Wednesday, January 2, 2013
A Letter to My Teenage Self
The Letter Q, edited by Sarah Moon. The book is a compilation of letters written by famous queer authors to their teenage selves. It will make you laugh, it will make you cry, it will make you angry and happy and, if you're queer, it'll make you proud.
The book inspired me to write to my teenage self. Although most of these authors are middle aged now and have decades more time and distance from their teenage selves than I do, I decided to write a letter to my 12 year old self as well. I share it with you now, in hopes that you, too, will reflect on the lessons you've learned, the wisdom you've gained, and the experiences you've had - significant or seemingly insignificant - since your years as a teenager.
You are on the brink of your 13th birthday. This birthday will mark not only your first year as a teenager, but also your first kiss (or at least that's what you'll lead everyone to believe). You're changing, and you know it. I see you trying desperately to fit in with your peers, trying to be someone you're not. But Kelsey, you've always been different.
You don't care about what you wear or about what your hair looks like or about wearing makeup. News flash: your 23 year old self doesn't either. And that's ok. But while we're on the topic, don't wear lipstick to school on that random October day next year because it'll get on your teeth and no one will tell you all day.
I know your body is changing and you aren't sure what to do about it, but I beg you to try to love yourself the way you are. In a couple of years, you'll succumb to pressure and begin to slowly starve yourself. Kelsey, don't do it. I know it's hard to believe now, but you're a beautiful young woman and not eating enough will not solve any of your problems. You eventually learn that, although we still have the occasional battle today.
Another word of caution, my friend. I know, as you know now when you search down deep and listen to that voice inside of you, that your trend of dating guys for short stints has more to do with your insecurities and desire to be accepted than with the hope of any lasting romantic relationships.
When you come out (oh yeah, you're a lesbian...surprise!), you'll promise yourself that you'll never lie to yourself again. Years of repression of your true self will teach you that telling yourself the truth is always, without a doubt, universally better than lying to yourself. Even if it means you still lie to everyone around you (although mostly you'll choose to tell everyone else the truth too). This will change the way you live your life, and it will allow you to love yourself a little bit more.
I have good news from the future, my dear. After years of knowing your life is lacking something, you will go to college and learn how to talk to people about stuff that matters. You will begin to ask other people questions, you will discover a thirst for understanding others in a new way, an exciting way. You also begin to enjoy your family, looking forward to the time you get to spend with them.
As for the faith life that is only right now, right this moment, beginning to form, I will leave that as a question for your future. All I will tell you is that I needn't assist you in this journey, as you will only dive deeper and grow more intrigued with God and faith over time. It will be an adventure, one that I will promise you will be completely worth it, even as it will seem impossible, confusing, and frustrating for many years.
I have to warn you that your first heartbreak will be harder than you can imagine, but you will survive. You will find comfort in the arms of many friends, new and old, and they will hold you up and love you like crazy and you will never be able to repay them (and better yet, they won't expect you to). You will realize who you can count on in the midst of this incredibly painful time, and you will grow new appreciation for the wonderful people in your life. Through all of your pain, in every season, hold on to the hope that good things really can grow from bad, that time and distance really do help heal you, and that you are loved, even when you don't feel that you deserve it. And don't worry, you will love again.
Sometimes you will get very stressed about life and the future, and my advice is to spend time with the people who make you laugh and let you talk about it when you want to.
With love from your future self,
P.S. You do learn to stop feeling Catholic guilt, but you never learn to sing in the right key (although it won't stop you from singing).