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
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