A Letter to My 16-year-old Self

26 Jul

I’ve been reading letters lately that people wrote to their 20-year-old selves, usually people who are somewhere around 30 now. Well, I’m not there. But I can look back at the girl I was five years ago. And I’ve got a few things to tell her.

Dear Lauren,

You’re starting, right about now, to figure a few things out. I am so proud of you. Your parents are too, even though sometimes it seems like you’ll never be good enough for them. That hasn’t changed yet, but as time goes on – and you spend less and less time living with them – you’ll start to realize that it is true that they just want the best for you. And when that starts to feel like nagging, or pressure to be something you’re not, TELL THEM.

The whole college thing? You know how you tell people you want to go to Brown? Or some other school where all you know is that the name is fancy and would impress people? Yeah, you’re not going to Brown. You’re not even applying to Brown. But you don’t go to college to be able to impress people. You go to college to learn and grow and become a little bit closer to the person you’re supposed to be. And the school you picked – one of the best decisions you ever made. Even though you stumbled on it by accident.

Take risks. You’ve never been much of a risk taker, but when you do, you never regret it. You know that dream you have of going to Europe? You’ll do that. Flags turned you down the first time, but you came back and you made it. But you stopped acting – come  on, how could you let something you loved so much just disappear from your life?

Boys. Oh, I know that’s what you’re thinking about and overanalyzing every second. Don’t worry, that doesn’t change. In the next five years, you’ll have crushes on lots of boys, that’s what these years are for. There’s cute-but-dumb boy and dancer boy and rafter boy and overconfident boy and theatre boy and blah blah blah. Right now, you’re just getting to meet carpool boy, but he won’t be carpool boy for another year or so. You’re going to fall for him, hard, and then he’ll break your heart and you’ll be angry and sad in a way you haven’t been before. You’ll try to be friends for a while, before you realize you just need to cut it off. I would tell you to avoid him in the first place, but he’s just now coming back into your life in a good way, so maybe all that crap was worth it.

And just as you’re starting to heal from carpool boy, there’ll be classmate boy. He’s always there, he fits your whole checklist, you get along better than you have with any other guy. You’re best friends. Sorry, hon, he’ll never love you. It’s okay! That one will suck for a long time, but it’s worth pushing through, because you don’t get a whole lot of people in your life who care about you like that. Take the shot, but when all you get is friendship, remember that that’s a pretty damn good consolation prize.

You know that girl you consider one of your closest friends, the one you met in theater and clicked with so well? Yeah, in a few years you won’t talk anymore. Growing up is weird like that. Losing touch doesn’t hurt as much as you thought it would, with her or with any of the dozens of other people who will start to ebb and flow from your life. You’ll learn, soon, that you can be away from someone for a month, six months, a year and then when you see them again it’s like nothing has changed. Even your best friends and your family.

You know how you have no idea what you want to do with your life? Well, you still don’t. Take every opportunity that comes your way – you miss every shot you don’t take. You’ll learn so much about yourself. Don’t worry about it.

Don’t worry that you’re falling behind – things will happen in their own time.

Don’t do anything just because other people are. The people who matter will be happy to let you be you.

Don’t worry about how nerdy you are. You are a HUGE NERD. Accept that and love it about yourself and other people will love you too.

Be there for your brother. Even though he’s so difficult, he needs you. He doesn’t have many people.

I guess my point is, you’re on the right track. I’m proud of you and you’re going to be just fine. You’re going to move away and learn to feed yourself. You’re going to afford college – and no, it’s not SCC. You’ll make friends there, and they’ll be some of the most amazing friends you’ve ever had. You won’t lose your past, but you’ll grow out of a lot of it. That’s okay. Your relationship with your family will change and not living with them will be weird but not weird – it’ll make you an adult. Slowly. You’re not there yet, but you’re so much closer than you were.

Sixteen-year-old Lauren, you’re just starting to be your own person. Keep being her, it will serve you well.


21-year-old you

8 Responses to “A Letter to My 16-year-old Self”

  1. ianmulligan08 July 31, 2013 at 4:49 am #

    Inspiring and insightful, perhaps I will write a letter to 16 year old Ian. I really enjoyed reading this post.

    • laurenkcampbell July 31, 2013 at 7:20 am #

      It’s one of my favorites! It’s a nice exercise too.

  2. Erin July 28, 2012 at 12:33 pm #

    I love this so much Lauren!!

  3. Nina Thomas July 27, 2012 at 1:11 am #

    Ahh I love this so much! I think I’m going to wait until I’m 21 and write this to my 16 year old self. I found myself relating to so much of this somehow! If you don’t mind me asking, what college did you go to? Or is a small one so it wouldn’t be safe to list it publicly.

    • laurenkcampbell July 27, 2012 at 9:23 am #

      I’ve named it a few other times – I go to Gonzaga, in eastern WA. Definitely did not expect to love it half as much as I do 🙂 And thanks so much for reading my blog and commenting!

  4. Alison July 26, 2012 at 11:20 pm #

    i enjoyed this. and its strange that 16 year old lauren was just about to meet 16 year old alison. funny thought.

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