans and expensive loafers. You're forced to raid the closets of everyone in the whole house but you somehow leave for school each day looking relatively put together, albeit running late. One day you’ll be the girl your friends call to help them maximize their wardrobe or redecorate their houses using what they already have. Limitations aren’t always a bad thing.

{Okay, so you're not actually a teenager in this picture but it's Future You's favorite family photo. Look how you're toting a matching purse and Emily's clutching a Bible the size of her head. She always was the more righteous one and you always were the more accessorized one.}

Love your family. They are a treasure. Your younger siblings are mere children right now and you sometimes long to be an only child in order to have more attention. But one day you’ll all grow up to be amazing friends. You’ll vacation together and love them {and their families} like crazy so how about loving them a little bit more right now?

I’m almost done but just hear me out on a few more things:

Solitude is your friend. You’re not actually an extrovert; you just get all of your worth and value from people and that’s why you “need” to be around them. You don't. Spend more time buried in books, journals, and sketch-pads. Take a walk by yourself. These are the ways your contemplative soul recharges.

Busy-ness is killing you. Slow down, please. Rest is more important than youth group. Skipping a social event won’t kill you; learn to say no. Naps are your friend. Pulling all-nighters to study is so not worth it. Every so often you have a breakdown and I suspicion it’s simply exhaustion. Sleep equals sanity. Please believe me on this.

Your mom has given you some profound advice but you already know everything so you're not listening. Besides, it sounds too simple to be profound:

You be you.

Camp out in this advice. Talk to her about it. You’ll spend the next twenty years trying to be everyone but you. Identity will always be a struggle but it doesn’t have to be. There are clues all around; you just need to take some time to notice the becoming

But first, go take a nap. You stayed up too late finishing homework while watching The Love Boat. Again.


39-year-old You {And quit rolling your's not as old as it sounds.}


  1. Dear Adult You,
    I don't even know where to begin with the flood of ways in which I would like to express my response to this post. In a word . . .



  2. U r right about hair and sleep. But most of those other things too!

  3. So fun! And I can totally relate the to the introvert part. :)

  4. i blogged a letter to me a few years ago...thinking (with my 39th birthday around the corner *gulp*) that it's time for another one.

    this was great. don't you wish teenage you would have been able to read this and heed your advice.

    really, 39 "isn't as old as it sounds?"

  5. So many great points in this. I love this: "Your gifts should always be your guide." Thanks for posting this letter!

  6. Popped over from Emily's. I so relate to the afraid, afraid, afraid! Nice letter!

  7. Love this! You and I would have gotten along well in our teenage years. We could have sported the big curly hair when everyone else had the short straight stuff and started the rage of big hair even sooner. ;)


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