“Letters to My Younger Self” is a series focused on wisdom and self-awareness. Just as you write letters to a friend to encourage and uplift them, here is the advice we would go back and tell our younger selves.

Dear 13-year-old me,

When I look at you by the pool using blue shorts to cover your thighs, I wonder how you came to such a diseased view of your body. You were a fit girl who had acquired curves and simultaneously lost a sense of embodied home. You came to curse your body when you could have been proud of your scrappy volleyball moves and enjoyed that swimsuit without shame. You gave up splashing in the pool so you could try to look thin by the side of the pool. You already were so beautiful.

What would it have been like to inhabit your heart, that loved babies and ballads, instead of having to puff up like a blowfish, warding off attack? You were worthy of growing like a long, slow sun salutation, instead of being forced to pole-vault into adulthood.

Even so, I see you finding light with your friends, sleepovers and side-splitting laughter. I notice how music and spirituality became anchors that kept you breathing. I see you writing, writing to make sense of an upside-down world. I witness you looking for wild goodness in every person you met. You were always listening to the underground stories that others were afraid to tell with gentle presence. You had a voice that roared against injustice and fought prejudice of any kind.

I witness you looking for wild goodness in every person you met.

Your capacity for life is remarkable. I hate to tell you that life is going to get more complex, but it is. Burdens meant for only adults to carry will be placed on your shoulders. You will dread the mornings for a long time. You will feel despair. 

However, I am coming back for you, plucky girl. Grown-up me is coming back with a mother’s heart to those young years where you were forced to grow up fast. I will reach my hand to yours and let you come with me to our safe future. I will stand with a dagger in between you and the forces meant to harm. I have become a good mother, and you don’t have to carry any burden that isn’t fit for a 13-year-old. I will shoulder the weighty things, and let you tuck into safety. 

You don’t have to carry any burden that isn’t fit for a 13-year-old.

Stretch your arms out wide. Let the exhale come, and feel the luxury of having a good mother return for you. You have traveled a twilight road, full of goblins and spooks. Yet, you are no longer alone to figure out a world meant for adults.

You can lean into love, finally safe.

What did you struggle with during your teenage years? What advice would you give to your younger self?

Image via Studio Grand-Père

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