Dear 16 year old me,
Just a few quick things as I pop back in time.
1) Swimming is not your sport
I know that you love this swim team. Your coach and teammates are amazingly supportive, kind and smart. They celebrate your personal best as enthusiastically as you do their blue ribbons.
It’s just that– you’re just not that fast.
You’ve learned to push yourself three hours a day in the pool even though you hate that first entry into a cold pool. And now you know your way around a weight room.
Learning to work hard for results is not a bad lesson for you. This will be your mantra from which success will come. Eventually. But that struggle to improve is what will drive you and that’s the part of the journey you will relish more than the final destination.
I think the biggest attraction for swimming was ditching the Nerd-dom label that plagued you in Junior High. Honestly, you will one day embrace your inner nerd. It will take you a few decades but it will serve you well.
Know that you will try many sports and you will eventually find your thing. It will involve hand-to-hand combat and you will love it. You won’t be half bad either. Despite your short stature.
2) Please accept your body.
I know how embarrassed you are to be in this photo. Normally you are wearing two if not three Speedos (for drag) and are wrapped in a towel.
You are shaved down in a newly purchased team skin suit for the championship meet. By a miracle of god, you will earn a point for your team will result in a Varsity letter. It turns out that not many girls want to swim the 500 yd freestyle and a few are actually slower than you are!
You earned that letter. Take it and retire from the pool. Focus on getting into college because life as you know it is about to change.
So please go easy on your body image. I know. I know. Your legs are too short and not flexible at all. You wish you were more curvy.
Here’s a revelation. There isn’t a female on the planet that thinks her body is great. Never mind perfect.
Be kind to yourself and appreciate your body because it will rise to every physical challenge you ask of it including bearing three kids.
And as you stare down turning 50, you will be thrilled to have this exact same body in this exact condition. Trust me. I know.
So don’t do anything stupid like going under the knife. Choose to age gracefully instead. Your future self will thank you.
3) Wear sunscreen
That tan line is scaring me. How is it that you spend three hours in an outdoor pool a day and don’t wear sunscreen? This is Southern California after all!
Also SPF 4 is a joke. Please use waterproof SPF 30.
4) Stand up for what you believe in
Maybe because you are a middle child, you are obsessed with fairness and justice. Life is so unfair for the middle. You will have to deal with a scandal next year in which your Student Council advisor, a Vice Principal, will cheat on the ASB election that you will run. You will be outraged and try to correct the wrong but you will not prevail.
Remember this injustice and the feeling of helplessness as you become an adult. Fight for those who are invisible, without voice, or are non-confrontational. You getting a gift by getting into Harvard. Use it well.
That’s it for now.
Exciting times are ahead. That cute boy you meet at Chol’s surprise birthday party? Telling your business school friends two days later that you met your future husband is not lunacy. Sometimes you just know. You have good intuition. Always follow it. It never steers you wrong.
But maybe you shouldn’t knee that cute boy in the groin when he tries, jokingly, to demonstrate how helpless you are if held in a choke hold. He thinks you are too small to defend yourself.
What the heck. Go for it. He will recover and still be able to father those three kids you will have together.
And secretly he will be impressed because he will propose a few months later. And you will live happily ever after. (With only a little conflict here and there, just to keep things exciting.)
p.s. Dear 16 year old me is inspired by Dear Teen Me which are letters by Young Adult authors to their 16 year old selves. It is also a great book. I gifted it to my oldest who is fourteen.
Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves (True Stories) by Miranda Kenneally
p.s. Related posts:
A True Tale of Two Cheaters: 30 Years Later
Happy Birthday to My Mom: 90 Years Young
To examine Dear Teen Me more closely at Amazon, please click on image of book.
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BEST #OWNVOICES CHILDREN’S BOOKS: My Favorite Diversity Books for Kids Ages 1-12 is a book that I created to highlight books written by authors who share the same marginalized identity as the characters in their books.
20 thoughts on “Dear 16 Year Old Me: My Letter to Myself”
Love the idea of letters to a teen self! Thanks so much for sharing your teen self as well…enjoyed the post!
Thanks so much Barbara! Those teenage years are tumultuous years looking back. It was fun to remember what things were like … now 33 years ago!!
Rather than posting for this book in a typical way, you really demonstrated why this would be a great read. A lot of great stuff in this post, but these stuck out for me: ditching the nerd-dom label, kicking your husband in the groin:) being the middle child-the peacemaker, and the message to teen girls-confidence and body image. Great book! Great post!
Thanks so much! It makes me so happy that you liked my post!
So well said, and very touching, Mia!
Thank you for sharing this and reminding me about that book!
Thanks so much Maria. The body image thing was the first thing that I cringed about looking at myself in a bathing suit so many years ago and even now, it’s such a difficult and thorny subject for all women. I’m glad that aging makes us all appreciate our bodies more, both past and present.
Love this post, and thanks for the book recommendation.
Thanks so much Nat!! I do love that YA book. I gave it to my teen but I ended up reading it myself. She thought it was a little “weird” to her but I’m hoping that it will inspire her as she gets older.
Thank you so much for this post! I like what you say about appreciating your body where you are at. When I grumble about 45, I remember to appreciate myself, because for my Great Aunt Gin who is 102 years old, I’m a baby. Our bodies are more than how we look, they are how we feel and what they allow us to experience. Thank you again for your blog.
Wow, 102!!! You have some great genes going for you!! I totally agree that our bodies are more than how we look and I never really felt that way until I started doing sports for self defense. From boxing and kickboxing, I have learned to appreciate when my body moves from training my reflexes to respond a certain way. That has really helped me appreciate my body for its strength and not some perfect impossible body image from glossy magazines and TV.
What a great idea! When I was 16 I couldn’t imagine being 30 let alone 44 or 50. I know I was self conscious of my body and I see pictures now and I was so slim. I would also tell myself to be happy and not to worry that I would have a great life full of love and success.
I remember at 16 thinking 25 was so old LOL! And 40 seemed ancient! How weird is it that 49 feels very similar to my 20s or 30s only better in some ways. Less anxiety. What a great message to tell our younger selves — to look forward to a great life full of love and success!! And our kids too!
I absolutely loved your letter to yourself. You were so cute at 16. And, gifting the book and idea to your daughter is brilliant. Sixteen was a long time ago for me. This is something we should all do. You learned a lot about yourself through your earlier experiences.
Thanks so much Patricia,
I’m 49 now and yet I still remember 16 so clearly and don’t feel all that different in some ways. I hope my daughter one day will read that book and let it inspire her to follow her dreams that hinge around creativity. That was one of the key messages that most of the YA authors talked about. She’s very creative too and it’s not necessarily the advice that you’d get since a creative life seems like it is much riskier but I do think it’s the most satisfying.
This is the best book promotion post I’ve seen! Way to get us intrigued by doing the same thing those authors did yourself!
Thanks so much MaryAnne! I guess I am at that age that looking back is part of this phase of life!! LOL!
Well, you look very happy, pretty and radiant in the picture with your husband to be at Choi’s party. Great that it worked well. It might be interesting for you to ask your kids to do the reveres: writing a letter for themselves when they will be 50 years old. If one of them will agree you might find it interesting to read, but don’t post it on the blog. Best wishes to you and your husband.
Thanks so much! What a fun idea! I would love for my kids to picture themselves at 50. I think the letters would be so hysterically funny! I will ask my kids but I have low expectations that they would actually do it! They think 50 is ancient even though my husband and I are almost there!
Love this! Ten-twenty years from now, I’ll probably do the same to my younger self.
Thanks so much David! I’d love to read it!