One of my favorite bloggers, Emily Freeman, is running a link-up this week called “Dear Me,” inviting us to write a letter to our teenage selves as part of the launch for her new book, Graceful, which is the “teen” counterpart to Grace for the Good Girl. Here’s the trailer. (You’ll have to click over to the blog to watch it if you are in e-mail.)
As you probably know, Grace for the Good Girl has really helped me understand my own story as a “good girl”, so I am sure Graceful will be awesome. I recommend that you get both books. I really wish teenage Katrina could have read Graceful.
You might not realize this know, but in 16-20 years, you will be enamored with the concept of time travel. This means that, given the opportunity to write a letter to your younger self, you will spend entirely too much time speculating about how the teenage Katrina might use the information to alter her future in an ill-advised way.
You are a dork. Now and then. Nonetheless, I am you at the ripe old age of 34, I take somewhat seriously the possibility that what I tell you might cause a ripple in the fabric of time. For example, if I tell you which one of the boys that you date is a douchebag and which one winds up as your husband, you might avoid the one in search of the other. Moreover, you might never learn the important lessons necessary to become me. (You actually learn a lot from dating, so cling to that during the break-ups, mishaps, and cheats.)
(Oh crap! I just realized that I told you that I, You, WE, do get married. Is that a ripple? I hope not.)
All that to say, you need to make some mistakes, suffer some heartbreaks, and achieve some scars to become the crusty old gal who is writing this, so I’ve decided to offer 10 hints that won’t give away any crucial information, but might help you a little along the way.
1. About the husband, since I already went there, He is awesome. You will unknowingly see him for the first time when you are 13-almost 14, but not again for years and years and years. His name is not Phillip Harmon, so just ignore that weird prophetic-seeming dream that you have when you are 16. In the meantime, you will date WAY too many guys of varying degrees of awesomeness, cluelessness, and pervyness. Here’s a sample. I’ve protected their identities.
Okay, that little slideshow doesn’t even include college, Tramp-trina. Let’s just talk about your boy-crazyness for one second. When you grow up to be me, you and your sister will talk about how both of you were just OBSESSED with being liked by boys. Hear this. You like being liked. This is dangerous and will make you do stupid things if you don’t control it. Pleasing people, whether boys, teachers, friends, or parents, is NICE, but don’t let it drive you. Enjoy your friendships without being someone who manipulates others to like you. When you do this, you hurt others AND you chip away at who you really are. Some of your friends are still my friends, which means they like us for who we really are. Isn’t that pretty awesome!? You will eventually get tired of this whole game and meet Mr.Right-er. (One day, you’ll see what I did there. :))
2. Eat something already. Being uber-skinny will not get you the kind of attention that you are hoping for from boys, friends, or anyone. I know you want to be the BEST at something, and subconsciously you think you can be the best at not eating, but let me just examine that for you. That is stupid and you know it. You don’t have a body image problem. You just want someone to notice you, fawn on you, or be shocked by you. (Today it is called “Emo” and it doesn’t get cuter; let me just say that.) Teachers and mom will notice that you are waif-ish, but no one else will care or feel sorry for you, so stop using starvation as an attention getting device. This might hurt your ego a little bit, but your friends are too busy thinking about themselves to notice you. Turn your desire to be GREAT at something into being a great friend, a great servant, and a giver of grace to others!
3. On the topic of our body, your boobs are not going to get any bigger unless you are nursing or pregnant, so you just might as well let that dream die. (OH DANG!! I guess I just told you that you have kids someday. Oh well, cat’s out of the bag. PS: You don’t get any better at keeping secrets, Mouthy-Mouth.)
4. Even though no one agrees with you now, you are right about low-fat mayo and Sweet & Low. They are nasty. Someday you will be vindicated for eating full fat and sugar, aka: “real food.” (That’s what it’s really called now. So unimaginative.)
5. God gave you your emotions. This means that emotions and the ability to feel are a gift, a good gift, from God. They are not evil, hormonal invaders from outer-space that are not to be trusted. When you are teased for being melancholic, dramatic, and moody, TRY to brush it off –even though you want to bury your head in a pillow for days and wail.
Your emotions feel like a hurricane right now, but don’t assume that all storms are bad. Don’t distrust your feelings, assuming that they will lead you down a false path. Logic is not superior to emotions. They are both good. It is okay to make decisions based on your emotions. I’m not saying to make decisions on flights of fancy, but if you STRONGLY FEEL something, believe yourself. God made you emotional. It is part of who we are, and it’s okay.
6. Rethink the bangs. And the vest. And the whole photo-op on the swing.
7. Spend more time talking to Aunt Jean. Try to get her to do the laugh snort and get it on tape. You’re going to want to listen to that later.
8. Those exceedingly awkward conversations that Dad is having with the boys you date are actually a good thing. Even though you wish that the earth would open and swallow you alive, he does manage to weed out a few real losers with those talks. He loves you. He is very wise, and you are his first run through on daughters, which you’ll see for yourself, are no picnic. (CRUD!! Did I just tell you that we have daughters? I’m seriously messing with the time continuum.)
9. You are funny. You become a pretty decent leader and teacher. You don’t know this now because you feel stuck in the middle of an extroverted, dominant, highly achieving family of stars. You are having a hard time picking out your trail. Don’t worry about this. One day, you will emerge as your own sort of person, created by them, but not bound by them. Don’t resent the time in the cocoon. Absorb as much wisdom as you can because you are going to need it later. You are extremely blessed to have them. Extremely blessed. Mom is easily the smartest lady you’ll ever meet, but you just haven’t met enough women to know this yet. (Dad did not make me say this. I promise.)
10. You are probably already horrified at me for using the words “douchebag” and “crap” in this letter. That is because you are a good girl and so am I, but someday we realize that being good, smart, pretty, well-liked, and self confident don’t bring lasting peace and satisfaction. True peace is already accessible to you RIGHT NOW, in the midst of your seemingly “unfinished” state. God’s Spirit lives inside you, so you don’t have to work at being better. (You don’t have to work at being better.)
YOU don’t have to work at being better.
YOU DON’T HAVE TO WORK at being better.
Katrina, you don’t have to work at being better. It’s exhausting, isn’t it?! I know you are tired, and you are just going to get even more exhausted. Your righteousness is as filthy rags, but just like you learned in 8th grade, “God made Jesus, who knew NO SIN, to be SIN, to that WE MIGHT BECOME the righteousness of God IN HIM.” In Christ, we are righteous, good enough, great enough, skinny enough, flat-chested enough, and funny enough . . . already.
(Are you so sick of me? I know, we can be really annoying when we think we are right.)
I hope these tips help you to become me with slightly less suffering along the way. (Notice that I didn’t say we’d be slightly less insufferable.) I’m sorry I didn’t give you more specifics, but I just can’t face you screwing up the good future that God makes out of our mess.
I love you, sweet little banged thing. Enjoy this beautiful, rocky, wild world. Remember people are more important than things. Stay close to Jesus and listen to your emotions. You’re going places.
PS: One more thing. Little is going to be okay. I promise. But she takes the longer, harder road. Don’t give up on her. She’s gonna be your best friend.
PPS: Warn Dad to avoid heights, ladders, and the like. Seriously.