The pandemic has made a lot of people introspective. We’ve all been thinking about the past and pre-pandemic times; what we would have done differently if we knew this is what life would become, what we regret, what we don’t regret, how we’ve changed. I’ve been thinking about the past too. But I’ve been thinking about a different past-self. My high school self. My grade 9 self. Is she even a ‘self’? She feels so different now, so far away. What would I say to her now, if we were to have a chat? Present me would sit in a comfy turtleneck sweater and flowy pants, nursing a hot chocolate, complaining about how it’s too hot for me to drink. Past me would be drinking some sort of hot coffee trying to look cool even though I hated coffee because it was what everyone else was drinking. Wearing a Victoria’s Secret Sweater that I bought on sale after meticulous saving because it was what everyone else liked. Wearing leggings even though I hated how they looked on me because they were what everyone else was wearing. We’re different. We feel worlds away. But we’ll always be the same. So, awkward 15-year old me. Let’s have a chat.
Let’s start simple. Don’t feel insecure about wearing that black dress with the sheer flower shirt over top and the combat boots. You’re so proud of that outfit! You love that outfit. You’re right when you think it looks nothing like the outfits around you. That’s okay, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. You’ll spend so much time agonizing over that. Always wanting to fit in, blend in, feel the same. Every time you walk down a hallway you’ll look at the passing faces, trying to determine if they’re looking at you, if they like your outfit, if they like you. Trust me when I say that’s the worst thing you will ever do to yourself. When you get older people will tell you they love your sense of style. You dress uniquely, and it’s become something others love. And you’ll love it too. How you feel in your clothing, how you look, how it expresses your personality. Something that feels light years away from your past seeking validation. It’s okay for you to look different. Your body shape is different. Your personality is different. You are different, but that’s okay. Everyone is different. And everyone is trying to fit in. So wear that outfit confidently. You’ll look back on it fondly when you’re older, (a secret between you and me – it’s scarily similar to your current style…foreshadowing much?), and you’ll realize that every look a person gives isn’t a negative one. Sometimes they’re just looking, and this might sound shocking, but sometimes they’re looking because they like it too. There are like-minded people out there. You’ve just been too busy trying to fit in to find them.
Next. Don’t drink that Mike’s Hard Lemonade at that party. You don’t want to. Actually, you won’t. You’ll open it, drink a few sips, hate the taste of it and the swirling feeling of carbonation, and hold it for the rest of the night lest you look like you aren’t drinking. It’s okay to not ‘be a teenager’. It’s okay to have more fun sitting at home watching Dance Moms with your parents or reading an entire YA novel in one sitting because it’s just that good. So much of adolescence is meant to be finding yourself, figuring out who you are. Yet so much of it is spent trying to conform to the conceptions of personhood and popularity you see around you. Trust me when I say that no one knows who they are in high school. You’ll graduate and grow. Move to a new city where no one has met you and you can be any ‘you’ you want. Finally lean into the identity you’ve always avoided. You’ll be nerdy, and studious, and weird, and you’ll feel authentic. It will be amazing, and you’ll regret all the years you spent trying to have the quintessential high school experience of parties and boyfriends (or girlfriend. um, hi, you’re bi. lets just say your appreciation of Hermione Granger is much deeper than you’re willing to admit at the time, lest you be a teachers pet and gay) and multiple friends that you see every night at sleepovers with exciting stories and gossip. You haven’t quite figured this out yet, but you will soon enough.
I don’t want to make this conversation too long. I don’t want to point out too many negatives. Thinking about what you would change in the present is an exhausting act; the past only lives in memories, is not translatable to current actions. It is changeable only in intangible ways. Harping on mistakes can only be so productive. I hope if I leave you with anything I leave you with this. Your independence is your strength (you are an ENTP after all). You’ll finally learn this when you go to Quebec for a french program, which you definitely won’t regret, so stop agonizing over the decision. This experience will be one of independence and the forging of identity. Getting a taste of what its like to be unapologetically yourself, and thriving when you learn people actually like that person. You’ll make friends that you still cherish and talk to today.
On the topic of friends. When you’re 15 you won’t have too many friends. When you’re almost 21 you also won’t have too many friends. And that is exactly how it should be. You’re going to look at all the large friend groups around you and question why you don’t have that. Am I not fun enough? I knew being a book nerd, always studying and never wanting to party is boring. Am I not pretty enough? Being quite tall and not quite thin as a woman in this society is hard. Am I just..not enough? There is strength in numbers. But there’s also strength in yourself. It’s okay to have fewer friends. It’s okay to be an extroverted introvert. It’s okay to be selective in your time, in your loyalty, in your care. It’s okay to want to be by yourself. Your independence is strength, even if it feels like a curse sometimes. The friends you have and the friends you will make will be so important to you. They will lift you up as you will them. And you’ll never once wish you spent more time trying to be friends with people, even if you didn’t like them. You’ll thrive learning how to enjoy your own company, because hey, you’re great! There is no better friend to have than yourself.
I think that’s all for now. I don’t want to burden you, as I know you already burden yourself with your thoughts. Wear those outfits. Be honest to yourself about yourself. Start listening to BTS earlier because you’ll really like them. Stop pretending to like things you don’t care about because those around you do. You won’t regret spending your time rereading Harry Potter when it’s not ‘cool’ anymore, but you really will regret spending your time reading Pretty Little Liars. But most importantly, breath. It’s okay that you haven’t realized all of this yet. You will. It will come. Your time is not high school, and that is okay. A flower takes time to bloom. A tea takes time to steep. You’re still growing, always growing, will never stop growing. I hope you like what you see when you look at present me. And it’s fine if you don’t. Because I still have a lot of growth ahead too. We’re never fully realized, never static, never ‘done’. Isn’t that the fun part? Sometimes it’s okay for you to wait for your moment instead of trying to create it for yourself. Sometimes it takes a while for the world to catch up with what you know, what you’ve always known, who you are, who you will become.
One last thing.
I know you hate your bushy eyebrows. You have ever since that kid in elementary school called them eyebrows in a heated schoolyard debate. You’ll end up getting them waxed to make them look ‘normal’, but you’ll be too embarrassed to admit that so you’ll tell everyone a friend had a birthday party at a spa and you were dared to do it (like that’s actually a believable story). Don’t do the waxing. Don’t change your eyebrows. They are beautiful, and unique, and soon they will be your #1 source of compliments. The time you spend tweezing them into a hammer-like shape is definitely not worth it. What is worth it is the praise your natural ‘brows get when they grow back and Cara Delevigne and Lily Collins become popular. You’ll never feel insecure about your eyebrows again. I promise.