Dear past Ilana,

When you started high school in 2007, you were frightened, a little excited, and also a bit awkward. Okay, you were a lot awkward, and you still have your moments now, but that is not the point. High School is a strange land because we're growing up, trying to find out who we are, what we want to do with our lives, where we want to go to college and it's just really overwhelming when we're trying to balance all of that with friendships, studying and extracurriculars.

You were always known as that shy girl who was always nice to people and did all of her homework on time. You definitely didn't have a problem making friends and achieving good grades in your classes. What you were missing was your confidence. It didn't help that you were a tad socially awkward, but in your defense, nobody really teaches you how to approach people, especially the ones you liked. (To all the guys I ever had a crush on that I came off weird towards, I'm so sorry, I didn't know what I was doing). You were so worried about your friendships that you weren't paying attention to how some people were treating you. Eventually, you broke off those friendships and the ones who stayed are the ones who became family to you and stayed by your side.

When you got your braces off and you finally got contacts, you felt different. Your confidence was building, you felt more grown up and beautiful. You started to dress better, too. You traded in those dreaded Brazilian pants and Abercrombie t-shirts for jeans and nicer shirts that fit better. You traded in your ratty white sneakers you wore with every outfit for sandals. You were like your own Cinderella, in a way, transforming into someone magical.

While I look back and cringe on many moments from those teenage years, I'm thankful for them because they made you who you are today. It made you grow into someone who pushed herself to get into the university you wanted to go into, to move two hours away from your family, even though you lived as an only child your entire life. You broke out of your shell and would walk up to strangers and strike up conversations. You joined organizations on campus that pushed you out of your comfort zone.

So, Ilana, even though you were shy, didn't have the best fashion sense, and maybe got made fun of one too many times, you were the one who came out on top. You figured out who you were and you would be so proud to see your future self now. Stay real.