Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Dear 16-year-old self...

{Thanks for taking part in the letter to our 16-year-old selves simul-blog! Feel free to add you link below and then read through everyone elses. I'm nervous, but here we go...}

Dear Alisha,

Hi, I'm you. Only I'm 30. I bet you think 30 is really old and you're wondering what I look like and what I'm up to. You think 20 is really old too, but actually life after 16 is great and you've got a lot to look forward to. You're probably reading this in a coffee shop, taking a break from journaling and thinking about life -- some things never change. Right now I'm at Herkimer coffee on Phinney Ridge sitting next to Joey. I live in Ballard with my/ your/ our (?!) husband of 5 years, but I'll get to him. :)

{why yes, we are holding plastic forks!}
I've been thinking about you recently because I've just moved back to Seattle after 12 years away. I'm driving past places you used to go, only more slowly and with the healthy addition of caution. But that riskiness is one of the things I love about you young Alisha. You don't really fear anything (except mayonaise), and that's beautiful.

I could be getting some of the details wrong, but what I know about 16-year-old you is that you're a junior in high school, you've got a pager so you can conveniently pull over and find a phone booth whenever someone's trying to get in touch with you (70% of the time it's Suzanne) and you're about to go to Japan in the summer to be an exchange student. Email doesn't exist yet (in your world anyway) so it will be a long summer but your Japanese will become awesome.

 Right off the bat I've got a few quick tips for you:
  •  Despite the fact that you wish you were Asian, you're quite the opposite: tall, pale and curvy. Think twice about baby doll dresses and pig tails and dress appropriately.
  • You're going to marry an incredible, handsome British man who will knock your socks off. You'll know him when you see him. Don't rush it and don't ever settle because you are not asking for too much.
  • Go ahead and don't talk to boys at all for now. There's really no need to even smile at, communicate with or think about them and you'll save a lot of time and energy. You think it's a curse you can never get a boyfriend but actually it's grace. Be thankful and  focus on your girl friends because those are the ones you'll still be cherishing in 14 years.
  •  You're better off blonde so don't fight it.
  • High school is hard, people can be mean and after you graduate it won't matter if you don't like sports and aren't "popular". You're worried about being a dork, but in 14 years it will cool to be a nerd. Honestly, people will be clamoring to out-dork you and tell you all about how nerdy they were in high school. It's cool.
  • Technology improves so when the time comes try to come up with a better email address than delish@hotmail.com. Blogs are going to blow your mind...
I can think of some further helpful hints that revolve around finding balance. You don't have to do things to the extreme all the time you know. Like, sure, don't become obsessed with how you look, but don't react to that obsession by letting your appearance go in order to be pious, or as a statement. Take care of yourself, buy cute clothes, wear make-up, just don't go overboard. You have nothing to prove.

{Homecoming football game, naturally.}

You're a determined girl and when you do something you go big, which is good. But like with your appearance, don't live in extremes. Don't let your life and your actions ever be in reaction to something else. Don't be afraid of being "normal" because you crave the attention of being exceptional. I'm not saying don't be exceptional, I'm saying don't crave needing to be recognized for it. Don't be afraid to be practical -- you ARE out of the box so don't fear learning how to work within that box sometimes.

I feel like I'm telling you to be average and that's not my intention. I just think you have such high expectations for yourself, for how amazing and perfect  and unorthodox you need to be, and those expectations can be a burden. Keep being your best self but spend a little less time striving and a lot more time enjoying where you're at. That's a big secret you'll take a long time to finally hear.

{New Year's Eve in Juanita!}

I bet you're wondering where I'm at and what I've accomplished. But you know what? It doesn't matter! There's so much pressure to do all these great things by the time you're 30 but really, the good stuff takes time. You don't have to be amazing, you don't have to strive, you don't have to do anything and you will still be loved and enough.

