The Real ”How Did You Age” Challenge
Dear 16 year-old self,
Sit down for a while.
I've got a lot to tell you.
First and foremost, you will make so many mistakes. Huge ones. Avoidable ones. Before I bum you out too much, know that you will learn from these mistakes. Sadly, it won't happen as fast as we hope, but you will learn.
Now, we can't change anything with this conversation, but let me remind you of some things you already know, that will take you twenty years to realize.
You are enough.
You always were.
You will struggle every day with understanding this.
You will seek out the attention and approval of men, because from 1996-2016 that's just how it is. These are the values that we still buy into. Women view others as competition instead of comrades. Do what you can to change that.
You'll have amazing, revealing, moments though, where you will discover that this social construct is complete bullsh*t.
Like that time you found the courage to leave a bad marriage. When you realized that, while you aren't perfect, no one gets to be punished for that. No one gets to dictate the terms of your life but you. You are stronger than you know. I'm here to tell you your future divorce isn't a failure, it's a test of strength, and a testimony to the love you have for your children and your commitment to their future.
You'll have two beautiful boys who one day will answer the question you dwell on in your quiet moments---is there a man out there for me?
Turns out, there's two.
Continue to be the person that embraces those on the outside. Don't ever give into the desire to belong, because a narrow existence is a lonely one.
Welcome fear and failure. Whoa. I know, right? That is not at all part of your value set right now. But the sooner you recognize that learning to feel the full depth of your humanity comes from the times when things don't go your way, and the things you do wrong -- life will be brighter, you will be kinder, and anxiety will be a demon you can defeat.
Do the things others say you can't do. I'm happy to report from the future that you have accomplished this one. Relish in it. You'll have plenty of fear and trepidation about going where few women go, but you'll find comfort and security in the footsteps of those courageous enough to go before you.
Call your mom. Let her know you're ok. I know it's annoying now, but once you're a mom you'll know that it changes you. Moms aren't rational people. They are people who's heart grows so big that it almost breaks. Every day.
Eat the chicken fingers, but don't forget your vegetables. The complicated issues you have with your body originate from the expectations of society and that new software you're playing with right now, Photoshop 4.0.
Learn how to feel strong and learn the benefits of being fit. But forget the self-loathing that will motivate you those early days in the gym. That motivation won't sustain, because deep down I'm happy to report that it turns out you really don't hate yourself or how you look.
And that's because you're pretty awesome.
Have courage, 16 year old self and trust that it will all turn out ok. I could go on and on about how to deal with boys, how to deal with girls, how to deal with bosses, narcissists and people who try to limit you. But that's your lesson to learn, on your own.
At 16, you have a good heart, a lot of optimism and faith in kindness. Don't let your future experiences change this.
My dear 16 year old self, I love you. Best of luck in your future endeavors.