A Letter to A Naive Sixteen-Year-Old Me, From an Equally Naive 21-Year-Old

A Letter to A Naive Sixteen-Year-Old Me, From an Equally Naive 21-Year-Old

Do you, and do it well.
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Dear Me,

I hope this letter finds you well, but knowing what I know now, I also know that it might not. Sixteen was a hard age for me to live through, and it will no doubt be equally as hard for you.

You think that the other kids in your class think you’re stupid because you can’t do your Calculus homework, and because you constantly say ‘I don’t know’ when the teacher asks you to answer a question. You think that choosing a dress for the junior prom is hard since your mom is hardly ever around. Or maybe you think that it's going to be so hard to apply for colleges when you have no idea how you're coming up with the money, even though you've applied to and been rejected from a bunch of minimum wage jobs.

These are all hard things to put into words. But the truth is, you’re not the first sixteen-year-old to go through this kind of stress, even though you think that you are. While these things seem like they’re so important to you right now, I need you to realize that these things are not important. Not at all.

Being worried about how you look and what other people think of you might always be things you struggle with, but in the next five years, you will go on to do so many things that show you exactly how much you are worth.

In the next five years, you will go from a young girl to a young woman in the blink of an eye. You will start living on your own and being responsible for yourself. You’ll learn to drive and buy your first car. You’ll get into college. You’ll meet some new people, and stay close to old friends too. You’ll score your first gigs beyond retail and food service. You’ll treat everyone you know with respect and decency until they give you a reason not to. You will be the one your friends go to for all their “grown-up” advice. You will give your parents strength in the rough times that they both have ahead.

And along with all of those things, you might even notice that some of the best things you do are those that you actually won’t do. You won’t hold onto old grudges. You won’t stay silent about things that bother you. You won’t let anyone tell you that you are not capable of doing the things you want to do. You won’t stop trying to explore the wonderful world around you. You won’t stand for people treating you like you don’t matter. You won’t stop trying to improve your skills or stop trying to prepare yourself for what lies ahead.

The problems that you may have to deal with at sixteen only seem big because these are the only problems you're saddled with right now. They will not continue to consume your world as an adult. I can’t exactly tell you that you will never experience other hardships, and I certainly won’t tell you that things will be easy. But what I can vouch for is that the next step of your life will absolutely prepare you for anything that will be thrown your way. In the next five years, you'll learn to care less about what others think of you and listen to yourself first.

I can also tell you that the GPA you have right now does not reflect you. Neither does the dress you wore one time to a dance, and neither does being rejected in any capacity. Anyone who says otherwise can kick rocks. Do you, and do it well.

Love,

You

Cover Image Credit: Hayley Ladjack

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When You Make A Girl An Aunt, You Change Her World In All The Best Ways

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her the happiest girl in the world.

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My brother and his wife recently blessed our family with the sweetest bundle of joy on planet earth. OK, I may be a little bias but I believe it to be completely true. I have never been baby crazy, but this sweet-cheeked angel is the only exception. I am at an age where I do not want children yet, but being able to love on my nephew like he is my own is so satisfying.

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her a very protective person.

From making sure the car seat is strapped in properly before every trip, to watching baby boy breathe while he sleeps, you'll never meet someone, besides mommy and daddy of course, who is more concerned with the safety of that little person than me.

When you make a girl an aunt, you give her a miniature best friend.

There is something about an aunt that is so fun. An aunt is a person you go to when you think you're in trouble or when you want something mom and dad said you couldn't have. An aunt is someone who takes you to get ice cream and play in the park to cool down after having a temper tantrum. I can't wait to be the one he runs to.

When you make a girl an aunt, she gets to skip on the difficulty of disciplining.

Being an aunt means you get to be fun. Not to say I wouldn't correct my nephew if he were behaving poorly, but for the most part, I get to giggle and play and leave the hard stuff for my brother.

When you make a girl an aunt, you give her the best listening ears.

As of right now I only listen to the sweet coos and hungry cries but I am fully prepared to listen to all the problems in his life in the future.

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her the best advice giver.

By the time my nephew needs advice, hopefully, I will have all of my life lessons perfected into relatable stories.

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her a number-one fan

Anything you do in life sweet boy, I will be cheering you on. I already know you are going to do great things.

When you make a girl an aunt, she learns what true love is.

The love I have for my nephew is so pure. Its the love that is just there. I don't have to choose to show love every day, I don't have to forgive, I don't have to worry if it is reciprocated, it is just there.

When you make a girl an aunt, you make her the happiest person in the world.

I cannot wait to watch my precious nephew grow into the amazing person that I know he is going to be.

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It Took Until My Senior Year To Realize I Might Want To Go To Grad School

I don't think I have learned enough yet.

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School was never something I disliked but it also was not something I was super excited for. I went to good schools growing up, had great teachers and made excellent grades. I was a good student but I also knew that someday school would come to an end.

As high school came to an end I bounced around ideas of what I wanted to. Not one of them involved being a professor at a university or a teacher at high school. It was not meant to come off as me thinking these positions were not good enough for me but rather I felt I could never live up to the teachers and professors I had loved and learned from.

I knew that I could teach and help students but that was only half of being a teacher, the other was being a role model and shaping them into a better person if they needed it. That's what I was nervous about and that was why I never thought about continuing education. I believed I would never make potential students better as students or people. However, this idea simply became just an idea. I should not let one idea in my mind stop me from attempting something and that has not stopped me before but as I think about life after college, graduate school and even a Ph.D. is looking more and more like a better option.

Graduate school was never on my mind when I got to college. I sometimes flirted with the idea but I also stated how I could come back to school after I make a decent salary. I wanted an opportunity to pay with my money or apply for scholarships. I flirted with the idea but it was never anything concrete. I seemed to go back and forth, but finally, there was something that made me consider graduate school: my decision to change my major.

I was always set to graduate a semester later and in my senior year, I made the biggest choice of my life by changing my major. I was struggling in my old major and I was afraid that if I continued to struggle it would disrupt my passion for education or not motivate me to graduate. A year later I can say that this was the best choice for me and it helped me recapture my love of learning.

In my new major it became common for people to be thinking about graduate school and I got me thinking. Some of my friends had already taken the GRE or were in the Accelerated Master's Program. I was not jealous or angry that I did not take the opportunity but it shined some light and got me thinking. What if I did go to graduate school? There was no harm in studying for the GRE or talking about it with family and friends. I brought it up to my parents and they respected my idea but I wanted to know what my professors would think.

Since changing my major I have kept a great relationship with many of my professors and I have a good level of comfort about certain questions. When I asked two of my professors they stated how it would be a good idea and that I should consider graduate school.

Five years ago I would not have viewed graduate school as continuing studies. I would have viewed it as more school and would be unsure if I needed it. I can say that now my perspective is different and I see graduate school as a way to focus on a subject that I love. I know that if I do want to be a professor I have a long way to go but I know that I have some great motivators that I can surround myself with and ask for help. I don't want to be like my professors, I just want to be the best me.

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