Recently, I was scrolling through Twitter and saw that my friend, YA author Lish McBride, had posted a link to her entry on a website called Dear Teen Me. I’d never heard of this website before, but I was instantly charmed. The idea is simple: authors write letters of advice to their teenage selves. There’s even an anthology, and one of the contributors happens to be Stephanie Kuehnert, a former writing teacher of mine who I interviewed recently.
Having not published a book yet, the creators of Dear Teen Me probably don’t want my letter on their website (yet), but I liked the idea so much that I decided to write a letter here, on my blog. If they ever ask me to do one for them, I’ll just write another one. Won’t be too hard. I can think of lots of things to say to my teenage self.
And maybe you can, too. This was an interesting writing exercise, and I recommend it to all.
Dear Teen Me:
Hi, Teen Eva! This is Adult Eva! Don’t be too scared. I’m not wearing Mom Jeans, and I still like Nirvana. We even look sort of the same — at least, that’s what people tell me.
Anyway, you’re sixteen-almost-seventeen, and right now you’re visiting England as an exchange student for a few weeks, which you should enjoy as much as possible because you’re not going back there any time soon. It’s been seventeen years, and you haven’t gone back to England yet, though you have been to Germany, Spain, Portugal, the Dominican Republic, and three times to Mexico. So I kind of wish you hadn’t dropped out of Spanish freshman year…
But don’t worry, I’m not asking you to do anything differently because of the whole butterfly effect thing. If Teen Eva does one little thing differently, it might totally change things for Adult Eva, and to be honest, I embrace your mistakes and embarrassments because they make us who we are, and, as vain as it sounds, I rather like us — both the teenage version and the Eva I am now.
Speaking of vanity, though, you should stop worrying so much about what you look like. Years from now, when you’re complaining about what terrible acne you had as a teenager, your high school friends (like Nikki and Chris and Melissa and Degra — because yeah, you’re still good friends with all of them) will say that they don’t remember you having bad acne. As cheesy as it sounds, no one really notices the blemishes except for you, so you should stop letting your skin make you feel bad about yourself. In fact, years from now, Nikki will say to you, “Eva, I don’t remember you having pimples in high school. I just remember you being so pretty and having such fun clothes.”
So there’s the news flash, Sweet Little Eva: you’re pretty. Now you can stop worrying about whether you are or not. And you know what, even if you weren’t pretty, that would be OK, too. In the end we all get old and fat and wrinkled and spotted,and you need to be worrying about who you are on the inside much more than what your outside container looks like. The thing is, I know you do care about who you are on the inside. You’re a very thoughtful, introspective girl, and I like that about you, Teen Queen Eva. Try not to lose touch with that side of yourself later on when you’re in your twenties and partying a lot and dating people who only seem to care about your container.
Anyway, you’re about to go “off to pub” with Nikki and a bunch of the British kids, and you’re going to have a good time, but from what I recall, you’re also going to worry that the beer you’re drinking is going to make you fat. And you’re going to feel awkward because your cold is making you sound stuffed up, and you’ll worry that people think you’re gross for constantly blowing your nose.
So, first of all, you should go ask your host mom for some cold medicine. I honestly don’t know why you didn’t do that. Second of all, instead of changing what you do, work on changing how you feel. Stop worrying so much about your body. Trust me, it’s not worth it. And definitely don’t worry about your hair so much. As your future fiancé will tell you, “boys can’t see bangs,” so when yours are misbehaving, just remember that they’re invisible to half the population.
Basically, Dear Young Eva, I want you to feel more confident. Stop trying so hard to please everyone and worrying so much about whether or not people like you. Guess what: they do! So relax and enjoy the moment. Be kind to yourself, and learn to accept the way you look, remembering it’s only a container for the important stuff on the inside.
To be honest with you, Lil Eva, I’m still working on all this now at thirty-three. I’m still trying to stop worrying about my looks and stop worrying about whether or not people like me. I’m still trying to be kind to myself and learn to relax and enjoy the moment. So if you want to go ahead and get a head start on all of this, it might help me out.
OK, off to pub with you for now, and say hi to your host-boy for me. After you go back to the U.S. you’ll lose touch with him for a while, but later you guys will become friends on facebook, which is this weird thing we have in the future.
Take care, My Lovely Teen Eva, and by the way, go ahead and buy those Spice Girls platform shoes when you see them– they are going to be an integral part of several Halloween costumes to come.