My sister’s best friend told me about this exercise. Write a letter to yourself 5 years ago, she said. At first, I thought she meant in 5 years but how could I possibly know what to tell my 26-year-old self? I can’t. If I knew that, my life would be boring.
Dear 16-year-old Kaleigh,
A lot will happen in five years. Plenty more than you will ever anticipate.
You’ll want to forget to be strong and beautiful. Don’t. You’ll want to take the phrase “spiraling out of control” and tuck it in your back pocket for easy access. Throw that phrase away. It’s too severe for your life. You’re better than it.
Don’t let the calluses you worked hard to build be erased under fresh patches of red-pink skin ready for the world to burn them.
You’ll fret over almost dates. Let me tell you: they weren’t real.
Just because a boy likes you doesn’t mean you have to like him. Figure out if it’s him or the idea of him and be honest. He deserves that.
Don’t dread first kisses. And don’t share them either. Let them happen in the moment. But if you must be direct, you better have a freaking amazing reason. He better be shipping off somewhere.
Learn something from every friendship. Any of your relationships, really. Take a small lesson from the way your best friend falls in love with a boy, giving over her whole heart, and don’t think she’s weak.
If you hate the whole traditional dating scene so much, find an alternative.
Don’t hate meeting people because some of them never become good friends. That’s how all relationships are: hard work. Figure out what you expect from a friend and find it. Don’t settle. Ever.
Don’t let anyone push you around or claim you’re less than capable. Listen with one ear and prove them wrong so you can hear their jaws drop with the other ear.
Stop being a martyr. You are a teenager, for God’s sake. If someone upsets you, tell them. You’re too afraid of being honest. It’s not a disease. You can’t always be the nice one anyway.
If you’re going to be in love, be in love. Don’t half-ass it.
That said, if you care about someone, they better know. You’re an excellent time waster.
Going to college 300 miles away is not an excuse for losing touch with people in your life. Even if there’s not yet an app for that.
Hold onto the friends who leave you voicemails that make you laugh on the way to the parking garage after a long day on campus.
Suck every second out of those long days. Going to bed at 9pm is for the sick and the elderly. You are neither.
Your life is not a Sorry! game board. Change doesn’t mean going back to start. It means potential. Try new things. You will have 14 beginnings in 5 years. Embrace them and throw yourself into each one. You didn’t do enough of that.
You define your rock bottom. Remember that always. Don’t fall into the Grand Canyon. Remember the parachute is strapped to your back. I know you tend to lose things. Car keys, shoes, yourself.
And above all, never lose sight of who you are. Who you always were. Today. Tomorrow. In ten years.
Love that girl forever.