Dear 16 year-old Nadine,

Wow, where do we even begin? Within a few years your world will be so different. And so will you.

You hate school. Like really hate it. When you look back, you’ll still hate it and almost every experience. You won’t ever want to send your kids to a school they are scared to attend. And after you leave there, you’ll never again fear getting beat up. In college, you’ll never see one single physical fight. It will be good for you, to have that kind of peace.

In school, you think you’re pretty smart. Everything comes easy to you. Be careful, it won’t always. The lack of academic standards at your high school lead you to believe that all schools are this easy. Meanwhile, there are students all over who are learning, thriving, and absorbing, just waiting to kick your butt (academically) in the college classroom. Read the books. Try harder to actually learn, not just get A’s.

You know that town you live in? You’ll really never go back. You won’t feel bad about it and you won’t miss it. You’ll be far away.

You’re a cheerleader. You care a lot about silly things like achieving the perfect messy pony for game day and being on the big letter in the very center. Stunts really scare you and when you look back later, they still will. Remember that one time that you couldn’t get your arms under your flyer as she came down from a back-flip basket toss? You will always, always feel terrible about that. She wasn’t hurt, but you knew that if you were her, you’d never trust you again. She didn’t. Because of that, you’ll never want your daughter to cheer.

You date the Captain of the football team. He’s black. You’re white. You’ll never forget coming to the realization that it isn’t okay with everyone. Ignorant people have their way of making that more than clear. He’s a good guy but Mom tells you he isn’t smart enough for you. You don’t want to admit it, but you know she’s right. The fact that you have to outline his essay’s for his remedial English class should have been a giveaway. Date him. Love him. He’ll teach you that you deserve more.

Forgive your parents. All of them. They acted like the children for most of your childhood. You throw that in their faces an awful lot. You’ll keep doing that for a few more years. Maybe they deserve it. It doesn’t seem fair. But try, and try really really hard, to remember that they all did it out of love. For you! They all love you so much! And you know that in your heart. You are a very lucky girl.

Now listen to me right now. Walk over to your grandmother’s house and have tea with her. Every single day. Do you know how lucky you are that she lives right next door? Her house will be your favorite place over the next two years. It will sweep you away from the world you continue to hate. She’s the best.

Most importantly, watch over your best friend. No, not those sorority sisters. The one you were given the day he was born. Spend more time with him. He is who you will miss most once you leave for college. He needs you and you’ll always need him.

And he’ll always make this smirky face. 

I’d love to be able to tell you something profound and poetic about learning lessons and growing up. But I can’t. Life at 16 thoroughly sucks. So do yourself a favor and hunker down and get through it. College will make it all worthwhile, I promise.

Good luck,

24 year-old you

If you’ve ever written a letter to your younger self, leave a link in the comments. I’d love to read it!

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