Before I actually share this letter, let me put things into perspective, since let’s face it, few of you knew me as a fifteen year old (some of you only know me from reading this, after all). At fifteen, I had just moved from Nova Scotia to Prince Edward Island. I was, and always had been, visually impaired, but my vision had held steady at 20/80 in one eye. That was enough to read, ride a bicycle, etc, though it did make school harder as I couldn’t quite keep up as fast as everyone else. I was anxious, lacked confidence, and had been bullied quite badly up to that point. And I was just so very, very awkward.
So, here goes.
Yes, it’s true, I’m almost thirty years older than you right now. Yes, yes, I know. You think I’m old. I’m older than your parents are right now. Trust me, your perspective is going to change by the time you’re me.
And you? You’re so full of uncertainty. You moved to a new province not all that long ago. New people, new school. New everything. You think everything has changed. And it has, but hold on buttercup, because you don’t even know what change is.
You’re on the verge of something. I’m not going to tell you what it is, but let me tell you this. It’s going to be scary, you’re going to think your life is over. But listen. It’s going to be okay. I promise. It really, really will. There’s so many good things after the scary things.
You’re going to learn some things about yourself. First and foremost, you’re going to learn that you’re so much stronger than you think you are. You’re going to learn that when push comes to shove, you can and will stand up for yourself. I’m not talking about those idiotic bullies in junior high that made you so miserable, because they don’t matter. I’m talking about adults. Dumb adults who don’t have your best interests at heart. People in power over you. They’re going to try to mess with your education and you? You, you brave, smart young woman, you’re going to stand up and say “No. This isn’t going to happen.”
Oh, and stop that. That thing you’re doing right now, where you’re reading this and thinking “But I’m not smart”. Yes. You. Are. I know you don’t believe me, I know the educational system has taught you to think that you’re stupid. You compare your grades to your sister’s, and think she’s the smart one. You are wrong. Well, you’re not wrong about her, she’s got smarts for miles and miles. But so do you. Given the right environment and the support you legitimately need, you can and will rock the sciences. You read that right. Sciences, not just English.
A few other things. You are loved. Your family loves you. Other people are going to love you, too. Again, I promise you that this is true. They’re going to find you attractive. You may not always know it at the time, though. I’m afraid that the ability to actually notice that someone is into us is still vastly underdeveloped in your forties. Actually, right now you think that no one finds you attractive and no one ever will, but if my calculations are right you’ve already met at least one person who does. Sadly, you’re going to miss those signs and only realize they were there about, oh, fifteen years later. Sorry about that, kid.
Friends will love you, too. The kind of friends that, once made, are going to be there for the rest of your life. Some may dip out of sight for awhile, but your paths will reconnect in time and it will be glorious.
And about your parents, treasure them. Yes, I know, you’re fifteen years old and you think you know more than they do about so many things, and that they don’t, and never can, understand you. Kiddo, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong on both scores. Turns out, they’re pretty smart. They love you. Tell them you love them. Tell them how much you appreciate them. See them for who they are. Treasure every moment you have with them.
You’re going to discover hidden talents that you haven’t even considered having. You are a gifted person, it’s just going to take you awhile to find out how. When you do, though, you’re going to love those gifts. They’re pretty cool ones.
And you know what, kiddo? You know who else loves you? I do. I love you. I see you. I understand you. I see your foibles and your faults and your potential and I god damned love you. One day, you’re going to love you, too.
Life’s not always going to be easy. No one’s is. Yours will resemble a roller coaster sometimes, but the thing to remember about roller coasters is that there’s a whole lot of ups as well as downs, and also that they’re a thrilling, exciting ride. Try to find the joy in that ride. You’re in for one crazy adventure, darling, and you’ll do things that right now, you can’t even imagine doing.
Oh. One last thing. Your hair? It’s purple now. I thought you’d love that.
(So. If you could say something to your fifteen year old self, what would it be? That self deserves kindness, just like you do, so be kind to them. And to yourself, and those you encounter.)