Monday, March 24, 2014

A Letter to My 16-Year-Old Self

Dear 16-Year-Old Me,

Hello there! I’m you, 10 years in the future. Yep, you sold out and went to college and got a real job instead of becoming a rock star like you thought you would. It’s okay. At this point in your life you’ve already mourned that dream and decided you don’t have the tolerance to live in a van for months at a time. You like stability and going to bed early now. In fact, you even voluntarily attended--get ready for this--GRAD SCHOOL.

I know, I know, you don’t believe me. You’re sitting in algebra right now, wearing those skater shoes from PacSun that Mom tried to throw away because they were so old but you went and fished them out of the garbage without her knowing. You’re probably going to your shift at Dairy Queen after school where you’ll mumble under your breath about how much you can’t stand the ho-hum of suburbia. When you get home Mom will ask how your day was and you’ll answer her in as few words as possible, then retreat into your room and turn on the stereo. You’ll probably fall asleep thinking about Joe, your first boyfriend.

16-year-old me working at Dairy Queen
I have so much to tell you, young me, and I’m not quite sure I can convey how desperately I want you to listen. You don’t do that very well, do you? You’re right about everything, because you think growing up in suburban New Jersey has bestowed upon you all the worldliness one could hope for. But stay with me here.

You’re going to move to South Carolina after college and realize you had a very privileged childhood. You’re going to start listening to country and you will like it. You will adopt an overweight orange cat. You’ll love him. And you’ll also start working at the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, where you’ll help communities encourage their teenagers to make smart choices. And when you’re sitting where I am right now (and you will be, because you’re me!) you’re going to think about those kids you’re trying to reach. You’re going to wince when you remember just how invincible you thought you were, when in reality, you were just one bad decision from having it all turn out so differently. You’re going to want those kids to listen.

You’ll see the efforts the SC Campaign is trying to make and you’ll pray those kids realize there is so much more to life than high school. You hope they won’t be like you and take their education for granted. That they’ll have enough wisdom and foresight to know that the decisions they make now will follow them into the future.

How do I know all of this? Because I was you once, and let me fill you in on a few things. First, Joe is going to dump you. In the hallway. On your way to algebra. You’ll be devastated, you’ll write some bad poetry, but trust me, you’ll get over it, and by the time you’re here you won’t even remember why it hurt so much.

School is important. Stop asking when you’re ever going to use equations in the real world and just study, for crying out loud. You’re not bad at math; you just need to work harder than everyone else. Keep on truckin’ --you’re going to get an A in graduate level statistics.

Your friends aren’t the most important people on the planet. There are things you’re doing now that you’ll regret later. Mom and Dad were right about mostly everything. Oh, and Mom? You’re only going to have another eight years with her. Try not to take her for granted.

You won’t get this letter in time. But hey, that’s why I got to write it.


by Amanda Pollak, Graduate Assistant, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy 

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