Dear 9 Year-Old Me.
When I was 9 years old, my absolute favourite toys to collect were Webkinz. These plush animals each came with special codes that you could only open after you bought one, and would give you access to an online version of your stuffed animal that you could play around with in Webkinz world. And lemme tell you, I was the QUEEN of Webkinz world. From the time that I logged on (February 19th, 2007) to the time that I grew out of them, I had collected over 30 of the stupid things, and my house on Webkinz World was bigger than any real house I had ever seen. Each room had a theme, and every animal got a room. I had a kitchen and a backyard, and to this day all of my passwords are variations of my original Webkinz password. I was hooked.
While that may not have been a traditional social network, it was the first time that I had any kind of online presence. And just knowing that my online house was bigger or nicer than my friends, that I won more games than them or had more money on the site, gave me this weird high even back then. I felt like a better person because my online presence was perceived as better. That is the first experience I ever had with social media and it kind of scares me how even back then, it had this power over me that only upon growing up would I learn to break out of. There’s some things that I wish I knew back then.
So here goes. A letter to 9 year-old me from your 19 year-old self.
Dear 9 year-old Allie,
Right now, your biggest problems in the world are whether your new best friend will keep thinking your cool, or whether you’ll make the 4x100 relay team for track and field. And while those are important things, they’re not the most important things, so try not to stress so much.
In the next few years, you are going to grow so so much. You’re going to experience what it feels like to lose your best friends. You’re going to cry every night for the first two weeks that your sister leaves for university, and you’re not going to know how to cope when you finally start to realize that maybe your parents aren’t always right. Some days are going to feel like the end of the world.
But it’s going to be alright. Because while you might lose some of your best friends, you’re going to gain even better ones who love you even more and who laugh with you when you make dumb jokes or who sing along to your favourite boyband with you until your lungs hurt. You’re going to be proud of your sister who will eventually get her Masters degree, and gain an amazing new brother-in-law in the process. You’re probably never going to understand everything your parents do or say, but you will understand that they love you and have sacrificed so much to give you the beautiful life that you have.
And all the while, these things will be immortalised on this weird thing called the internet. You’ll sign up for Facebook because the boy you like will suggest it over MSN, and then you’ll spend the rest of your life wondering how you lived without it. You will see some things on there that will rock your world to pieces, but you will also make the greatest friends on there and meet so many new people. You might be a little lost along the way, checking Twitter too much and forgetting what it means to talk about something other than the latest hashtag, but you’ll come around eventually. And when you do, you will be so much better for it.
Even though I know that you never have been, please don’t ever be afraid to speak your mind. Those people you grew up with won’t be the only people you meet, so don’t worry if some of them might not like you. I ask that whatever you put online, it be true to YOU. Don’t ever post something that you don’t believe in, and please don’t subtweet about people that you won’t even remember in 10 years, because they’ll find out when you do and it might hurt them like hell.
Be kind. Be fearless. Be bossy. Sing along to Taylor Swift and send the video to your friend, make three separate Twitter accounts because you like too many things to have just one, and post dumb cute photos of yourself on Facebook that you’ll regret later in life because social media is one of the best time capsules that you could ever ask for. And even though you’re going to look back and laugh, or maybe even cringe, those are the things that helped shape who you are. Never be scared to be who you are. That’s one of the best lessons you will ever learn.
So good luck out there and keep doing you, because your life is going to be the best journey that you will ever take and you won’t regret one minute of it.
Love, your 19 year-old self.
P.S. Make sure to peek over your best friend’s shoulders in the car ride back from that cottage, and read what they’re typing to each other on their phones. You’ll know the car ride. And it might suck at the time, but you won’t regret it, I promise.