Dear Me, Age 11,
The day you were born, mom and dad were overjoyed. They had to replace their passions for punk music and traveling with banking and fixing cars so that they could take care of you but don’t worry, they promised that they didn’t mind. When your roommate, best friend, and professional secret keeper came into the world, you insisted on sleeping in the crib with her to keep her safe. That’s what sisters do for each other, right? When your pesky nuisance of a brother was born, mom and dad decided that the two-bedroom cottage near the beach was too small for your growing family. At six years old, you were uprooted from Pensacola, Florida to a bigger house in Evansville, Indiana. You were a little upset at first, and the beginning of school didn’t make it any better.
Speaking of school, that’s some tough stuff. You were very shy, and starting first grade at a new school didn’t make that any better. You had your nose in a book all the time. You found refuge from the mean kids in the library where you helped shelve books. I wish you would have made more friends, but I also know how difficult that was for you. As you transitioned from third to fourth to fifth grade, you started making good life-long friends that, at the age of 16, you will still talk to. You’re about to start sixth grade and having those friends might make that transition a little easier.
You are going to hate middle school. I mean, how could you not? All those hormonal pre-teens have one goal and it’s to be mean. I’m not sure how you manage to become the target of their angst, but their mean words will only make you stronger. Find out who your real friends are and stick with them. Don’t let them make fun of you for being different. Being bigger than the other girls doesn’t make you ugly. Being quiet doesn’t make you stupid. Being shy doesn’t make you rude.
Remember my advice about finding out who your real friends are and sticking with them? You’ll sort of forget about that in the seventh grade. You’re going to get stuck in a class with all the angry kids who wear dark clothes and listen to sad music. As much as I would like to tell you not to befriend them, those kids are a crucial part of your journey to finding yourself. You’ll spend the next six months buying t-shirts for bands that you don’t even like to try to impress them. The boys will all fall for you, but you won’t know how to react. You’ll be friends with these people until the day they tell you one of their older brothers bought alcohol and that they’re all going to drink it on Friday night. You’ll tell mom. They will all hate you for a while, but it was a good call.
Eighth grade will be the worst year of your life so far. You will return that year with no friends. Luckily, your charm will gain you back the trust of your old friends. Please stick by them this time, they’re good for you. Halfway through your first semester dad is going to move out. He’s going to tell you and your siblings that he has to go “get some help” and he’s going to be gone for a while. You’ll later find out that he was addicted painkillers. The kids at school will show you no mercy, and you’ll want to die for the first time in your life.
Mom is going to insist you go to therapy. Listen to her, it’s good for you. They’re going to give you a drug meant to make you feel better, but it won’t. The first antidepressant you try is going to make your hair fall out. The second is going to make you lose your appetite. The third one, though, that one will help you. Mom is going to tell you that you need to tell the therapist everything. You’re going to tell her you want to die, and she is going to send you to a place where you can get better. It’s going to feel like a punishment but it’s not. The inpatient center is only there to help. You’re going to meet some good friends during the two weeks you stay there. Speaking to them after you leave the institution is against the rules and leaving them behind to return to normal life will be really difficult.
When you get home and return to school, all the kids will know where you were. They won’t talk about it to your face, but you will hear the whispers in the hallways as you pass. Even your best friends will have trouble looking you in the eyes. You are going to be okay. That summer, you are going to feel so much better. You will start looking forward to the future and what it may bring. Try to keep this mindset, it will make everything so much easier.
On the first day of freshman year you are going to meet your new best friend. She will be everything a best friend should be; supportive, funny, and great at advice. Here’s something to keep in mind: if someone seems perfect, chances are that they’re hiding something. Your friendship with this new girl will progress and in the meantime, you’ll meet a boy. He’s going to talk you into doing things that you’re not comfortable with. You’re going to feel like your first real kiss had been stolen from you. He’s going to break up with you after two months. Seeing him in the hallways everyday will get easier, but not for a while.
Remember your new best friend? She’s going to tell you that she’s a boy and that she prefers to be called Luke. You’re going to respect that because you’re a decent human. You’re going to put everything you are into that friendship and one day, Luke is going to decide that he doesn’t want to be friends with you anymore. You’re going to think everything is civil between you and your ex friend but then the rumors will start to spread, and it will feel like middle school all over again. You will make plans to switch to a new school next year, but it won’t work out.
Three weeks before the end of freshman year, dad is going to decide that life is too much. You’re going to find out he took a dozen pills in a church parking lot. He’s going to send you a text about how he’s going to heaven. You’re going to have be braver than you have ever been. You will call the ambulance. Tell your brother and sister that he was having back problems and that’s why he had to go to the hospital. Someday you’ll have to tell them what really happened, but now is not the time. He’s going to be okay, but you’re going to have to move in with mom. You won’t like this, but it’s worth it so dad can get better. I promise.
Sophomore year will be a good one for you. You’ll make the friends you were meant to have. Friends that support and appreciate you. These friends will help you find your happiness and keep it. You’ll laugh every day and you will be content with what you have. You’ll be able to move back in with dad. You’ll fall for a boy and you’ll have no idea why. You’ll give months of your life to him only for him to replace you with someone prettier. You are going to feel so broken, but I promise it’s going to be okay.
The rest of highschool is going to fly by. You will find your place. You will find your friends. Life won't be perfect, but you will learn to face adversity and come out the other side with more resiliance. Here is my advice: be brave, be strong, be extrordinary. I wish I could tell you how it’s all going to turn out, but the truth is, I’m not done growing yet. I don’t know if I’m going to keep these friends or who I’m going to fall in love with. I don’t even know what’s going to happen tomorrow. But, despite the bad things that have happened in the past and the unknown things that will happen in the future, I do know this: we are going to be okay.
You, age 18