First things first: You will fall in love.
And when you do, it will be amazing and heart-pounding and all that other stuff you dream about. It probably won’t play out exactly like “Say Anything,” but that’s okay. Keep dreaming it will.
I love your dreams. They are big and fearless, exactly as they should be. You dream about running a magazine and seeing your name in glossy, four-color print. About a fluffy white dress and a stained-glass chapel. About lots of kids. Lots of love. Lots of happy.
But I guess right now I’m more interested in the not-so-dreamy of your life. Can I be honest? I ache a bit for you. I know you will soon meet the hard knocks that come with growing up. In some ways, you already have. I know you struggle with you. Who you are. How you’re made. I desperately want to change that. There’s a part of me that wishes I could just grab your hand and guide you seamlessly to age 20 or 25. But I can’t. And really, I shouldn’t.
Still, if we could sit down together — me with coffee and you with Sprite — I would have so much to say to you. About the stuff that lasts. The stuff that matters. The stuff that’s real.
Like slumber parties …
You know how you have slumber parties with Carol? And stay up all night talking with Jill? Treasure that. Breathe in those moments. Twenty years from now, on the off chance you do have a slumber party, it will not happen without a month’s worth of scheduling. Everyone who attends will require a bed, will be asleep before 10 p.m. and will have to leave before 9 a.m. to take someone to baseball practice.
And speaking of girlfriends, love yours. Don’t fight over boys. Share secrets. These girls will hold your hands through the awful of your life. Treat them well.
Go easy on your parents. They are not professionals, and you did not come with a guide book. They are going to get it wrong sometimes. You will be understandably upset. Even though it’s popular to swap my-parents-are-so-horrible stories with your friends, try not to. Instead, remember the times your parents got it right. Give grace. You will soon need it yourself.
You’re right. You will never use Trig in the real world. (But you will use respect, so stop rolling your eyes, and finish your math homework.)
And speaking of the real world, it’s not as exciting as it seems. No, i take that back. It is exciting — but only when you’re ready to meet it. Don’t grow up too fast.
By the time you hit your late 30s, you will have a little bit of gray and a few wrinkles, but mostly, what you see in the mirror? It won’t change. So … do you think you can you work on loving yourself a bit more? I get it. You want to look like her. With hair like hers. And a nose like hers. But it doesn’t really work that way. What you see is what you get, baby girl. Try to look kindly on your face. Smile more. Hide less. Speak well to yourself.
Play sports, audition for the school play, run for student council. Be brave. Try it all. But then be okay if you fail. Success is honorable, but losing graciously? That’s just plain gutsy.
About the popular kids: Let them be popular. You just be you.
About the computer kids: Listen to them. That whole internet thing is not really going away …
About the mean kids: They’re messed up on the inside. Feel sorry for them. And be as kind as you can as often as you can to as many as you meet.
And about that boy you like? He doesn’t like you back. Yes, ouch. Yes, harsh. But yes, it’s true. And your heart knows it. So no more trying to change you to fit him.
Or maybe no more trying to change you at all? No, I don’t mean the stuff that needs to go (like that attitude you get …). I’m talking about the YOU-you. The you that won’t change no matter how you try to force her to. Yeah, this is touchy. Like a leftover bruise that just won’t heal. But when it comes to loving yourself, sooner is better. Believe in you. Celebrate you. Be you.
Seriously. It’s really okay to just. be. you.
And while you’re at it …
Eat more ice cream.
Open the door for someone older than you.
Then do it again for someone younger.
Raise your hand when you know you know the answer.
Then give it a shot when you’re not sure.
Smile at the new kid.
Stay up late.
Be on time.
Hold on to your first kiss.
And be proud of it.
Laugh a lot.
Give a lot.
Live a lot.
And love (yourself) a lot.
This is the stuff that lasts forever.
P.S. Even 24 years later, we still love a good dream.
-by Jai Wallace Tracy