Dear 15-year-old me… Nostalgia is a powerful thing

What if I told you that, 10 years from now, your life would be exactly the same?

I doubt you’d be happy. So, why are you so afraid of change? -Karen Salmansohn

Let’s pretend that time travel is actually a thing. We now have the power to go back to any point in our lives and chat with our former selves. I’d pop back to my 15-year-old self and I’d definitely have a few things to say to her.

He’s not the one. I know that you think he is, but he’s not. And I know that you think the world revolves around him and that forever doesn’t sound like that long, but it really is. And it’s going to end. It’s going to end and you’re going to be hurt and you’re not going to want to get out of bed. So stay in bed for a couple days. Eat a lot of cookie dough (trust me, your metabolism will catch up with you before you know it, so enjoy it while you can). Re-watch a few seasons of Grey’s Anatomy (there’s no way you’ll believe me, but things get weird in later seasons.. you’re barely even going to want to watch it some weeks). But then, after you’ve cried yourself to sleep a couple of times and listened to some sad Taylor Swift songs, get out of bed. You’re going to fall in love plenty of other times and you’re going to get hurt again and again. You’re also going to hurt some people. But it’s okay, because that’s how it’s supposed to be. Keep him in your heart, but don’t spend too much time mourning the relationship.

If they walk away, let them. Losing your friends hurts. But if they walk away when things get tough, just let them – it gets even tougher as you get older, and you don’t want fair-weather friends. You’re going to be lonely and you’re not going to understand what happened or why you drifted so far apart. You’re not going to sneak texts to each other in your classes anymore. You’re going to forget the code names you used for all the guys you thought were cute. You’re going to pass each other in the hallway and it’s going to be awkward, because you’re going to remember the nights you spent at each other’s houses and the inside jokes that used to make you laugh until your abs throbbed. In a few years, though, you’ll hug each other at graduation and congratulate each other for making it through alive.

Don’t push people away so much. Asking for help isn’t as scary as you think it is. And you’re really going to need help in about five years – more than you ever needed it in high school and, possibly, more than you’ll ever need it again. Keep trying. Keep talking to your parents and your sisters about your life. Keep making new friends and keep trusting them, even if you don’t feel like you should. If they walk away, that’s their choice, remember? Let them in and see what happens.

Your beliefs and your values are going to change. And that’s okay. You’re going to end up at a Lutheran college even though you’re going to identify as an atheist and that’s okay, too. Stay open-minded and don’t let other people sway you. People are, for the most part, much more accepting in college than they are in high school. The people that care about you aren’t going to care if you’re an atheist or if you don’t give two shits about politics or if you’re pro-choice. And you’re not going to care if their beliefs are in direct opposition. (Can you tell that you have a thing for interfaith-centered dialogue?)

Work out. Like. Last week. I know that you’ve never run a mile in your life (you’ve only done it once in the future, so don’t feel bad) and I know you are going to end up taking online gym next year (you’re welcome). But your metabolism seriously catches up to you and you get chubby. Your 100-pound-self disappears. So put down the junk food and get your butt to the gym.

Save your money. I know it seems like $300 is a TON of money (and, let’s be honest, I’d love $300 right now) but your rent is two times that and you have bills to pay. Future you has a kickass shoe collection, but groceries would be nice too.

Enjoy yourself. Stop stressing so much about school and tests and your future. You’re going to do just fine. Let loose once in a while and take some risks – they’ll make much better stories later.

You can’t control what happens to you. You’re going to lose people. People you know and people you love are going to die or move or disappear from your life for whatever reason. People are going to get hurt and you’re going to get hurt. Life is going to hurt. So you might as well accept it now: shit happens. You take it, brush yourself off, and carry on.

Stop being so scared of everything. You’re terrified of the world. And you’re 15, so that’s okay. But as you get older, the world is going to get scarier. You’re going to realize that horrible, awful things exist that you can’t even fathom right now. You’re a lot stronger than you think and you can handle it, though, so stop being so afraid of the world around you. Embrace it.

You aren’t ever really going to know who you are. Stop trying to figure it out. Just like everyone else, you are a complicated contradiction of a person. You can like whatever you want and you can hate whatever you want. And guess what? You can change your mind as many times as you want.

Trust yourself and do what you love. You already know what you want to do with your life. You’re going to tweak it a little bit, but writing is going to be your life. So trust yourself and ignore the people that tell you that you can’t make a living as a writer. Ignore the people that tell you that you’re going to change your major, too. Because you declare it before the first day of class your freshman year and you don’t ever change it.

I’m sure there are a million other things that I’d like to tell myself. I’d like to tell myself that I should pretend to like ice cream because people make fun of me a lot for not liking it. I’d like to tell myself to avoid dating a few select douchebags. I’d like to tell myself that Twitter is actually really awesome so I shouldn’t hold out on it as long as I do. I’d definitely like to tell myself not to get that pixie cut last May.

But life is a lot more interesting when we don’t know, isn’t it?

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