There was a Twitter meme going around yesterday that asked you to Tweet a message to your 16-year-old self. There are times where 140 characters isn’t enough. Not even Twitlonger could help me out here. Instead, I wrote this letter:
First off, relish the coolness of your first name now. It’s going to become less and less cool as you get older. Secondly, that tonsillectomy you have in December was totally worth it. You will never get strep throat again.
I’m going to be honest with you now. This year will be your crappiest year ever — with the exception of four months of your Junior year of college. It will result in your going on antidepressants. But you will go off them in senior year of college because you think they are causing your insomnia and general emotional numbness. You will be right about that.
The biggest thing I can tell you is, don’t be so afraid about everything (even drugs because you won’t end up trying them and you will sometimes regret not experiencing that rite of passage). The insecurities you have at age sixteen become such a black hole, you think there’s no way out, but there is. It’s called college. College is where you begin to learn how to fake confidence, until, finally, you are confident-ish. And, when you’re not, you’ve learned how to fake it to such a degree, people actually believe you know what you’re talking about. It’s incredible, really. But the great thing is you do know what you’re talking about.
All of those ridiculously popular people you see from afar? Most of them grew up, got married and are now having mini versions of themselves. They are not nearly as interesting or as cool as you once thought they were. Some of those people grew up to recognized how cool you really were all along. Some of them didn’t grow up at all. Most spent a lot of money on their educations and didn’t do a damn thing with their expensive degrees. Somehow, they still have a lot of money now. You will learn life never gets 100 percent fair.
You suddenly get very smart. This coincides, happily enough, while working on your first feature film at age 17. Yes, you get your own IMDb page, and it’s pretty cool. A few years after that, you will turn down a potentially life-changing job because you are deathly afraid to fly to Los Angeles. Even though you end up with a great job in New York, you will want to take back this decision at least once a year. Your fear of flying will get in your way until age 24, when you learn prescription drugs make it better. By age 25, you won’t even need the drugs to fly, but you’ll still carry that old prescription bottle every time you fly, even at age 29.
You will learn to live with regrets. There will be very few, but the ones you have will be big. Then you remember life isn’t fair, but you hope there is such a thing as karma.
At the end of your sixteenth year, after all of those years of voice lessons and summer vocal camps, you will stop singing. You will be burnt out, deathly afraid to sing in public, and everyone will understand. When you are 24, however, you will come across a cassette tape of some crazy talented singer performing “Tell Me on a Sunday.*” You will realize that singer is you. You will cry because that 16-year-old singer had no idea how amazing she was and how her talent could have taken her wherever she wanted.
You will have a lot of stories to tell. You will meet a lot of amazing people. You will take a lot of risks that most people your age don’t take. Every year you will wonder if it was worth it. Every year (so far) you have answered yes.
Your 29-year-old self