There are a lot of don'ts for you -- I'm just trying to be helpful! Honestly though, in the midst of your mistakes you're doing a lot right too. There's something so precious and raw about you right now as you're figuring yourself and your world out. You're surrounded by some dear, dear people and you're holding onto something special, though invisible. You're craving a deep and authentic life and what I love about you -- what's made you become a 30-year-old with no regrets -- is that you actually go for it. You leave your comfort zone and you jump right in. Thank you for making choices that may be hard but are right (well, usually). Thank you for always being true to yourself and to your God.

{ah...red-hooded sweatshirt!}

I love that you're going to Japan all by yourself. I don't think I need to tell you this but keep going. Not just to Japan, but wherever you're led. Get out of the country, ask questions, soak it up. If you've got the desire to GO, do it.

As I write to you I just want you to know how much I love you. You kind of know how much God loves you but are still a bit suspicious that you don't need to actually DO anything to earn it. You're still very suspicious about other people loving (or even liking) you just as you are. I wish you could just see how precious you are. I think if you really knew this it would help with everything else, except perhaps the email address.

OK, OK...I've got to go get on with my exciting life as a 30-year-old. Honestly, you're going to love it. Now, take one last swig of your latte and get on with your writing and dreaming. :)


I can't wait to read what other people write to their 16-year-old selves! Please add your link on the LinkyTools below.


Rachael Randal said...

So sweet! Love the bit about not fighting being blonde... I still have that issue now!

Rachel said...

Wow! I actually got a little choked up. This was beautiful Alisha. I didn't really know what to expect, but now that I've read yours, I think it might be cathartic to ponder what I would say to myself.

Kristen said...

beautiful, alisha. i loved reading this. thanks for being brave, and sharing from your heart!

alisha said...

Rachael, some people are just meant to be blonde. ;)

Rachel, I hope you do write a letter, even if you don't share it. I found through the whole process I was just filled with love for your younger self, which sounds narcissistic but was actually really sweet and precious. Good to see you the other day btw. :)

Anonymous said...

Great post. I don't know if I should give it a go...the results won't be pretty...

I browsed through your book list. If you have not read it give Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott a turn. It's an outstanding book on writing and life.

alisha said...

Copernicus, I have read Bird By Bird (several times!) and love it. Great recommendation.

Heather Rae said...

I this, Alisha! So inspiring (plus, you've inspired me to go through my high school pictures - those are great!)

I wrote a similar letter not too long ago: http://www.insearchofsquid.com/2010/03/letter-to-my-18-year-old-self/.

Heather Rae said...

What I meant to say was, "I *love* this" :)

Shannon of ** Happiness Is...** said...

Aww, such a wonderful letter!! :) xo

Joanna Roddy said...

dearly love this, friend. How I thought the 16 year old you was incredibly cool, you know. :) It just keeps getting better, doesn't it?

Jess Fouche said...

I don't think I'll get to my letter, but I loved reading yours!! I could sum up mine in a short sentence: Don't worry, life really will get better once those hideous braces are off!! :) Just kidding of course, loved that old pic of our crazy Juanita New Year's:)

Lish, I loved my 16 year old friend Alisha and I love who she is at 30 even more!!!

Nadine said...

I loved your letter! And I love that you went to Japan as an exchange student! I had no idea you went there prior to college!

TheLadyWhoLunches said...

So awesome. I purposefully waited to read yours until after I wrote mine, and it's so interesting some of the similarities. But God, it is amazing to look back and see how incredibly beautiful we were and didn't know it. I love your letter. Beautiful.

Sue said...

Alisha, this is great. I did not know your 16 year old self, but I loved reading of her :)

I want to thank you and Joanna for posing this challenge. I just finished reading the last entry and have to say it was lots of fun.

I will try and work on that 30 year old letter. It may have to be just for you and Joanna though...30 was pretty deep for me...

Dee said...


alisha said...

Thanks so much for everyone who took part in this! It's such a good reminder to reflect back on who we are and how much we've grown.

Sue, I'd love to read your letter to your 30 year self whenever you get the chance. :)

Reuben said...

i enjoyed reading this and you actually look quite cool for a 16 year old :]

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