A Letter to My 13 Year Old Self

letterAhhh, June. It’s the time for weddings and backyard BBQs, for graduations and treks to the cottage. It’s first sunburns of the season and late night movie marathons. There is a palpable air of frenzied anticipation, especially among kids. Summer vacation is just around the corner and it seems like anything is possible.

My niece graduates from Grade 8 this week. I can’t believe it! She’ll join her big sister in high school in September. Holy shit. How am I old enough for this to have happened?!?!? I’m sure my sister has that thought daily.

In celebrating my Mini-Me’s achievements, I have found myself reminiscing about my own time as a 13 year old young woman.

Because I have a crazy-detailed memory that goes waaaaayyyyy back, I can easily conjure up specific moments from my eighth grade, when I was on the precipice of beginning my high school career, and let’s face it, what felt like the beginning of my life. I can recall the triumphs, the gut-wrenching heartaches, the academic highs, and the embarrassing lows of puberty. When I get into that headspace, it all comes rushing back quite easily, actually.

Now, with age, time and experience, I occasionally find myself falling down the rabbit hole of “If I only knew then what I know now” and ponder whether or not that kind of thinking is worthwhile. I mean, there’s nothing I can do to change the past, obviously. But, the more I think about it, perhaps there is value in summoning advice or words of wisdom, as it were, to the 13 year old me of the past. It’s a kind of soul searching, I suppose, and I’ll always believe that any kind of soul searching is meaningful.

All of this thinking has led me to some serious contemplation, and I find I have been jotting down little pieces of advice directed to 13 year old girls in general over the last little while. This has slowly morphed into pointed comments and words of wisdom specifically directed toward my actual life, to the Ange of the past, if you will, to my 13 year old self – when I was in grade 8 at Queen Mary Public School in Peterborough, Ontario.

So, herewith, a letter to my 13 year old self:

Dear Ange,

Hey Kiddo. Congratulations on your graduation and impending life as a high schooler! You’ve come a long way from the primary halls of Queen Mary, kid! Can you believe that you’re going to be done with this place soon? You’re going to be one of the elders, one among your peers who gets to walk down those hallowed halls at the Clap Out at the end of the year. It’s happening. This is real life. You’ll be movin’ on!

I know you feel like this is the last year before your real life starts, but trust me, your life is long and you will have that feeling many times, one phase and season at a time. The milestones are plentiful, my dear. With each new chapter, you’ll feel this same familiar feeling of “This is IT!” It never gets old, I promise.

Given that I’ve been living your life for the past 24 years, I want to dispense some advice. Granted, it’s unsolicited, but I can’t help but feel like I want to give you a great big hug and tell you all the secrets to your future. I know we’re nudging into “Wrinkle in Time” territory here, and I can’t actually tell you anything about your future, but I feel the urge to comfort and reassure you somehow.

First of all, heed your mother’s advice and make sure you eat breakfast EVERY DAY. I know you think it doesn’t matter, and you’re not ever particularly hungry in the morning, but you will set a very unhealthy precedent which leads to a lifetime of the slowest metabolism ever. All that stuff you hear about breakfast being the most important meal of the day? It checks out. So, even though it feels like torture, wake up 15 minutes earlier and eat your damn breakfast.

Also, go to bed earlier. Full stop. Just get more sleep, kid.

Snap out of your crush on Ted. Ted will always like the Ashleys of the world, and he will never like the Anges. That’s not a slight against either Ted or Ashley, but it’s just the way it is. The sooner you realize that, the better off you’ll be. I know it’s hard, but try not to be SO obviously crushed when he asks her to dance at the Halloween dance, RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU after talking to you and walking home with you all week. Turns out, he really does just want to talk to you about football. Or, he thinks you’re great, but won’t risk letting his friends know that he likes you. Or, he’s trying to talk you up to get to Ashley. It doesn’t matter because the Teds of the world will always want to be with the Ashleys of the world. Later in life, you’ll discover that it all ends up OK in the end, but it’s hard right now. I get it.

