Picture evidence that I was so awkward at 14.
Growing up, I always wrote letters to my future self. I wrote one when I was 13 for when I 16, one at 16 for when I was 18, one at 18 for my 21st birthday, and when I was 20 I wrote a letter which I won't open until I am 30 years old (I have a while to wait before opening that one, thanks goodness. I don't want to feel old just yet).
It is amazing to see how much I have changed and haven't changed through the progression of these letters. The letters acted as mini snapshots of my most formative years, the years when I experienced my first date, my first big questions about relationships and love, my worries and hopes for the future, my developing intellectual views on life as I grew into a young woman. Every so often I take them out of the little box I keep on my dresser and reread them. I always laugh out loud at the words written on the page in front of me because it's funny how I still have these same exact questions. I have never been in love and still don't know a single darn thing about it. My present is now the future I once fretted while writing these letters, yet I'm still constantly worrying about tomorrow, the next day, the following week, the years to come. I'm still learning about life and developing my views, and I plan to keep learning and growing for the rest of my life.
I would love to challenge everyone reading this to start writing letters to your future self. It is a truly remarkable experience when you open a letter written by your younger self.
However, I want to switch it up today and write a letter to my 14 year-old self, right as I entered high school. So here goes nothing, hopefully the younger Leah doesn't judge me too much or think I'm a complete nut job.
Dear 14 year-old Leah,
You entering high school. Finally, right? I know it sounds crazy and that you feel like you're practically a grandmother, but trust me, you're not old. Not even close.
I'm sitting here right now, 7 years in the future, wondering how much I've actually changed from you. I have quite the extensive collection of Disney songs on my phone, I still read books from the YA section of the bookstore, I act like an elementary schoolgirl when I have a crush on someone, I find my class notes to be filled more with doodles than actual information, and I still have trouble knowing when to be serious and when to be silly. Am I even an adult?
I'd like to consider myself youthful in a good way. If growing up means becoming boring, then count me out. However, while I feel that there are parts of me that will never "grow up," there are other parts that have been shaped by the lessons I have learned over the past 7 years, the lessons which will continue to transform me for the rest of my life.
These next four years in high school are going to be some of the absolute best years of your life. They're also going to be the foundation of some of your biggest life lessons, so listen up.
Do what you want to do because it's what you love. Don't let your passions be tossed under the rug because you want to do what's cool. You're going to miss out on a lot your freshman year because you're going to be focused on partying and hanging out with the wrong crowd, but you will find your way. I just wish you would find your way faster and be confident in who you are, not who you wish you were.
Boyfriends are overrated. Don't waste your time searching for your soul mate in high school, I promise you won't find him there. You will simply be weeding through all of the "hell-no's" and making yourself frustrated when Prince Charming isn't waiting by your locker with flowers. Remember that Valentine's Day is just an excuse for chocolate and card companies to rack in more sales. You don't need a Valentine to feel special, you're beautiful and unique all on your own. I know this is hard to hear since you are very much a true romantic, but I have hopes that one day everything will all work out the way it is supposed to be.
Stop taking your friendships for granted. If I'm being honest, you can be quite a (insert favorite profanity here) to your friends sometimes because you know they'll always have your back, but lay off, will you? Take the time to put your friends before yourself, to ask how they are doing and really want to know the answer, and to actually listen to them when they tell you to stop doing something.
Realize that you are not going to stay friends with everyone for the rest of your life. Every person in your life has a purpose and a lesson to teach you, but you lose touch with those whose purpose in our lives has been completed. There's a great quote that reads, "When your heart aches, just remember God knows what's best, and when the times is right God will show you the difference between people who are meant to play a part in your life and those who are meant to be apart of your life" - Unknown. You are going to try your hardest to stay connected with as many people as you can and it's going to hurt horribly when people start to cut ties from you. People you've known your whole life will become distant memories and it's going to be painful, but you will make it through. You will find new shoulders to cry on and new friends to always have your back.
You're going to make some gigantic mistakes in the years to come, but it's not going to be the end of the world. Don't think that drinking is going to make you an adult. I know you think that if you do then you'll have a stronger relationship with your brother, but you're just going to cause yourself more problems. You're going to lose your parents' trust, but know that they will always love you. There is no way that I can tell you exactly which mistakes to avoid because you need to make them in order to learn from them. You need to be a failure at times in order to be a success later.
You will never be able to make every single person happy. You will only make yourself depressed and miserable by attempting to accomplish this. Don't change yourself to fit someone else's ideal mold. Don't silence your opinion because it's not the same as the majority. You have a unique purpose in this world and if you conform to the image somebody else has for you then you will never be able to discover what God has planned. Don't be afraid to be exactly who you are. In fact, be PROUD to be the truest version of yourself. You will be much happier. Didn't you know? Happy girls are the prettiest girls.
My last piece of advice is this: Tell people how you really feel. Go out on a limb and take a chance because life is too short to wonder what could have been. The worst thing someone can say is "no" or tell you that they're not interested, so just do it. Be bold.
Until next time,