The recent ’10-year challenge’ that has gone viral on social media has got me thinking – what would 13-year-old me think of 23 year old me? Would she be proud? Would she look up to me? Would she be happy with the life I’ve made for myself? It’s really inspired me to write to her and about her, my past self.
At 13 I was going through a dark time, it was the start of my depression and anxiety that continued for most of my teenage years that stemmed from years of childhood trauma. I was the weird kid, I loved to stand out in a crowd – I guess not much has changed in that respect. I wore these ridiculous knee-length rainbow long socks and as many rainbow bracelets as I could fit on my wrists at once; rainbows have been a strong motif in the story that is my life. Tutus and high-top converse were also a big part of my 13-year-old wardrobe. Have you got that mental image yet?
I was very … quirky.
I was the perfect student, straight A’s all through high school. Some would have described me as an ‘overachiever’ but let’s be honest – I was just a huge dork. Aside from the good grades, school was a rough time for me. I was bullied for my out-there looks and everything else you could think of to the point where I begged my parents to let me change schools, which I later did. The bullying set in some deep insecurities that I am still battling today.
Most of my friends lived behind my computer screen, they were my escape from everything bad in my life and some of the only people I could be 100% honest and real with. Some of these people I am still in contact with today; 13-year-old me would be so happy to know that.
So, if I could speak to my 13-year-old self, this is what I would say …
First of all, lose the second i, it’s not as cute as you think it is.
I admire your courage to be different, no matter what anyone else thinks of you. I am glad you eventually find ways to express yourself more stylishly though – yes, mum will finally let you colour your hair at 15, so just be patient.
You are beautiful. Don’t roll your eyes at me, it’s true. I know how much you hate your appearance and honestly, there is no need for it. You’re going to be stuck with that baby face for a looong time yet, perhaps even forever, so just embrace it! Look into that mirror every day and find things you love about yourself instead of hating everything and torturing yourself. You’re going to waste so much of your life and miss out on so much because of your insecurities and one day you’ll regret that.
Boys suck. They will hurt you and you will cry. But it’s okay, I promise you’re going to find someone amazing in the future who will love you and care for you, even if only for a short time. Stop looking for validation from them, because no matter how much they give you, it will never be enough. I know you haven’t even kissed a boy yet – don’t worry, it’s right around the corner – but you spend too much time and energy worrying about what they think of you. Focus on yourself and your friends, you’ve got the rest of your life to worry about boys.
Wow, don’t I sound like mum? You need to listen to her more, seriously. She knows what she’s talking about – you have to remember that she has already done all of this before, she’s learnt things the hard way, so that you don’t always have to. All she wants to do is protect you from hurt, so drop the angsty teen attitude and take her advice pleeeeaase. She will become your best friend eventually, you’ll see.
Here’s the thing, your life is going to take some very unexpected twists and turns over the next 10 years, but I promise you’re going to get through it. You’re on your way to finding the strength you’ll use to get you through the hardest times in your life. No matter what happens, don’t be scared, it’s going to be okay. Life is full of ups and downs, but I promise you that there is always something positive that comes out of every negative, sometimes you’ll have to look harder to find it, but you will find it. It’s with that positive attitude that you will get through the challenges you’ll face in life.
You’re already so much stronger than you give yourself credit for, I often look back and think how did you get through all of that and not let it break you? I know you don’t feel strong, but believe me, you really are. Thank you for learning to be strong, so I could get through my hardships as an adult.
Keep smiling and start finding rainbows every day. You’ve got this.
Love, Ash (your older, wiser but still just as dorky self).