When I was tapped by Mo for yet another virtual game of tag, this one challenging me to write a letter to myself at age sixteen, I couldn’t fathom what I would say to her. I turned 16 the summer prior to my junior year of high school… a year of my life that I loved. After a bit of thought I discovered I did have something to say. It would seem I always do. There was only one major decision to make… a decision that would shape every facet of my letter: Do I assume I can warn her and change my path or do I accept that my life cannot be changed and simply give her guidance? My impulse is to alter my existence. I’ve chosen to go against that desire. A miracle, I know.
Yeah, I just called you Chick-a-dee. Get used to it. Sometime in the next few years you are going to develop this habit for nicknaming just about everyone you know. I know this because I am you… a really long time from now. Don’t give me that skeptical laugh thing that you do. I could convince you with tales of what we were doing our final weekend in Louisiana a couple of months back. Ha! See? You know what I’m talking about. So… sit down, shut up and read.
Happy Birthday! I know you didn’t expect your 16th birthday to begin this way, but I’m quite sure you will adapt. You’re good at that. Also, Welcome Home! Please take a deep breath of Kenyan air. It’s been a while for me. Don’t take it for granted. Ever.
I’ve decided to not reveal too much about our future to you. Don’t bitch about it. I’m not here to blatantly change events. If I do, however, change your …. our… (whatever) attitude or thought responses and subsequently you make different decisions than I did and change our mutual course then I’ll live with the outcome.
I do have some general advice and I would love it if you listened to me for a change. As this is your sixteenth birthday, I’ll give you sixteen things to think about and that statement leads directly into one of the things you need to know about yourself:
1. Learn to set limits… like me only telling you sixteen things. If you don’t set limits you’ll just keep going on and on and on and spending your energy on non-beneficial stuff.
2. Write more. Start compiling all those scribblings you have scattered around into a more central location. Journal a lot. Trust me. You can thank me later.
3. Speaking of the written word: Keep every note and letter you receive. Every. Single. One.
4. Think twice before consciously setting someone up to be hurt even if you think they are one of the cold, hard, unfeeling ones.
5. You’re beautiful. I realize you have no clue. I remember. That’s why I’m telling you: You are beautiful! That junior high scrawny ugly duckling phase is long gone.
6. Don’t settle when it comes time to choose a college/university. Push for what you want. It’s your future.
7. Boys. They are worth it. Truly. But, don’t settle on one of them either. You’re allowed to be picky.
8. You know that “I refuse to be assimilated into any group and just want to be friends with everyone” vibe you have going on? Good decision. Go with it. Don’t second guess yourself on that one.
9. Study harder.
10. Swahili fluency is highly suggested.
11. Sunscreen. Wear it. You live on the equator and have blonde hair and green eyes. Girl, use your brain.
12. Your humanity dictates that you will make mistakes. Learn from them, but don’t dwell.
13. Never beg. Never grovel. Ever.
14. Get your right knee x-rayed. No, not now. You’ll know when. Swallow your tough girl play through the pain attitude and just do it.
15. Cherish every memory.
16. Love yourself. Always.
Are you listening? I hope so. You should listen to us more often and trust our instincts. I look forward to discovering who we’ve become in about eighteen years.
“You are sixteen going on seventeen, baby it's time to think. Better beware, be canny and careful, baby you're on the brink.” ~The Sound of Music
If you like this idea... consider yourself tagged.