Dear Shannon,

Nine years later, I write to you expressing how far you've come, but how far you still have to go. You will be OK, so just try to keep that in mind.

First things first, you are not ugly. You may have a mouth full of braces and a bad haircut, but you are not ugly. You may have more boobs than the other girls around you at your age, you may have grown fast, and you may have the ugliest wire frame glasses that are too big for your face, but you are not ugly, no matter who says otherwise. People are cruel and say cruel things, but it's going to be OK.

You also are not fat. Your body is going through a lot of changes, and it's important to recognize that. You have curves in places you never did, and are still dancing and swimming 6 days a week. You are beginning puberty, but everyone will. You aren't fat just because your body is changing, and starving yourself now will only stunt your positive body image of yourself later on.

You are not unintelligent or unwanted. That math teacher who screams so loud, calls you dumb, and has pushed your classmates in chairs will soon be fired. You will realize your strengths in writing and reading can be utilized and everything will be OK.

You will be loved. Maybe not today or tomorrow, but one day. Multiple times. The boys who reject you now will soon be irrelevant and you have plenty of time. Don't rush anything. Your first kiss story will be utterly hilarious, it's worth the wait. One day you will be held like in those really cheesy Twilight books you're reading. One day can wait though, so please try and enjoy childhood.

You will go through bigger problems than not having the same UGGs and Hollister jeans as everyone else. Plus, those will be disgustingly out of style soon anyway. You will grow stronger from the mistakes you will make, your brothers will make, your friends will make, and your parents will make. You will be broken-hearted, and you will break hearts. You will leave people behind. However, I promise you will find a new path, and it will lead you on.

You will see amazing things. You will go to Mexico, Ireland, Northern Ireland, France, and England. You will travel and continue to travel. The world isn't centered in that tiny bully-centralized grade-school in Cincinnati, OH.

You will change. You will be popular, unpopular, a hipster (you'll know what that means later), preppy, a partier, and eventually, you'll just be the best you. You are made up of all of those changes and the good and bad that comes with them. Embrace each and every one.

You will learn a lot, but try and learn more. It will improve much of your life.

Shannon, you need to trust your gut. If something feels right, do it no matter how hard it is. Keep loving others. Keep making mistakes, because you have a big future in them. That's life. But in the darkest times when you want to end it all, there is hope. There is always someone there who loves you, like Mom and Dad.

You have so much ahead of you, but don't grow up yet. Just enjoy being 12. Just enjoy being a kid, because once it's gone, you'll give anything to get it back.