A few days ago, Kristen nominated me for the Liebster award (which i’ll get to eventually…). One of the questions she wrote for the nominees to answer was, “If you could give your 16-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?” As I thought about the question, I realized that I would tell myself a lot of things…. a whole post’s worth of things, in fact. There are so many things I wish 16-year-old me would have known…
(Sorry for the lack of photos. All the pictures from my teenage life live at my parents’ house.)
Dear 16-year-old Cassie,
Hi, it’s you from the future. Twelve years in the future, in fact. Don’t freak out. I have lots of things to tell you.
First of all, you’re not fat. And you waste a LOT of time obsessing about being fat, trying to hide your imaginary fatness, doing stupid things like eating only carrots for lunch. Your body size is normal, and your fatness obsession is keeping you from noticing things, enjoying things… doing things that are so much more important. Eat well. Exercise. But do those things because they make you feel good and keep you healthy, not because you want to achieve some arbitrary “ideal” that exists only in your mind.
On that exercise note: Start running. Not because you’re fat (we’ve just established that you’re not, remember?) but because you’re actually kind of good at it, and running will be the best thing you’ve ever done. But if you don’t start now, you won’t find out about this hidden talent and joy until you’re 23. So do it now. Go get a sports physical, have Mom get you some shoes, and join the cross country team this fall.
Enough about the physical stuff. There’s a lot more to you… and a lot more you need to work on, beginning with your relationships.
I know you’ve never had a boyfriend — or a real date, for that matter. Knowing that all your friends are practically engaged makes you feel even more awkward. But it’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with you. Use this time to get to know yourself, to decide who you are and who you want to be. When you get to college in a couple of years, the dating scene will be entirely different — and you’ll have plenty of options. But the dates or lack thereof do not define you. You define you — and when you meet the right man (man, not boy), he’ll be absolutely crazy about every little thing that makes you you. (And by the way — those right-after-high-school marriages don’t last.They’re all divorced by your ten-year reunion).
In the meantime, focus on developing the relationships you do have. Learn to be a good friend. Spend as much time as possible with Grandma and Papa. Hike with Dad. And for goodness’ sake, be nicer to your mom. She loves you and your brother more than anything in this world and only wants what’s best for you (and knows better than you what “best” is). So stop rolling your eyes and arguing.
Stop doing that. (source)
The most important relationship you need to work on is the one with yourself. Learn to accept yourself, flaws and all, even as you strive for improvement.
Speaking of improvement… open your mind. Like most 16-year-olds, you’ve got a limited view of the world right now, so stop judging others. Be willing to learn about other lifestyles, beliefs, values, religions. Learning about them doesn’t mean adopting them, but it will mean being more accepting of other people, especially those who don’t share your beliefs, values, lifestyle. All that knowledge — and the open mind that gets it for you– will make you a much better person all around.
Also, don’t be afraid to take risks — little risks, like joining the cross country team, and bigger risks, like applying to out-of-state colleges or competitive programs. You’re smarter than you think. You’re stronger than you think. And you’re cooler than you think. Have confidence in yourself; you can do more and achieve more than you think you can.
Just a few more things:
Please learn to study. I know you don’t have to study right now to get good grades, but if you learn to do it now, you’ll be saved a lot of confusion, stress, and agony your junior year of college. Trust me.
In a few years, you’ll join something called “The Facebook.” It will seem super cool and totally secure, and you’ll be tempted to post all sorts of things. Don’t. Turns out, people can see it. Forever.
It’s okay if people think you’re weird. You are. Embrace it. People like weirdos (quirky weird, not creepy weird).
I think that’s it, 16-year-old me. If you remember nothing else from this letter, remember this: Stay true to yourself, no matter what. You have to live with you forever, so you’d better like yourself — regardless of who you are now or whom you become.
What advice would you give your teenage self?