Dear Debbie at age 16,
I know life seems hard now. You worry a lot about what everyone else thinks. There are events that seem monumental currently, but that won't matter in the big picture. It is difficult, at your age, to understand this. There is so much coming down the line that will be challenging, so you should have fun now while you can. By the same token, in ways, the wisdom of age will make you a happier person. Years from now, this will all make sense.
Let me share with you a few things I have learned:
Beauty is not all about being young and skinny with great hair and perfect clothes.
I regret that it took me so long to realize this, but it is true. It's the reason that mom I know from the pre-school who is bald from chemotherapy has never looked more gorgeous. It's the reason my 93 year old grandmother radiates with beauty when she smiles. It's the reason that, much to my surprise, I feel most attractive not when thin and made up, but with weight to loose, a baby on my hip, and his sleepy head on my shoulder. Beauty comes in many forms and does not have to be found in a conventional way.
Heartbreak doesn't last forever.
I know it feels like it will. But the world is big, and the relationships you form now are just the beginning of a life of connecting with others. If someone is cruel to you, run and don't look back. You are so much better than that. By the same token, if someone does treat you right, don't assume that will come again easily. True love is rare. If it matters, it will endure, and you should embrace that. Also, don't overlook people. Sometimes the ones you take for granted now are the ones who care the most, and who will do anything for you, even decades later.
Struggles make you stronger.
This is something your parents or teachers will say often, and that you will roll your eyes at. It turns out it is good advice. Not only does adversity make you stronger, but it also makes you a more interesting person. It sets the stage for challenges that will come down the road, because life definitely is not easy. You can choose now how to view things, whether to see them as road blocks or blips on the radar. Try to do the latter. Also realize that out of those situations that are the most difficult can come your finest hours. It's this ability to get beyond a D on a test, being picked last for the team every time, or having a fight with your best friend that will empower you to, years later, be able to pick up the pieces. There are things that will happen to the adult you that you can't begin to imagine now. You will need to learn to advocate for yourself so that you can fight for your children. They will need your positive but firm voice to help them get what they need at school, in doctor's offices, and in life. You will be their biggest fan, but not if you can't believe in yourself first.
Maybe part of the joy in our lives is not knowing what lies ahead, but I also think glimpsing the future can make you slow down and realize what truly matters. You will have so many good moments to outweigh the bad, you will laugh more than you cry, and you will be loved.
Debbie at age 36