A Letter to Myself—What I Learned from 16-Year-Old Me

At the start of this semester, I received a letter in the mail that I had written to myself in my junior year of high school. I had totally forgotten about this assignment, so the letter came as a surprise. Honestly, between AP exams, friend drama, limited sleep, and an overwhelming amount of stress, most of junior year is a blur to me now. From the opening of the letter, I could tell that this assignment was just another item on a long list of tasks to complete. I even opened the letter with an apology for the incoherent mess I was about to write at midnight the day it was due. I don’t know quite what I was expecting when I started reading— probably some funny details about my life in junior year, and about problems that seemed monumental to me then and that are completely irrelevant to my life now. What I didn’t expect was how hard 16-year-old me’s words would hit me at the start of my sophomore year of college.

I opened my letter with a brief synopsis of what was happening in my life while I was writing. This was so weird to read back, reliving memories of friends I’ve lost touch with, experiences with my first romantic relationship, health problems, club events, and assignments I was concerned about. While this moment of nostalgia was appreciated as I packed to leave home and return to BU for the fall semester, it was actually the rest of the letter that has really stuck with me. 

After providing some context for my life at the time I was writing (16-year-old me correctly guessed that I would forget about this assignment by the time I received it in the future), I moved on to a list of things I hoped to have achieved by the time I received the letter. As I read through this list, I was surprised to see that I had done so much of the things listed and that in so many ways, I had grown into the person that high school Jules hoped she would be. I don’t think that at the time I was writing, I expected to have changed or grown this much, and I definitely thought I would still be very much in that process of self-discovery. While that process certainly hasn’t ended, nor do I believe it’ll ever really end, I can read that list today and feel content with the person I’ve become. I may not have given up the peace signs, but this letter was a much-needed reminder of all the growth I’ve gone through in the past few years.  

September 2016

Photo Credit: Jules Bulafka

September 2019

Photo Credit: Jules Bulafka

I finished my letter with advice for my future self, and I couldn’t possibly have known when I was writing it how much future me would need to hear those things. It was almost freaky reading such relevant advice from a silly school assignment I wrote years ago, but even though I’ve made so much progress, I think there are some things I’ll always have to remind myself about. Starting this semester with those words in mind has given me a sense of confidence and self-awareness that I am so grateful for.

There’s one section of the letter where I wrote, 

“Are you everything you’ve always wanted to be? I hope so. I have such a clear vision of you in my head. I hope I get there someday. I think that I will. I couldn’t stand being told that I’m the same scared teen with a haircut and a new address. I’m glad you can’t write back.” 

Photo Credit: Jules Bulafka

I wish so badly now that I could write back to that girl and tell her that things will be okay. I wish that she could see the amazing people she’ll be surrounded by at BU, and the incredible memories she’ll make here. I am so grateful for my best friends, who always encourage me to be unapologetically myself. They are so much of the reason I’ve finally become so comfortable in my own skin, and their support would’ve meant so much to the scared teen writing that letter. I wish I could tell her not to invest so much of her energy into her schoolwork, and to get some sleep, and to stop worrying so much about the future. I know she wouldn’t listen to most of my advice, but I think that if she could see me now, she’d be proud.

Photo Credit: Jules Bulafka

So, dear past Jules – you were right. I don’t miss the girl I was when I was 16. But I don’t want to forget her either. High school was rough, and it took you so long to learn how to love yourself, but you got there. Part of that journey for me was learning to accept you, too. You are so much happier today than you ever thought you were capable of being. I’ve made a life for myself here that I’m proud of, and I think you would be proud too. I’m going to remember your advice because even though I’ve made so much progress since junior year, there are some things in that letter that I really needed reminding of. You ended your letter saying, “I can’t wait to be you someday. You give me hope.” I hope this is everything you imagined for yourself.  

While this letter was intended as a fun assignment to wrap up my junior year of high school, I am so grateful for the perspective it has given me going into this semester.  


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