An Open Letter To My 16-Year-Old Self
I know you’re anxiously reading this letter, so concerned about who wrote it that you’re considering scrolling to the end to see the signature — well, surprise, it’s you, four years into the future. You’re currently a junior in college and, spoiler alert, your ventures with the debate team and tears over grades in high school paid off because you’re at your top choice college.
I’m not writing this letter to tell you that things are going to change and that you’re going to grow so much because I think you already know that. Our futures are unpredictable, and if we could gaze into them, we would know to avoid certain situations and relationships, which would allow us to sail smoothly for the duration of our short lives. But even at 16, you know this would be purposeless, as experience fosters growth. And I promise you’ll learn that lesson brutally throughout the following years.
You currently think that you can throw your relationship on the backburner and see what else is out there because you’re young and romance is new and you’re only a sophomore and there are cute senior boys and parties in people’s basements. But don’t push away what you have and don’t run from it; let yourself fall to the point of insanity and tell him that you love him because you’re going to learn that he matters so much. Pretty soon, he’s going to break your heart and you’re going to think you’re dying, but it’s going to be because you let him walk away.
You’ll realize how you truly feel once it’s too late. But it’s never really too late. This goes for friendships and relationships with your family, too. Love and companionship have no expiration date. It doesn’t matter if it’s been five weeks, months or years — it’s never too late to rekindle and to strengthen. Remember this as you go through the next four years, because you’re going to need a lot of support, but you’ll survive.
The excruciating circumstances you’ll navigate will continue to resurface. You’ll see and feel and do and have a lot of things done unto you that you can’t even imagine right now. But when you try to tackle them and fight through the trials before you, remember one thing: you don’t have to do it alone. I know you’re rolling your eyes. Believe me, you’ll come to this realization once you turn 20 and it’s going to take one very extreme circumstance to drill it into your head, but you’ll find that sometimes, we simply need other people.
And when you need help, when you’re sad or when you just want a hug, you have to ask in order to receive. Don’t waste your time getting angry or frustrated with people who seem like they’re not helping or supporting you the way you want; they simply just don’t know what you need, so don’t be afraid to ask. I would tell you to speak up, but something that won't change in the next four years is your extroversion — you don’t need help here.
This extroversion will obviously bring many different relationships to you, both romantic and platonic. A lot of your anxiety and disappointment with these relationships stems from feeling as though you’re giving more than you’re getting. This will frustrate you intermittently, but try to internalize that there is no weakness in loving unconditionally so long as you are not being purposefully treated disrespectfully. There are absolutely people in the world who for some reason or another, do not like you. They will take advantage of you, manipulate you and treat you as less than you are worth.
But there are also people who will treat you not so nicely, who will lie to you often and lash out at you. But these are people who haven’t yet learned to love themselves. They struggle with something internal that they’ve not yet learned how to handle or conquer. Oftentimes, this confusion and feeling of being lost will be taken out on you — love them anyway in a big and beautiful and graceful way because these people need you. Love them when they insult you, when they lie to you and even when they can nearly convince you that they don’t love you back.
You’ll have to learn how to distinguish between these two groups of people for yourself, but when you see hopelessness inside of another person, remember that there is no shame in loving someone who can’t quite love you back just yet.
The next four years aren’t going to be easy, but they won’t be impossible either. Nothing in your life is; your mindset will help you overcome the unimaginable. Just remember to keep your heart open and the rest will follow. Start to give yourself a little more credit; you’re not half as bad as you may think you are.