This year my beloved baby cousin turned sixteen. It is just unbelievable to think that just ten years ago this young woman carried my crown down the aisle at my sweet sixteen. Ever since she was born I made a point to be a good role model for her though I know I needed guidance myself half the time. Earlier this month as I celebrated my twenty-sixth birthday, she asked me if I believed my 16 year old self would she be proud of who and where I am today. That random question got me thinking and to be honest, I didn’t have an answer which obviously frustrated my cousin to no end. Yet now as I sit here I thinking about it again, I am pretty sure that my sixteen-year old self would be glad, yet at the same time surprisingly furious at some things. So while I know that it isn’t actually possible for me to go back and speak to my younger self, I decided to make a list of 16 things I would say to her if I did get the chance. I am hoping that these messages also inspires my cousin and other young ladies that are just reaching this milestone.
1.) As much as you love to write there will be a time that you will completely hate it. Teachers and professors will criticize your work for being too honest or for not being emotional enough, but just write what makes you happy, and share them with others. Who knows? The words could help another lonely girl out there.
2.) You won’t always be alone, eventually you will go on to meet some incredible people that you will wonder how is it that you are so blessed to know them. You just need to open yourself a little more and realize that not everyone is out to hurt or use you.
3.) You will forget the deadline for your Oxford application so you will never know if you actually stood a chance to get in and live out your dream of studying in England. Though you will get accepted to another school in London, you will stay in New York City. Oh you will try and try to get out of it, however, one day you will realize that it was for the best. Besides I hear Paris is lovely in June….
4.) The Harry Potter book series will consume most of your free time and lead you to some great friendships. Your love for Hogwarts will never die especially with so many talented people on the internet doing so many awesome things with this source material.
5.) The major that you keep contemplating in your mind will constantly change until you actually step foot onto a college campus and make a final decision. You will question your decision in being a double major but in the end you will stick to it. Feelings of not belonging will return once you realize that you may always be the only (Afro-)Latina in a class, as well as the only one that does not have the resources to actually study like your classmates have. Keep your head up and keep going, in the end you may just open doors that in the past have been closed to someone like you.
6.) Music will always be a center point in your life. There will be bands that you love and will follow for every album they release and there will be those that you give up on as well. Friends will influence what you listen to in the next years but you will go on to find your own stuff to the point that you will musically have nothing in common with your friends. Your taste, according to some people, will get darker and more obscure but you will love every note and every word. You will want to start a band and there will be many false starts but that dream will always be there.
7.) That list you made when you were nine of your dream guy…you will actually find if fulfilled. And though for one brief moment you will think you have finally gotten your “happy ever after,” never forget who you are and your worth.
8.) You will never outgrow your awkwardness, if anything you will become more awkward with time. Embrace it, after all it is part of your charm.
9.) You create success, so take risks. Will it be scary? Of course. Will it always work? Eh maybe, but you won’t know unless you try.
10.) Your brother drives you nuts now, but one day you’ll find that he is really the one you can count on to look out for you even when you won’t look out for yourself.
11.) You will find yourself back in square one when you expect everything to finally fall into place. Even though things will get dark, try to remember all the laughter and smiles you had during those moments that made you forget where you once were. You’ve worked too hard to just have everything end now.
12.) You hate shopping now, and it will come as a shock to find out that you are in fact an impulsive shopper and have a very unique style.
13.) There isn’t anything wrong with you, just the way you think, or rather how you have been taught to think. Take a second look at the things that are fed to you and everyone else in the world via all forms of media. You’ll see what needs to be changed and how you can help change it.
14.) You will get to a place in your life when you will no longer say “when I lose 60 pounds I will…” That numbered tag you always cut out of your clothes does not define who you are and what you have to offer to the world.
15.) You’ll never grow out your “baby-face.” There is some good news though, by the time you are in your mid-twenties you’ll finally look like a teenager. By that logic you may finally look twenty-something by the time you’re near forty.
16.) Yes things are bad and I wish I could say that it gets better, yet the truth is nothing is certain, except for the fact that the road ahead will twist. It is up to you to never swerve, and the best way to do that is to keep your mind focused on the good – good times, good friends, good food, good places and, of course, good grades. So pause, take a breath and vent to a friend if necessary. Don’t worry you’ll be fine.
What kind of messages would you give to your teenage self?