A Letter to My 13-Year-Old Self

A Letter to My 13-Year-Old Self

If only I had learned this earlier.

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You and I, and everyone in the world, have heard the quotes "hindsight is 20/20" multiple, numerous, and way too many times to count. Well, it's true. If there's something I would have wanted to tell my 13-year-old, freshman self it would be this:

Right off the bat, don't compare yourself to others. Everyone has heard this whether it's from their friends, parents, teachers, or some inspirational self-help book, it's pretty common knowledge. But, you know as a young teen it's definitely harder to change your way of thinking to this.

To my 13-year-old self, I wish I had listened harder to this. Hadn't walked into school somedays wondering if I was as pretty or skinny enough as the "popular" girls in school. Sounds cliché I know, but it's true. This mindset led me down a rough road that included battling anorexia and body image issues for many years after. Even now, it's hard to not compare myself to those succeeding around me, but it's a little bit easier than it was back then.

Another thing is: don't stress so much about where you're going to get into college. Starting in freshman year, the idea of only 2 short years until you start taking the ACT or SAT for your college apps was daunting. It didn't hit me until the summer before senior year, but I really was freaked out about where I was going to end up. It starts with questioning your worth measured in grades, extracurriculars, and awards and doesn't end until you receive all of your college acceptances or rejections. All I'd want to say along with that is: you will end up where you belong. For most people, I feel like they do end up going to the college that is the best for themselves. They grow into the community and culture there and never ever remember the worry-filled nights they had in college surrounding college apps. Everything does happen for a reason.

The last thing I'd want to tell my younger self would be to not be embarrassed about what you're passionate about. In high school, around 14-15 years old (and still recovering from that eating disorder) I started to be inspired/look up to female fitness influencers who weightlifted. I'd always been active and had been in cross country in high school but stepping into the weights section of the gym was intimidating at the very least. As silly as it sounds, I was even secretive to my parents and friends what I did at the gym. I didn't want to say that I used the weights because what if people judged me? What if they asked me a question and I wouldn't be able to answer them? Would I look like someone who doesn't know what they're doing? I would honestly say that this hesitation is what made me take so long to "get into" weightlifting, which is something I regret. I want to shake my younger self to not be afraid of what other people would think about myself.

So, as a 19-year-old now, I don't know everything about the world and life, but I can say that even while struggling with things before and even now, going through these obstacles has made me into the person I am today (as cheesy as that sounds, it's true though).

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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My First College Gal Pal Road Trip Was Amazing

Every girl should have one good girls trip.

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In some way or another, everybody has a list of things they want to do in their lives before it's all over. After all, we're human. There's adventure to be had in every life. One thing I have always wanted to do before I grew too old and grey was go on a road trip with my gal pals to the beach. A couple weeks ago, I achieved this memorable milestone, and it allowed me to open up to new surroundings and experiences.

On this trip, I went with two of my friends from college, Kait and Lindsey, to visit my roommate Elizabeth in Virginia Beach. This was pretty big for Lindsey and I because neither of us had been to Virginia Beach before. Thankfully Elizabeth and Kait knew their way around the city, so we never got lost on our way to and fro.

Like most vacations, my favorite parts probably took place at the beach. I'm always at utter peace stomping through mushy sand or leaning down to splash the salty water that tries to knock my short self over. We took pictures and did something us college girls rarely have time to do especially in school: Relax.

The four of us did not live up to the crazed stereotype of girl trips in movies. Although I finally got a chance to sing along to Taylor Swift in a car ride with my friends, so that's always a plus. We played "Top Golf" one day, and by some miracle, I actually won the second game by a fair amount after much humiliation in the first one. We visited some of Elizabeth's family, and I finally got to meet her giant dog Apollo (I call him 'Wolf Dog'). Everyday was another chance to ask with enthusiasm: "So what are we doing today?"

Our trip wasn't like the movies where we all cried or confessed our deepest darkest secrets. Everything the four of us shared was laughter and this calm feeling of being at home, in the chaotic peace of each other's company. We understand each other a little better due to finally seeing what we're like outside of Longwood University. After this, all I can say is that we're most definitely planning the next one!

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