Dear Me: A Letter to My Teenage Self

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.

Dear Katrina,

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.

Pay no attention to Paul Hogan.
Control the teeth there, Horsey-face.
Wait till you see who is under that thumb!! It’s gonna take you a couple weeks to recover from your shock.
Can we talk about why your head looks so big here, Monica Gellar? Or maybe why I didn’t repaint my nails before using them for boys’ heads?
Hey, here’s an idea. Why don’t you just throw yourself at him a little harder there?!?! (Kidding.)

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.

Oh Aunt Jean, I miss you.

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.

You look just like our sweet son in this picture. . . . .OMGosh!!! I just told you that we have a SON. Can I keep nothing a secret from you!?!

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.


Oh, wear your retainer.

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.




21 thoughts on “Dear Me: A Letter to My Teenage Self

  1. Cried the second time too. Can’t say enough how awesome you are. Also, need you to jog my memory on who is behind a few of those scraggly chipped nails. Speaking of which, you know I have a pet peeve with the polish thing. A little pre-planning, hmm? 🙂

    1. The whole time I was posting those I was thinking about how the chipped polish would annoy you, but how ironic the concept of “thumbnail” had become. HAHAhA

  2. Love this post! A fun and teary trip down memory lane. And hahaahaaahaha on those boyfriend photos! Much to their chagrin I’m sure, your little thumb trick didn’t work – hahaha!!

    1. It doesn’t work for you because I am pretty sure that you were there with me on at least 3 of 5 of those occasions. 🙂 I should have included a picture of us. I think I have a good boa one . . . .

  3. Now I have 2 Katrinas to love, Teen-Age Katrina & Present Day Super-Wonderful Wife, Mother, Friend, Mentor…

  4. Love it!!!!! I might just write myself a letter…. or my kids…I too cried – especially at the part of “you don’t have to work at being better.”
    Katrina, I love this post. I am so glad I am a part of your story.

  5. Ya know… sadly, I WAS too busy thinking about myself to notice your insecurities.. Hope you and everyone else was too busy to notice mine.

    I’m sorry I didn’t know how to be a better friend to you. I’m sorry I didn’t notice you not eating. I’m sorry I didn’t realize I should have been taking boy advice from you (I HAD NO IDEA YOU WERE SO BOY CRAZED). I’m sorry about the boobs.. you can buy them I hear/have done. (O right.. appreciate people not things.. but they are boobs.. moving on).

    I’m sorry to tell you.. that your teenage self… as insecure and awkward as she thought she was, was envied for her great vocabulary, her tight knit family, her ability to not hurt peers’ feelings and make them cry like I always seemed to inadvertently do.. (my crap-thoughtless prior self).

    So, thank you for being your prior self.. for awkwardly teaching my awkward prior self a thing or two about tact and greater than self. And thank you, your current self, for making me think, and reflect, and strive to ‘not work at being better’..

    ps.. I found myself wondering how many grammatical errors you will find in this reply and I began smiling.. and lets just say.. whatever you found.. I put there on purpose. 🙂

  6. Beautiful, Katrina. Shall I make this sound like a badly written book review? “I laughed, I cried, I found the main character compelling and believable.” 😉 You always make me laugh, which is admittedly not that hard to do, but you also make me think hard about who I am, who I want to be, and how to keep smiling while I do it. Thanks for that. Even though we’ve never met, I sure do appreciate your company.

    P.S. — Can there be a poorganic marshmallow?I dunno, but I tried. 🙂

  7. Great post. I feel like I should know who all the guys are since I was in youth group with you, but I think I could only think of 2 of them. At least I know for sure that you never dated either of my brothers. : )

  8. Katrina,
    I have to say, I really enjoyed this trip back in time. Thank you for such a well done piece. We all have dating histories and I am not embarrassed by mine, so I thought I would comment.

    #1- For those that don’t know, that is me behind two fingers and beside self proclaimed “Horsey- face” (obviously the kid in that picture disagreed with your description). That picture seems like a lifetime ago. Good times!
    #2- I’m pretty sure I said that.
    #3- The kid in the picture did not care about that.
    #4- Big fan of “real food”!
    #5- I laughed because it reminded me of a song we would listen to on occasion that fit at the time- Don’t take it Personal by Monica. Looking back, I’m not sure if that song really helped the roller coaster, but it is a fun memory.
    #6- I think you gave me that picture. Not so bad!
    #8- Now that I have a daughter, I am steeling this one out of your Dad’s play book! However awkward and weird it seemed at the time, I learned a lot from him and I am glad I made the cut!
    #9- Could not agree more!
    #10- Amen.

    Again, thanks for the vicarious use of your time machine. At the “ripe old age” of 33, it is comforting to actually look back and see a very small part of God’s plan unfolded and the blessings he has given to your family and mine. The kid in that picture (my younger self) had no idea what God had in store for him! It will be exciting to see what’s next. I wish you all the best!


    1. Wow Brian, how brave of you to comment!! I glad that you aren’t too horrified that I blogged about you in anonymity. (I wasn’t so sure that all you guys would appreciate being in that “list”.) 😉 As for the food thing, now that you mention it, I distinctly remember you telling me to eat something on one beach trip where I was being particularly “emo”. God really surrounded me with great friends and boyfriends in spite of myself. Thank goodness for an awesome youth group, right?! One thing is for sure though, church is definitely the best place to find boyfriends. That’s where I met my husband! 🙂 Best wishes to you and your sweet family.

  9. You bless me always. This letter just brings some major tears. Maybe cuz I can relate or probably more cuz I was and am a dork. But hey — dorks are good cuz they are comfortable being themselves — just dorky. From one dork to another — love ya
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