Dear 13-Year-Old Me…

“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”

Excerpt from “Tiny Beautiful Things,” The Rumpus Advice Column #64, which someone I love sent me on Valentine’s Day.  It’s a letter the author wrote back to her 20-something-year-old self, from the perspective of middle age.  So Becca and I started playing around with the idea of writing letters to our angsty teenage selves…what would we have had to say to each other?  Would we even have been friends?

Thirteen-year-old me was pretty shy about making friends, often found friends who were a few years older. Worried a fair bit about my looks, never had the right clothes, deeply resented the peer pressure that made me worry about how I looked and never having the right clothes.  A serious, nose-in-a-book, head-in-the-clouds daydreamer.  Thought I was going to be a concert pianist and a doctor and an author when I grew up.  Wrote stories in composition notebooks, poems in spiral notebooks, an irregular and irreverent family newsletter on Microsoft Publisher.  Had lots of crushes, desperately wanted romance and a best friend and a place where I felt I belonged–wouldn’t have believed I would find all those things in the next few years.  Wanted to travel and do exciting things, but had more adventures in my head than outdoors.  Pale and willowy (my mother’s word for “skinny”), short brown hair, very thick bangs and very big eyes.

A decade has gone by since then.  Some of 13-year-old me has retreated back inside somewhere, some things have dried up and fallen away completely, and some things that were buried deep inside 13-year-old me have since opened up and blossomed.

I’m curious about what all of you were like when you were 13…and whether we would have been friends, or sat at the opposite end of the cafeteria at lunchtime…and how I would be different if I had known, back then, all the people who are so important in my life today…


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