Dear Me: A Letter to My Teenage Self

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.

Like this one. Keep writing letters to her, and as soon as you get your driver’s license, drive down to see her.

Also this one. Yes, she has a boyfriend. (What? Did you say, “Like that’s going to last?” Oh, it does. Trust me. He’s a keeper.) But she’ll still make time for you. Just call her.

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.

Take care,

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!

  1. #1 by Connie on September 14, 2012 - 7:26 am

    Wow. And thank you. I am sharing this precious insight with my beautiful, talented, tries-to-hide-it, non-athletic daughter. Thank you for the encouraging words, and thank you for sharing your God given talents. Love you!

  2. #2 by Lauren@The Housework Can Wait on September 14, 2012 - 7:41 am

    Love this. It sounds very much like what my letter to my teenage self would sound like, except I never even dabbled in sports. I often wish I could tell teenage me to just enjoy the life she was given and not worry so much about everything. Life could have been so much different and less stressful if I would have just chilled.

  3. #3 by Jennifer on September 14, 2012 - 8:03 am

    You are a beautiful person, inside and out! I wish I had the chance to know you “back in the day.” I love the insights in this post. Makes me want to write one to my unborn daughter along the same lines!

  4. #4 by Harmony on September 14, 2012 - 8:36 am

    Once again, Wow. You always have such a way with words. Very well put. Remind me of this post in a few years when I need to tell these things to my teenage daughters.

  5. #5 by coolhandandrew on September 14, 2012 - 9:24 am

    Dear Teenage Kelly,

    It is important for you to like baseball. Otherwise, listen to your older self.

  6. #6 by kellywiggains on September 14, 2012 - 9:55 am

    Ha! I do love baseball. I just needed to know that I didn’t have to love baseball. You know?

  7. #7 by Jeena on September 14, 2012 - 10:23 am

    i LOVE this quote “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.” Great reminder to us all that we’re only truly happy when we’re being ourselves. So hard to do but well worth it.

  8. #8 by Alene Snodgrass (@AleneSnodgrass) on September 14, 2012 - 10:33 am

    Your letter has me in tears. I think we could have been soul sisters. “2. Comparing yourself to others leads you nowhere.” If only I could have gotten this when I was younger — shoot if only I could get it now. You bless me.

  9. #9 by Beth on September 14, 2012 - 11:28 am

    Another beautiful writing. I’ll add a note to the 34 year old Kelly: You wouldn’t be who you are today without going through all of those years of figuring this out. And I am so glad you met up with that cute nerdy guy in the talent show . He is blessed. So am I.

  10. #10 by Heather Griffin on September 14, 2012 - 11:39 am

    I loved this post so much! And I loved seeing the pictures. It brought back many memories of knowing you during that time in your life! I can think of so many things I’d like to have been able to tell my “teenage self”, too. LOVED this!

  11. #11 by denise on September 14, 2012 - 6:41 pm

    Regarding the boy at summer camp-“Yep, I know so cute, right!” ADORABLE.

    I had bat repelling glasses for a while, too. why?!?!

    Run to God! Oh, I’d so tell teenage me to RUN!

  12. #12 by kellywiggains on September 14, 2012 - 7:48 pm

    Thanks! I don’t understand the face shields. I would love to have an excuse for getting “stuck” with those glasses. Sadly, I picked them out and LOVED them.

  13. #13 by Nannette on September 15, 2012 - 2:52 pm

    Hello! I’m here from Chatting at the Sky. I know that running to God is always my best move. Too bad I learned that in my 40s but hey it’s never too late. And I believe the grief and heartache are the ingredients to our strength in character which is evident in you!

  14. #14 by kellywiggains on September 15, 2012 - 8:39 pm

    I agree Nannette. The toughest times in our lives tend to make us the best of ourselves. Welcome to my little corner of the internet! Come visit any time.

  15. #15 by kellywiggains on September 15, 2012 - 8:40 pm

    Thanks so much Alene. I look forward to getting to know you better!

  16. #16 by kellywiggains on September 15, 2012 - 8:40 pm

    Thanks so much, Jeena.

  17. #17 by Tiffany Brooks on September 19, 2012 - 11:21 am

    Dear Almost-34-Year-Old Kelly,

    First of all, thanks for sharing this. It was powerful, insightful, and even (dare I say it?) rad.

    Secondly, when you get a chance, please thank 20-year-old Kelly for being nice to 20-year-old Tiffany and helping her to feel less alone as a highky sarcastic and proudly nerdy English major at HU. She needed that. A lot.

    Thirdly, you are awesome and I hope your own kiddos are able to learn and grow from all the wonderfu lessons you have to teach them about how to thrive as delightfully quirky and fantastically joyful people, because (given their parentage) it’s kind of inevitable that that’s how they are going to end up. So thank you for embracing all that you are, and for passing it on to the next generation. The world has enough boring people — what it needs is more Kelly Duncan Wiggainses.

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