Food for Thought

An Honest Letter to My 16-year-old Self

Dear 16-year-old me,

Oh, Jamakea. I wish I could reach back in time, grab you firmly by the shoulders, and let you know that everything is going to be okay.

You have been feeling abandoned this last year. Grandma fled to Mexico without a trace or any type of warning. Dad entered a serious relationship for the first time in 15 years — nevermind that his new girlfriend is only 10 years older than you. Times are changing and your relationships, the very anchors that give you stability, are not what they used to be. Especially the one that you have with yourself.

You are dating one of your oldest friends. You believe that he is the best thing since sliced bread and you take offense when your mom refers to him as your “16-year-old love” because obviously you two will be together forever. Ha! Yes, he is tall, smart, and plays basketball just like your dad did — but he is just a kid and he will break your heart soon. It will feel as though your chest is caving in and you will sob in your dad’s arms for the first time in years. You have not a single inkling that this is about to happen and I deeply wish that I could protect you from it. But don’t worry…you will move on, you will forgive him, and you will be better for the heartache. Thank u, next — am I right?

I wish I could scream at you to work harder in school. To take the SAT’s. To apply to a 4-year university. But I know you are stressed out. I know that you are envious of your friends that have had college savings accounts waiting for them since 1999 and can’t justify why you would pay tens of thousands of dollars to do something that you do not want to do. You feel like the work is not worthwhile. That you can barely make it through school, let alone excel. You will have many challenges as an adult because of the choices you are making right now but you will go to college later in life and appreciate the opportunity more than you would have at 18.

Jamakea, you do not have to cake on that foundation that is a few shades too light. You are only making your acne worse. And believe me, you think it is a lot worse than it really is. You do not have to straighten your hair, your curls are beautiful. You will end up loving them and *gasp* throwing away your straightener. MySpace will be irrelevant soon and you will feel stupid for how much time you spent changing your profile song or reading your crush’s “who I’d like to meet” section. Taking those selfies is a waste of your time. But you are just a kid, and it is okay that you seek validation from others right now. It is only a matter of time before you start only wearing makeup for special occasions and not giving a f**k about what anyone thinks. Shocking, I know.

I know the future looks dismal and you can not envision any type of success or happiness. You think you will end up living paycheck to paycheck and single with 10 cats (p.s. you’re allergic!). I wish I could tell you that you are being melodramatic. But being 16-year-old you, I know you would not listen to me because you already know everything, right? Being scared of the future is okay, Jamakea. Trust yourself. You are far more capable than you can imagine.

For the next few years, things will be very tough. There will be pain and you will drown it out by partying a tad too often. By the time you turn 21, you will gag at the smell of hard alcohol. Yep, that’s right, you are a beer and wine type of gal (boring I know!). You will also dabble in relationships that began as rebounds or plateaued as FWB’s. You will obsess over these *distractions* while ignoring the person who needs you the most — you.

All of this will shape you into a resilient woman. You will take these struggles and use them to better the lives of others. You will practice more compassion. Humility. You will make more money. You will land the jobs. The once in a lifetime opportunities. You’ll do the damn thing.

Jamakea, I wish I could tell you that the bullshit will end soon but I would be lying. Some of the challenges you are dealing with right now will be around a decade later. The difference is — they will no longer feel like the end of the world. You will no longer have to cry in the shower so that your parents won’t hear you or drive down the PCH at midnight just so that you can scream at the world for what it has seemingly done to you. You will never again be a victim and you will forever take complete ownership of your life.

Jamakea, you are so loved. You are not alone. There are so many people around you that are eager to help you. To listen to you. To guide you towards your North Star. But only you can do that, and I am happy to tell you that you will — and with a smile on your face at that.

Be easy on yourself, my girl, and enjoy the ride.


25-year-old you

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