Over the holidays I had a chance to visit a couple of towns I haven’t lived in a very, very long time (I’d tell you exactly how long it’s been, except then you’d think I was old.)
When I was visiting, I remembered what it was like when I was like when I lived there in middle school and junior high and high school. And as I look back, I see my 13-year-old self sitting in the closet writing all of my angst into my journals, missing friends I’d grown up with, having a hard time making new friends, feeling awkward and lonely, and really out of place. And I want to go back in time and tell her what I know now.
But since retro time travel is impossible, I’m going to tell you instead.
The kid who feels self-conscious about your skin and embarrassed about your curves.
The kid who’s ashamed that your clothes don’t have designer labels.
You, the girl who developed curves faster — or slower — than everyone else. The guy whose voice changed too soon, or not soon enough.
The kid who changes in the bathroom stall rather than the locker room because you’re afraid of people scrutinizing your body.
You, the kid who has big dreams for your future that no one seems to recognize or affirm.
You, the kid who would give anything to walk into the cafeteria and see a table full of friendly faces inviting you to sit with them.
You, the girl who wants to do chemistry homework instead of going to the mall. You, the guy who wants to disassemble an engine or fix a computer or try out a new recipe you found online.
The kid who feels like you’re on the outside, always looking in on people who are prettier or more popular or more fun than you are.
The kid who’s sure that because you don’t fit in with the “cool” crowd now, your life will always be like this, and you’ll always feel alone.
The one whose head is full of crazy, just-might-be-possible ideas.
Here’s what I wish someone had told me when I was your age, and so here’s what I’m going to tell you.
You might get picked last, left out, bullied and overlooked. You might even think about hurting yourself because you’re so miserable.
But I promise you, you’re going to get through this. It won’t be fun, but you’ll survive.
Believe in yourself and embrace everything that makes you uniquely you.
Ignore people who put you down and leave you out (and pray for the kids who do that — because if they need to put others down in order to feel good about themselves, they have issues, too).
Remember that other kids feel exactly the way you do. Smile at them. Talk to them. Sit with them. Keep each other company. Take care of each other.
Thank your lucky stars that these years haven’t been a great experience for you — because that means that your life is going to get even better. For some people, this is the best their lives will ever be. But you — well, you’re going to be different. Your world will expand beyond the football fields and homecoming parades and classrooms of your school.
And you, my friend, will go far. You’ll have opportunities in the future that you can’t even imagine right now. You’ll go to interesting places and you’ll see new things, and along the way you’ll meet friends who recognize you for the amazing person you are.
You’ll develop compassion for people who are marginalized in this world, because you’ve felt that way, too. You will look beyond peoples’ outer appearances to see the beauty inside them.
You will be confident.
You will be understanding.
You will be happy.
You will be free.
Trust me when I say this, because I’ve been exactly where you are.
You, yes you — you will be just fine.