Couldn’t find a photo of me at 13 but this is me at 14.

A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear Young Johanie,

You’re 13 and just becoming aware of boys as potential boyfriends. Gross, I know, but hear me out. I need to tell you about them because I already know what you’re thinking. You think men are evil liars who are just going to hurt you. You think that when you do finally get into a relationship, you’ll somehow be stupidly deceived into thinking it’s a good relationship. Then, from out of the blue, he’ll break up with you and you’ll be divorced by the time you’re 35. You also question what is the merit of being with someone and “working things out with them” if your relationship will fail? Well, let me just tell you that your future is much better than you think it will be. Secondly, I’d really like to ease your mind about what being in relation with someone is really like.

They are not exactly like the ones you read about in books or like the ones in movies. I know you pretty much base all your expectations of real life by what you see on TV. Real relationships don’t end just because of a misunderstanding. In real life, you most certainly won’t have to worry about being a princess who isn’t allowed (for political reasons) to be with that handsome prince you met but didn’t know he was a prince. Real relationships tend to have pretty mundane problems. For example, do you remember that time when you heard those kids talking crap about you because of your glasses? That angered you, right? Made you annoyed that someone would pick something as stupid and out of your control as a pair of glasses you have to wear as an example of ridicule. Well, imagine when you get older the boy you’re dating casually and innocently pokes fun at the glasses you’re wearing. He doesn’t really mean any harm by it, but you remember those filthy children and then you get angry at your boyfriend. He doesn’t understand why you’re mad at him and you don’t have the words to properly express why it made you so enraged. So you react the only way you know how: childishly. You refuse to speak until he apologizes and then you make him feel bad for hurting you. This is what a real relationship looks like. You argue over the smallest things and you don’t understand why.

But don’t let that discourage you. Those kinds of arguments are not fun to have, but that’s not what every relationship is like all the time. There is some good news. In your future, you will have some of the most amazing memories of you and your significant other. You will feel safe with him. You will feel like you can be yourself with him. You will feel like you can be anything with him and that will make you so happy. You will gain a best friend. You will gain a confidant. You will wonder to yourself “Is he even real?” because you are in such disbelief someone so great would ever want to be with you. Those feelings, those times and those moments when you will both really look at each other and remember why you are together will be some of the sweetest moments you will ever experience.

Some of these experiences will make you want to give “it” up to him, but here’s the thing. It’s not always a ruse. In your case it won’t ever be a ruse. But let me explain further. I know that you think all boys will ever want from you is your body. You decided, right about this time actually, that you won’t give yourself up before marriage to ensure that whoever does end up loving you loves you for who you are and not what you can do for them. A commendable promise, that you do end up keeping by the way. However, let me give you some advice you will probably have an aversion to. It’s completely normal for you to want to explore your own body. Do not let church tell you any differently. You have every right as a woman to explore yourself as you need to. Anyone who tells you otherwise is spreading an unintentional lie. Secondly, it’s also okay for you to want to do more with your boyfriend. I know this may seem weird for me to say because you currently don’t have a boyfriend and, as an act of self-preservation, you won’t allow yourself to feel anything good because you think it’s wrong. Let me tell you, it’s not. Just remember the promise you made to yourself. As long as you remember that, you’ll be ok.

Lastly, young Johanie, please do not put so much pressure on your boyfriend. A lot of your dysfunctions will be projected onto him. But he cannot solve everything for you. He can’t and won’t be “the one” to save you from yourself. He can’t make all your insecurities go away magically. He can’t make you feel as though you matter all the time like you will expect him to. At some point, you will have to take responsibility for determining why you feel the way you do. Don’t rely on anyone to fix anything for you. You are strong enough to do it yourself. Believe that.

I hope that this enough of an account for you without giving too much away. You gotta have some surprises. Anyway, I write this out of love for you and our plight. Everything will truly get better. The best part is that what happens to you is beyond anything you ever expected for yourself.

-Love, Your Older Self.

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