Hi, Paris. It's me, well, you, in four years. Right now I'm 17 years old, and I'll be 18 in less than two months. I'm about halfway through the first semester of my senior year of high school. Soon enough, I'll graduate from high school and move on to college.

So, how's eighth grade? From what I remember, it's pretty brutal. Some people are really mean and it's definitely not a comfortable environment to grow up in. Right now, you're probably wishing that your final year of middle school could just be over already. I know how much you're dying for something new and different. I know how deeply you crave a creative and unique environment where you can finally feel free to be yourself. I'm here to tell you that you're going to find that environment, and you will grow and change so much within it.

I hope you know that the anxiety and uncertainty that surrounded your middle school experience and, as a result, your identity, will not last forever. The things that feel so monumental to you now will, not long from now, feel so trivial and inconsequential. You're going to wish you hadn't ever worried so much. I won't lie, it's going to take you some time to reject all the negative and individuality-stifling messages you've internalized over the years, but you will.

I know that you have a lot of hopes for high school. I'm here to tell you that pretty much nothing is going to go just the way you expect. But I'm also here to tell you that that's okay. Here I am on the other side, and things ended up pretty great, probably even better than you could've pictured.

You're going to meet some really amazing people who are more unique and confident than anyone else you've encountered. These people will, in turn, inspire you to embrace your own uniqueness and stop trying to conceal what makes you different. As a result, you're going to become so much more confident with who you are. You're going to discover so many new and interesting things about yourself that you never knew were there inside you. Some of your old interests will fade away, and that's okay because you will replace them with new, vibrant, wonderful ones. With every new book you read, movie you watch, and role model you research, you'll feel yourself becoming more and more who you are meant to be. You'll pinpoint characteristics, attributes, and qualities you wish you had, and one day you'll begin to embody them yourself. You will realize that your identity is malleable clay and you are the artist that shapes and molds it. And you will never stop changing, growing, and reforming around new things you learn, new interests you develop, and new people you connect with.

Over the summer, I saw a movie called Eighth Grade. The writer and director, Bo Burnham, does a really perfect job of portraying exactly what it's like to be in eighth grade. You know that I never cry watching movies, but this one actually made me tear up, because the whole time, I was thinking about you. I kept thinking about what a strange, confusing, and uncomfortable time you're fighting through. I thought about how you so frequently feel like you're not good enough, like you have to change things about yourself to blend in. I thought about how desperately you're trying to find yourself and how it feels as if the whole world is working against you. But I promise you that you're going to be okay. I'm here to prove it.

I am so, so different from you in so many ways, but at my core, I am you. Everything that I am is somewhere deep inside of you, and it always has been. You just need the right people, the right environment, the experience, and the confidence to bring it out. So when you're feeling hopeless, look toward the future. Look at that blank canvas that's waiting for you, and promise me that you'll paint it with the brightest colors you can find.