A Letter to my 16-Year-Old Self
A few days ago I was rifling through some photos of myself that I completely forgot about (for a reason). Some were extremely embarrassing to look at and I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. (Really, they were that bad.) I was much different when I was 16 years old, in fact, I was almost unrecognizable…
If I could write a letter to my 16-Year Old Self, what would I say?
You’ve come so far. You’re going to graduate. You made it. You’re one bad ass bitch.
Every single time you felt like quitting, you found the strength to continue. You persevered. You didn’t give in. You refused to fail. Sleepless nights filled with aggravation and tears all led up to this point. This moment that you never thought would actually happen. This accomplishment that you never thought you deserved. You rose to the challenge and came out victorious.
I’m glad you got help when you did. It became exhausting. You were tired of lying and sweeping shit under the rug. Hiding was all you did. Closing yourself off from your family and breaking friendships. It felt good to be alone. Your bedroom floor comforted you. Your music became your only escape. But at one point, you couldn’t hide anymore. You couldn’t bring yourself to do it. You confronted the school nurse and told her how you felt. Your words cut through her quickly, the blood drained quickly from her face…
“I want to go home…”
“Why? Do you feel sick?” She answered.
“No. I want to die.”
It seemed like this giant weight was finally being lifted off your shoulders. Someone else finally knew your pain. It was finally on the surface. For a long time, you felt almost embarrassed to express what was going on inside. You were tired of being told it was just a phase. It felt pointless to even try anymore with your family. You sat there while the nurse called your mother in a panic. You sat there feeling exposed, open and vulnerable. A small glimmer of hope began to pierce through the darkness that you hid in for so long. You had a talent of burying your emotions. You needed validation. You needed love from your mother. You needed attention from your father. You wanted to feel just as important as your brother. You were tired of feeling like a mistake. You wanted to feel like you belonged. But you realized you needed help, and I’m thankful that you reached out. You weren’t going to feel alone anymore. Those days were over. You needed someone to just–listen. And they did. You were finally being heard and I’m thankful that you reached out.
Sitting in the chair of an office while a therapist questioned you was almost unnerving. She was digging deep. A little too deep. You were good at burying how you felt. You kept the pain beneath the surface away from prying eyes for a while. And here was this lady, cracking you open like a peanut. You couldn’t help but have the ultimate breakdown in front of her. You let her know everything. She provided solutions. She gave you the help you needed. And as much as you refused her assistance, you knew you needed it.
You had made a decision. This wasn’t the end. You fought for your life. You broke through and let someone in…
Everyone wants to feel like they matter. And most of all, everyone wants to feel validation.
You do matter. You are valued. You are worth more than you know.
You patiently sat there waiting in the lobby of the doctor’s office. There was this old health video on loop, your eyes slowly drifting towards the clock as you sat there feeling anxious. That sinking pit in your stomach started getting heavier and heavier. Something didn’t feel right. It had been hours since your mother had gone in to see the doctor. That night during your walk, she broke the news to you.
“I’m diagnosed with breast cancer.”
This would be her second time battling cancer. She had it once when you were just a baby. She shaved her head and wore a wig for comfort. But here you were in the middle of an emotional breakdown and trying to gain any drop of strength you could–for her. And although you didn’t want to think of the worst–you couldn’t help but prep yourself for what might happen. Who survives something like this twice? It would take a miracle…
And somehow the news had spread around campus. Strangers approached you and took pity on your situation. It infuriated you. They didn’t know how it felt. They were strangers. You hated them. You wanted to be alone. You were progressing so well but you were beginning to lose your grip. You started to lose interest. You didn’t care if you graduated. Nothing seemed to matter which made concentrating on school a lot harder. In fact, I know that’s why you were flushing your grades down the toilet. You stopped caring. You were preparing yourself for the worst. You were preparing to lose your mother…
Your mother’s chemotherapy treatment wasn’t easy. Shaving her head in the garage was hard. You didn’t want to do it. You still couldn’t accept it. Laying in bed listening through the thin walls of your bedroom, you could hear her throwing up. Beneath the covers in the dark, you let the pillow soak your tears. It was better to cry alone than in front of others. And as much as you fought with her, you needed her. You didn’t want her to leave…
You didn’t bend. You didn’t break. You remained strong. Continuing to remain positive even though everything felt as if it was crumbling around you only gave you strength to push through. You had faith that things would turn around no matter how impossible it seemed. You believed in the idea that your mother would get better. And she did.
An opportunity brought itself to you. You knew this opportunity would change your life for the better. Working hard to receive the scholarship of a lifetime, you made vast improvements. You worked your ass off. You studied hard. You took in any and all extra credit. And then it happened–your grades began to turn around. Your teachers believed in you. Pushing your pen to paper, you wrote twelve essays expressing your interest in traveling abroad. (Read all about my experience in Japan, here.) As days bled into weeks, you started to lose hope. Until the moment came where you tore the envelope open and received your very first scholarship.
You amazed your friends, your teachers and your family. And most importantly, you amazed yourself.
You’ve been through so much. You sank your claws into a steep as fuck hill enduring scrapes and bruises every inch of the way. You wondered if you would ever make it. You wondered if you should even try. And you could have given up, but you chose not to.
You chose to live.
You chose to remain strong for her. You knew the worst could happen but you continued to believe in a miracle. I’d like to think that your positivity and strength carried her through…
Graduating almost didn’t happen for you. But here you are in your cap and gown sitting with your graduating class. You are excited and anxious to hear your name. Your family is waiting for you in the stands. You knew you could make it happen and you did.
It’s been twelve years. I’m looking back on everything you’ve been through. You inspire me. You motivate me. And you’ve brought me to tears all over again. (The good kind, of course.) You’ve reminded me of how much strength you truly have. I’m amazed by you.
I love you.
I hope that after you’ve read this letter, you won’t remain afraid to reach out for help. Believe me–you are valued more than you know. Seek help. It’s never too late.
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