A Letter to My 16-Year-Old Self

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A while back I heard about a book titled, "Dear Me: A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self." The book contains letters written by celebrities and leaders. I was curious about the book and planned to get a copy (I haven’t yet) and I thought about penning a letter to my sixteen-year-old self. But the thought sort of frightened me so I pushed it to the "maybe I’ll do this later" file of my brain and quickly forgot about it. Then this past week, two different incidents brought the idea front and center.

image: ralphunden on Flickr

A Letter to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self

Dear Danita:

You will not want to hear this from me, but I’m going to say it anyway: Listen to your mother. She knows more than you think she does.  She isn’t trying to zap your independence or take away your individuality. She's just trying to help you along. She can see the big picture better than you at this point. It will be a few years before your "rose-colored lenses" are cracked, but crack they will, and then you'll understand where Mama was coming from. Listen to her.

Don’t be afraid to take chances. In a couple of years you’ll have an opportunity to tour Europe. Don’t let it slip away just because you can’t find a friend to go with you.  Most of your friends don’t understand your curiosity of world travel and you don’t understand their lack of it.  Respect the differences and be bold. Work your summer jobs, save as much money as you can, pack a bag and go. (And when you fall in love, make sure he’s a guy who shares your love of other places. I don’t think you’ll listen to me on this one.)

Speaking of love, what you find attractive at 16 will be far removed from you at thirty-six. In a few years you’re going to meet a cute, seemingly outdoorsy type guy--he’ll be driving a cool jeep and he’ll say all the right things. Listen to me and listen good: Don’t Give Him the Time of Day, much less your heart! Because if you’re not careful, you’ll marry the imposter. You know how you already feel marriage is for keeps? That part of you doesn’t change. If you marry this guy you’ll be stuck. You’ll have two beautiful babies with him, the babies will own your heart and soul and you’ll hope they own his. But they won’t. And that will rip your heart to shreds. And about that time, you’ll realize your idea of an attractive man has changed. Finally, you understand that what really makes a man attractive to you, what makes him the most attractive man in the world, is a man who loves his children and his wife; a man who adores his babies and respects their mom; a man who can’t wait to play with and spend time in the company of his family. By thirty-six you come to realize honesty and integrity are far more attractive than washboard abdominal muscles and nice biceps. A guy could look like Herman Munster but treat his family with adoration and admiration…and that’s a man, you will realize, who is truly a very attractive man.  Achhhk. You’re not listening, are you? At 16, you don’t have the life experience to understand.

Spend more time with your brother. He’s 12 now, and you believe he is strong and focused, destined for great accomplishments in life. He’s physically strong, but he’s vulnerable. Don’t be afraid to tell him how very much you love him, how you look up to him even though he’s four years younger than you. Tell him how proud he makes you. He needs to hear it. Wrap your arms around him and hold him close. He needs that, too.

Put money in your little savings account at Bank of Canton and add to it every time you’re in town--even if you only have a dollar to deposit. The $1.56 you have in the account today will add up, and one day you’ll need it. Don’t tell your future husband about it though.

I’m more than thirty years away from you, but I wish I could lay across your bed with you and tell you how important you are. I would tell you how much your parents, your brother, your grandparents, cousins and a few friends love you. (Rest assured, they will stick by you through thick and thin). I would tell you not to listen to your future mother-in-law when she puts you down--or anyone else for that matter. I would tell you not to worry about the opinion of others. And I would tell you that you are filled with a determination and tenacity that you are not yet aware of…

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