A Letter to My Younger Self

I honestly cannot tell you what prompted these memories this morning, but I instantly knew I needed to write a letter for my younger self. There are so many important things I wish I knew back then, especially when dealing with cruel kids and odd situations.

I remember sitting at my table in my 7th grade math class. I was turned around with my back to the front of the room. I think we were still waiting for the teacher to come in. Mark* was being his usual sarcastic self and decided it was pertinent to tell me (loudly) that I had “grandma hands.” He joked about it, telling me how small my hands were, how long my fingers were, and pointing out the wrinkles in the knuckles. Let’s be serious, everyone has wrinkly knuckles. Still to this day, this was by far one of the most asinine things I’ve ever been told… but of course, it’s stuck with me.

My hands have aged quite a bit since then, and I can’t help but smile when I think of the things they’ve done. They’ve worked long and hard writing and typing and highlighting to earn myself a Bachelor’s degree; they held my husband’s hands when we got married; they’ve felt the kicks of not one but two babies in my belly; they’ve held and cradled my children when they’re hurt or upset; they’ve cooked Christmas dinner … my hands have done tremendous things. Who cares if they’re wrinkly and pockmarked? Each scar, each wrinkle, tells a story in my life. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

To my twelve-year-old self, this is an insignificant comment in your life. When you’re twelve years old, you have no idea what your hands are capable of but believe me, they will be great.

A year later, in 8th grade, I got a phone call from one of the “cool” kids. She was part of the clique I had dreamed of being a part of but never could figure out my “in.” As shocked as I was when my mom told me who it was on the phone, I was even more surprised when the first question came over the line — “Why do you hate me?”

I paused. “What do you mean?”

“You hate me. All of you do. Everyone thinks I’m this stuck-up girl and I’m not. Why do you hate me?” she honestly sounded ready to cry.

I still didn’t quite know what to say. I absolutely did not hate this girl — I idolized her. She was tall, pretty, great at sports, smart, and dating one of the cutest 8th graders our school had. “Honestly, Libby*, I don’t hate you. I don’t even know you; I’ve never been given the chance.” We went on to chat about how I didn’t feel cool enough to even go up and say hello in the hallways, let alone be friends with her. She went on to talk about how normal she is (and she really was), and to never be too shy or afraid to talk to her.

Interestingly, the next time I saw her at school she acted as if nothing had ever happened, like we’d never spoken. I still don’t know if the phone call was a prank or what, but …

To my thirteen-year-old self — even the cool kids have self-esteem issues and just want to be liked. Most of them (most) are just like you — unsure of themselves, unaware of who or what they’re going to be, and simply just trying to survive middle school. You’ll get through this, regardless of whether you’re ever truly “popular.” Just be you, and be proud of who you are.

In high school, everyone was getting their belly button pierced. It was all the rage and just so cool. My dad wouldn’t agree to it (he was old school) and because of this, my mom said no (she had no problem with it, but couldn’t go against what my dad said). I decided, for the first time in my life (ha!) to be a little rebellious. I asked my friend London if she’d do it for me — I can’t remember if she’d been bragging about doing her own or why I asked her, but I just had to have mine done and she agreed. During 6th period I kept an ice cube on my belly button the whole hour, and after school we immediately went over to London’s house (her parents weren’t home, mine were). She had a piercing grade needle, I had the jewelry. I don’t remember it hurting too badly, but I do remember that it was taking her awhile to push it through because, let’s be honest — the experience or training wasn’t there. Most fifteen and sixteen year olds wouldn’t know what they’re doing. When she was done, I was in love. It was perfect. Who cared if it was cockeyed? My belly button was pierced! Funny enough, the next day during U.S. History, Mark from 7th grade made fun of it for being off center. I guess he never was very nice.

My mom of course found it days later and I had to take it out. I got it professionally pierced eventually (and still have the scar from both pokes) but… for the moment I felt like my own person. I felt alive, independent, and oh-so-grown-up. It didn’t last long but it felt good while I had it.

To my fifteen-year-old self — take chances, but be smart about it. Maybe less permanently scarring than this, but hey, you haven’t forgotten it sixteen years later, have you?

Sometime either towards the end of high school or immediately after, I got what is to this day the best compliment I’ve ever been given. I remember that Brian* told me I look like Sarah Chalke. If you don’t know who that is, she’s the blonde who took over as Becky in the later seasons of Roseanne, went on to star in Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother as Stella.

She’s gorgeous: tall, thin, blonde. I’ve always been blonde but never, ever the other two things. Being compared to her is still something I look back fondly on. As I’ve gotten older and dealt with things like depression and pregnancy (and the related weight gain accompanied with those), I’ve moved farther away from thin than where I started and unfortunately hit my peak height in the 8th grade, so I’ve moved much farther away from looking like her than I did back then.

But it’s still something I aspire to. She’s still gorgeous, and you know what… despite the fact that I’m not even remotely thin or fit, I am beautiful. I’ve raised a very precarious and spunky (almost) three year old, have another on the way, have a college degree and a steady job, I’ve owned two homes and really kept it all together as best I can, and it has not been easy. On top of all this, I strive to be a kind person, a hard worker, a kind mother, a caring wife, a giving daughter, and an all-around good person. That’s what truly makes me beautiful.

There have been so many stressful times but they’ve created the person that I am. I wrote about this because this morning, when all these memories came flooding back in, I couldn’t help but want to get them all down. It’s funny what your brain chooses to remember…although I’m equally thankful for what it’s chosen to forget.

Oh, by the way — seventeen-year-old self… when you start feeling like your boyfriend is more of a brother, really sit on that fact for a while before making any rash decisions. That may be the last time you are that comfortable and that in love with someone (without any other responsibilities or worries). Feeling like your boyfriend is your brother is far from the worst thing that you can feel about him, it just means you’ve hit a spot in your relationship that most couples dream about. Just think about it before you act.

Trust me.