Try not to let those boys (you know who they are) copy your French homework too often. I know you like the attention, and in the grand scheme of things, it’s not that big of a deal, but I don’t like that you feel like it’s your responsibility. Those boys will do just fine in life, they don’t need any more legs up from you. Let them do their own work every now and then. It’s not your fault they suck at French.

Try out for the school musical. Don’t be intimidated – you’re better than the girl who gets the lead.

Practice your piano more. And learn to play guitar. When you grow up, music remains and then becomes even more so, a HUGE part of your life and you’ll wish you had that pliable, impressionable 13 year old brain back when you attempt to learn again as an adult. Learning is SO much easier when you’re 13. 

When Mike tells you he thinks you’re the prettiest girl in the class AND the smartest person in the whole grade, believe him. It probably took a great deal of mustering on his part to tell you that – to your face! – And he really means it. Take the compliment gracefully, and allow yourself to feel all those feelings of flattery but also, damn straight you are! You go girl!

Don’t be so hard on yourself. Let your confidence shine and your self esteem will flourish.

Be OK with being a late bloomer when it comes to boys and dating. You’ll appreciate your naiveté when you’re older. When you grow up, you’ll be SO thankful that you didn’t rush into situations with boys before you were ready. I know you daydream about being in love and having a boyfriend…but trust me; you end up being a much stronger and more whole person by waiting until you’re older to go down that particular road. I know it’s hard when you can’t stop staring longingly at Brad and Krista making out on the chair at Tamara’s party, wishing it was you, but good things come to those who wait. Also, stop staring, it’s a little creepy.

Say yes when Bryan asks you to the Grad dance. He is such a cool guy, and you always have a great time with him. He makes you laugh like no one else, and you know you like him. Don’t give into the peer pressure.

I know you’re worried about high school, about making new friends and the work load and finding your way around (unfortunately, you never get better with directions, kiddo, sorry!). But, you’ve got Becky and Charlie and all the other friends who you’ve gone to school with since forever. You don’t know this yet, but in the first week of school, you meet Brooke in Mrs. Smith’s English class – and your life will change. Suddenly, you’ll find yourself making a whole new group of friends, right alongside Becky and Charlie; and Alison, Darcie, Lisa, Dave, James, Sarah, Jill, Matt – they become your people. Your life will never be the same. You’ll also discover on the first day of high school, that being in Mr. Doyle’s music class is exactly where you needed to be all along.

Try to be a little more forthright with your sisters when you “borrow” their clothes. Just ask. They will surprise you with their generosity. It’s not always better to ask for forgiveness than permission: most of the time yes, but in the case of your sisters’ wardrobes, not so much. They will call you “little klepto” and tease you relentlessly about this for the Rest. Of. Your. Life. 

Cherish the memories created by having of all your grandparents come to your Grade 8 graduation. They will take a million annoying pictures with you in your floral dress, but remember that this is a big moment for them. You won’t have too many more years with any of them. And they love every second they get to spend with you. So, be extra nice to them on that sunny June day.

Above all else, Ange, be just as kind to yourself as you are to others. You’re a good kid. And you have a LOT going for you. Sow those seeds of self-confidence a little earlier in life (like, NOW!!!), and you’ll be unstoppable. Make sure to appreciate your family, don’t take your friends for granted, (you’re SO lucky to have the ones you do) and don’t compromise anything about yourself in order to fit in. Fitting in is overrated, and you should celebrate that you’re an original. Because you, my love, are definitley an original 🙂

And finally, I know it seems hard to believe, and you’re not sure just how it’s all going to work out, but trust me, you’re going to be just fine.

Love, forever and always,

Ange

Ange and grandma
My magnificent floral dress, very proud Grandma, and me on the day of my Grade 8 Graduation, circa when that dress was legit, straight-up stylish. You’re welcome.

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