Dear 13-Year-Old Me

Dear 13-Year-Old Me,

I know you, friend. I can look at you and see that you’re doing your very best to look like Joey Potter. You’re hoping maybe someone will make the connection that not only are you mature enough to watch Dawson’s Creek (which let’s be honest, you won’t actually watch until you have a sick baby and spend a week nursing her fever while binging on what will be by then retro teenage angst) but you want someone to realize that you’re deep and complicated and capable of so much more than anyone yet expects of the quiet girl in thrift store Abercrombie and Fitch jeans and your grandpa’s flannel shirt.

I know that you’re chasing a boy who hasn’t ever looked directly at you. Sure, he’s dreamy with his black, spiked hair and Blink 182 shirts, but when you’re in 10th grade, he’ll witness you desperately trying to make your way to the bathroom on crutches with a limp leg in a knee-high, red cast. He’ll stop sharpening his pencil to watch you give up and puke all over the hallway. Instead of comforting you, he’ll alert his entire class that there is, quote, a girl puking her boot off in the hallway!

Dream bigger. That’s all I can tell you.

Those stories you’re secretly writing and hiding throughout your room? Keep doing that. Well, writing, not hiding your stories. Learn now that your voice and perspective is unique and important. Don’t believe for a second that you’re more likely to grow up and become a movie star than a writer. Even now, you’re a writer. Someday, someone will tell you that life isn’t like a game of Old Maid and you’ll be just fine if you don’t grow up to be a teacher or ballerina or baker. And write, write, write while you have the time and freedom to tell stories without doing so for your supper.

I know you’re wondering who you will become and I know that you’re already selling yourself short. At almost 30, you’re not really any different. You own both a pair of white Keds and gold heels because your secret fashion icon is and will always be Baby from Dirty Dancing. You still dramatically quote lines from My Girl, swoon a little when you see Christian Slater and just like the fake wedding invitations you used to make would always say, you grew up and married a man named Jon. 

Admit it. You can’t be near a railing alone without doing this…

The only real difference between you at 28-going-on-29 and you at 13 is that you’ve finally come to believe that you are not the girl next door or the rebel or the homecoming queen. You are not a skater or a thug or a geek and you are not popular. You will be just as awkward in college as you are in seventh grade and that won’t change until you stop trying to be anything but yourself.

Don’t look so disappointed. Eventually, you’ll swear that you were a quirky, flannel pajama-wearing brunette with thick bangs long before Zooey Deschanel made it cool. Heck, you’ll even bring back your seventh grade bangs because you’ll feel so comfortable in your own skin.

There’s a few other things you should know…

Go easy on Travis Hervey. Don’t make fun of his glasses…he can’t see without his glasses (see, nerd, you’re still quoting My Girl.) I know you think he’s a dork now but I guarantee you, he’ll surprise you. You know his first name is Jon, right?

You know that baby sleeper your mom was going to give away at a baby shower but you begged her to keep because you just knew that your daughter would wear it someday? She will. Never doubt that intuition of yours. It’s going to get you through a lot of tough places, including a point when you’ll wonder if you’ll ever be a momma.

Keep in mind that there is a difference between kids who are trouble and kids who are troubled. I know you know the difference. Invite the the troubled ones over for dinner and fill them up as much as you can. Be their family. You may not realize it yet but behind closed doors, your friends are dealing with big, scary things. Some are discovering that they are gay, some are enduring their parents’ failed marriages, some are looking for love in the backseat of an upperclassman’s car, some are being destroyed from the inside out. Here’s where that intuition will be necessary and where you’ll need to learn that love never fails and that turning a blind eye on someone’s pain can lead to their destruction.

Dance as often as you can. Stop complaining about having to spend so much time at drill team practice because someday you’ll miss those girls, those routines, your killer, kick-line legs and the fearlessness you now have to fall into the splits on a hard, gym floor. I promise, you will miss those moments on a dance floor when it all comes together and you and the popular girl and the class clown and the smartest girl in school are all totally in sync and equal. Never again will you experience a harmony quite like that.

Get into some good-natured trouble. Go pool-hopping with Erin. Make sure you have a video camera handy the night Laura dresses up in a bikini to greet the pizza guy because, between us, it’s going to be her dad and it’s going to be AWESOME. If you keep it up, Goody-Two-Shoes, your brother is always going to tell better stories than you.

And, speaking of your brother, stop fighting with him so much. You’re going to miss him most when your life gets busy and there is a river and deadlines and cars that break down in between you. Sure, he’s going to drive you crazy but he’s going to have your back, like when you break up with your stupid, ninth-grade boyfriend and the jerk follows you and throws a rock at your head as you’re walking home from school. That will be a time when you thank your lucky stars that your baby brother is a bad ass.

Maybe go a little easier on your mom. I know there is little that you see eye-to-eye on now but I’m going to tell you that motherhood is harder than it looks. Stop putting her under the microscope so much because someday, you’ll have your turn under the microscope, too. And though you swear you’ll be different, and in many ways you will be, at your very core, the things that will make you a great mom came from her. Give her a hug. She craves your kindness and affection more than you can imagine.

Don’t get so caught up in trying to grow up that you stop being your grandpa’s girl. Trust me on this. Sit on the back porch with him. Make him tell every story he knows. Know that the winter break you spend at his house in sweats, passing a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird back and forth and crying over Tom Robinson at the kitchen table will one day mean far more to you than any skating party or sleepover or football game you may miss while you’re there. More than anything else, you will miss walking around the corner and finding him in his rocking chair on the porch, or as he always called it, his church. Savor him while you can.

If you’re still reading, I want you to wipe off that stupid, pink lip gloss. Throw away the bottle of cotton candy body splash you hate but wear because someone told you the boys like it. Get up right now, put on your Keds and cut-off shorts and go have the time of your life. Have enough fun for two lifetimes because this one is going to go by faster than you even know.

Love you, kid.









































































































































































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One Response to “Dear 13-Year-Old Me”

  1. Erin Graessle February 10, 2014 at 8:22 am #


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