When I was in high school, I thought someone in their 30s sounded so old. Now, here I am, 35-years-old… but I do not feel so old. What I do feel is confidence. It is a little ironic that I am rolling around in this wheelchair, but I feel more confident and I feel like I have found more purpose compared to when I was walking on two feet. I love being in my 30s. I know what I want, I know my true friends, I understand the meaning of family, and I do not feel bad about going to bed at 8 o’clock on a Friday night. One of the many things that I wish was possible is that my 35-year-old self could write a letter to my 16-year-old self. You know….. A, “I wish I knew then, what I know now” kind of letter. It would not be a long letter, because I remember me at 16. I was constantly on the go, and I would not take the time to sit down and read a five page letter, front and back, from my future long winded self….
What I really want to tell 16-year-old Annie is to trust quality over quantity. Yes, I remember hearing the term, but at 16 I thought the more friends I had, the better life would be. It is a competition that all teenagers experience. As a teenager, you put on so many different masks in order to fit in, but all of those masks are just hiding what is real. It’s exhausting.
So, here is the letter. It is overdue for my 16-year-old self, but maybe you can pass it along to someone you know….
Dear 16-year-old ______________,
That small group of people that would call you out if you tried being someone other than yourself, that small group of people that loves and supports you despite your beautiful flaws, that small group of people that builds you up and respects and celebrates your accomplishments, and that small group of people that comes into your life and truly sticks by your side… Those are the people you wrap your arms around. That is the type of quality you need in your life, because your “crew” are the ones that are gonna stick around when things get messy, and I’m sorry but things are going to get messy sometimes. No amount of preparation can stop certain difficult or frustrating things from happening, so the best thing you can do is to keep pushing forward and learning from your experiences.
Quality… keep it in the back of your mind for every decision you make. Unfortunately, your heart will be broken… more than once and for different reasons. Trust me, you are going to be fine. If the person you love breaks your heart but is of high quality, you will heal. Through all of the hurt you will take something away from that heartbreak that will change you. Let your heart heal before you open up again. It will, and you will know when the time is right.
Throughout life people will frustrate you… disappoint you… and just flat out piss you off. So, trust your gut. Whether it is telling you to turn right when you want to turn left… whether it is telling you to make a complete U-turn… or it may be telling you to say hi to a beautiful stranger. Trust yourself. Trust that little voice in your head. Trust that churning feeling in the pit of your stomach. You will develop this skill over the years, and even at 35-years-old you will have moments of doubt, because sometimes the right decision is the hardest decision to make.
Stay true to your beliefs, and your morals, and who you truly are. This is not always going to be easy, and at times there will be people who look down on you based on your beliefs, but in the end you will have more respect for yourself. Sometimes people will talk, sometimes people will stare, and sometimes people will just not understand, but that is not your problem. Life is too short to try to make everyone happy.
Always make time for yourself. Sometimes, one of the scariest places to be is by yourself with your own thoughts and fears. When you learn to love yourself, it will reflect upon all the other relationships in your life. You will learn to embrace your time alone, and you will learn to find peace with your own thoughts. Believe me when I say this, some of your best ideas and answers to whatever is testing you will come to you during the times where it is just you, the music in your ears, and the sun on your face.
Now, to end this letter I will give you a few more bits of advice:
~ Do not ever underestimate the power of a smile and a simple hello.
~ Do not judge others, because you do not know the battles they have fought or may still be fighting.
~ Always set two morning alarms.
~ Being polite will always make a lasting impression, but so will being rude.
~ Sometimes the best way to get your thoughts out is by using a pen and paper.
~ Mom and Dad really do know what they are talking about.
~ Choose the people who choose you.
~ Always keep $20 hidden in your car for an emergency, and a Ricker’s pop is not considered an emergency.
~ Peer pressure is a thing. It will always be a thing.
~ Moderation is important.
~ There are two times when music lyrics make more sense… when you are in love, and when your heart is broken.
~ Always send thank you cards.
~ If you are going to plan for anything, plan for the unexpected.
~ Perfect is boring.
~ You are allowed to have a bad day, moments of frustration, and make mistakes… you are human.
~ It is completely ok to be picky… especially about relationships, shoes, and pizza.
Last but not least… When you reach your 30s, please try to hold on to a few things you had when you were 16. Hold on to your innocence, the warmth and excitement you feel on Christmas morning, your love of life, your competitive edge, and your smile. Do not let anyone ever steal that smile. You are going to make it… Trust me.
The Future You