Dear 13-Year Old Me,
Happy birthday! You’re a teenager now, with all your teenage years ahead of you. This will be a very important time in your life, though you don’t realize it just yet. I wish I could actually hand you this letter, to help you navigate the sea of adolescence and come out the other side a man, but that power is beyond me today. It’s probably just as well. Would helping your younger self count as generosity or selfishness?
Anyway, I thought I’d give you some advice to help you in this all-important year. Granted, some of this advice is pretty obvious, but as I’ve learned over the years, I could be pretty dense in my youth. You do, however, have a great intuition about people. Never doubt your feelings about who to let in and who to keep away. Odds are good you’re right. Cherish the friends that you make, and keep in touch with them always, but we’ll get to that in a moment. Regardless of how shy you are, trust your instincts when it comes to people like Rick, Laura, Tony and Becca.
You don’t know this yet, but you’ll be moving to California before the school year ends. I know, you finally got comfortable in middle school over the past two years, you’ve made some great friends, and you might even have a crush that feels the same way about you. You’re not going to want to go, but you have to realize that your parents need to go where the work is. It sucks, but there it is. Remember when I told you to keep in touch with your friends? You’ll be glad you did. You’ll learn more about your middle school crush than you ever had in Indiana, and she’ll even get over her own shyness enough to send you a picture or two. Be genuine in your correspondence with her. Don’t try to impress her. Just be you, whoever that is right now.
Oh, and when Becca gives you that going-away gift on your last day of school before the move? For the love of all that’s good, don’t show ANYONE. Not your classmates, not your teachers, and certainly not your parents. You can show Rick, that’s fine and he’ll keep quiet about it, but no one else!
When you get to California, you’re going to be in for a shock. Two years in Indiana showed you what an ideal school system should do for your education. The time you have left in middle school will show you what a broken educational system does to its schools. On the plus side, you’ll come off like the brainiac you could never be in Indiana, you’ll finally get to show off in band class, and you’ll make some pretty nice friends. On the other hand, you’re not going to learn anything new, you won’t get to feel at home in middle school before it’s over, and you’re pretty much going to have to start all over again in high school. It’s just the way it goes, I’m afraid.
High school is where you’ll finally start to come into your own, strangely enough. It’s also going to be the first and only school you’ll attend from the first year to the last. Congratulations! You’ll make some good friends this year, mostly among the upperclassmen, oddly enough. Don’t worry, that’ll change. Most of the friends you meet this year will remain in your life long after you leave high school, for better or for worse. Just be yourself and don’t try so hard to be liked. You’ll do fine.
I should probably wrap this up, but I have one last piece of advice for you. Remember everything right now. Remember it as though the fate of the world depends on it. Remember every detail, every sight and sound, every person you meet, and experiences both good and bad. Remember how this time in your life makes you feel. You’ll be glad you did many, many years from now.
The Future You