Dear Middle School Me,

Hey there.

It’s crazy to think I’m more than 6 years older than you now. Hope you’re enjoying your teenage years, because let me tell you, they flew by.

I know you’re in a weird place right now. You’re not quite comfortable at school, and it’s okay to admit that. You’re the only Asian girl in your grade, boys ask you out as a joke, and you don’t exactly click with many of your friends — of course you’re uncomfortable! But you’re powering through, and I really admire you for that.

As most people do when writing to younger versions of themselves, I’d like to offer you bits of wisdom, though keep in mind that these are things I still think about now:

  1. Keep enjoying music. No matter how many things seem to be going wrong, music isn’t going to change. Mom’s old CDs you found, that flute sonata you’re practicing, and the piano in our music room are all always here to make you happy and will never go away. Take advantage of the power of music I know you’re beginning to understand. One song that always brings my spirits up now is “Wait for the Moment” by Vulfpeck. I don’t think it’s out yet, but check it out when they release it. It’s really good.
  2. Be proud of who you are. I know it’s easy to want to fit in, especially when it’s so easy to feel singled out and kids at school make sure you feel that way. But, truth is, they’re just as insecure as you are. So go for it, be confident! Embrace your Japanese roots; when mom speaks to you in Japanese in public, don’t be shy or embarrassed, that’s silly! People are impressed when they find out I speak Japanese, and with every trip back to Japan I appreciate and love the country more and more. Embrace your nerdiness; you can still be cute while being an intelligent woman who loves the Internet and technology and learning in general (just look at me *wink*). Embrace the things that people make fun of you for! There’s a reason people notice them. Stand up for yourself just as much as I know you stand up for other people. You deserve to be happy with yourself!
  3. F*** the haters, and love the people who are here for you. This is pretty self-explanatory, but don’t let those kids bring you down! What if I told you the boy who just asked you out as a joke and laughed about it with his friends, the girl who facetiously said she and her friend “totally want to hang out with you lol!” on your Facebook wall, and the kid who sent you incredibly hateful messages to you on AIM are all still just as ignorant and immature, while you’ve grown to be an intelligent, informed, and successful individual? (Weird to say that about myself to my past self, but it gets my point across. Also, it’s true.) There’s no need to treat them like your enemies or anything, but don’t let them get to you. Don’t let them trick you into thinking they’re better than you or that you’re worth less than them. Keep doing you (see #2) and don’t waste your time worrying about the “h8rz.” Instead, focus on the people who are supporting you. Mom, dad, and your sister have all been here for you and will continue to be a source of true support and love forever; be thankful for them and spend time with them! You also have friends who you’re going to be stuck with for a long time because they’re so incredibly awesome and genuinely want to support and spend time with you. Appreciate these special relationships! They will bring you up, and you in turn can bring them up, too.

Basically, just be you and be proud of being you. It’s so much easier said than done, but I know you’re smart enough to figure out what that means for you right now, even if it’s by taking little steps at a time. As you finish middle school, enter high school, and eventually get to college, you’re going to experience so many things — meet awesome (and not so awesome) people, learn new things, hear different stories — and you’re going to understand more and more who Yoko really is. But for now, just focus on what and who you love. It’s funny that I say this as if I’ve figured out exactly who I am, because I haven’t. I definitely have a better sense of who I am and am a lot more confident with myself, but I haven’t figured it out completely yet. How could I? I’m only 20. Maybe I’ll write another one of these in ten years.

Oh, and one last note. That pencil eyeliner? Swap it out for a liquid one and just line the outer half of your top eyelid. You’re welcome.

This week, my sorority (Kappa Delta) is hosting our annual Confidence Week on campus. Our goal is to celebrate confidence with students of our university through photo shoots, compliment deliveries, and social media efforts. I have worked hard over the past several years to develop the amount of confidence I have now, and I firmly believe that it is a crucial part of being happy. But it’s hard to develop alone; without all of the support from family and friends I have been lucky to have, I would not be as confident as I am today. So as important it is to support and believe in yourself, I think it’s also important to encourage and be true cheerleaders for the people around you. #WatchMe #GoConfidently