Dear Teenage Kelly,
First. These glasses. Are you afraid of bats attacking your face? Do you really need a face guard along with the corrective lenses? Were you just hoping to shrink those chubby cheeks? Precious, they are chubby, and they always will be. They are also adorable. Seriously. Hey, you know what, you’ll see what I mean when you meet a little one named Hannah Beth, especially when she is two. No need to hide those cheekers. Just get some contacts soon, OK?
Kelly, take it from yourself at almost 34, putting up a shield (either of the emotional or bat-deflecting framed variety) to shut other people’s judgments out of your life will not keep hurt or criticism from happening. You can use sarcasm or feign shyness or wear t-shirts and jeans or put your hair in a ponytail to deflect criticism. In fact, keeping up those defenses might hold back the battering ram of the outside world for a time, but those defenses will bring you no peace. You can only find peace in learning to love how God made you.
Here are some other things I would like you to know:
1. You can hide your true self and try to fit in, but the pretending will not heal your insecurities. Please know that girls as teenagers, in general, are mean. Just plain mean. You need to rise above it, and not embrace the meanness. You are trying to avoid conflict and teasing, but you know what? Usually, people tease and judge others to mask their own insecurities or inadequacies. Just don’t worry too much about belonging, and don’t repay any insults you receive by heaping insults on others. It’s not easy: the gossiping, the backstabbing, the teasing. But, you have some friends who can help you get through this. Stick to them.
Also, your friend, Les. She’s awesome, right? Maybe take a few pictures with her for posterity’s sake. You are with her all the time. She is one of your best friends. (Sorry Les!) You might also consider wearing another dress to semi-formal occasions as most of your pictures around this time feature you in this darling shade of peach.
2. Comparing yourself to others leads you nowhere. The sooner you learn to stop comparing yourself to other people, the better your life will be. You can never measure true value with an instrument – not a scale or a measuring tape or a bell curve. You are smart. Sometimes you try to hide it. And sometimes you use it to measure your worth. Listen, you don’t need to hide your A+ test grade under your folder, but you also don’t need to know who made the highest grade on the test either. When you get to college, you will meet people who love you despite all of your social awkwardness. Despite your inept fashion sense. Despite your A’s in everything. And you know what? Most of them will be just as smart or smarter and just as pretty or prettier, and it’s not a big deal.
3. You don’t have to prove anything. The basketball thing? Yeah. Just go ahead and stop doing that. You aren’t competitive. It’s okay. You’re not athletic either. That’s okay, too. Spend time reading and writing. Don’t take every upper level math class or join every academic and extracurricular activity possible. Cut yourself some slack. Spend time walking and running for fun. Stick with music, maybe take an art class. Seek out other things you enjoy. You don’t have to like sports at all, really.
3. Go over to the feed store and spend some time with your dad. Get him to tell you the stories again. I know he tells them all the time. Trust me. You’ll still laugh. Write a few of them down in a journal.
4. You are about to go through the turning point in your life. Hang on. You’ll make it out on the other side just fine, but not without grief and heartache. Mostly, hang on to your real self during that process. You’ll spend most of your twenties trying to hide it. Don’t.
5. Run to God. RUN! Grab on tight to Him. Seek him in your pain. Find joy in His blessings. Don’t seek distractions or food or another extracurricular activity or more friendships. Fill up your plate with His loving kindness. Find Him, and He will give you peace.
Your ancient, still-blind and now half-deaf 34-year-old self
PS. Don’t worry too much about finding the guy you’re going to marry. Truthfully, you’ve already seen him. Remember the summer camp talent show? That guy who played the piano with his sister? Yep. I know, so CUTE, right? Well, yeah, but he starts to wear his hair shorter, so it’s all good. Anyway, you’re going to meet up with him again in a few years. There you go. No worries.
Note: Emily at chatting at the sky has a new book for teenage girls called Graceful: Letting Go of Your Try-Hard Life. She is offering an invitation for bloggers to write letters to their teenage selves. Teenage girls need encouragement and love more than anything. They might also need to hear how we all felt as teenagers, not advice or warnings. Go check out emily’s blog today for links to other letters, and go grab a copy of her book!