Now, even though I'm not terribly far from my teenage years, I have written a letter to my teen self. I also wrote this letter about a month ago during a powerful transition in my life - things have changed, but I kept it the way I wrote it.
Dear Teen Me,
You want out of that town. Somehow you wound up growing up in the smallest town in the smallest school you can possibly imagine. When you grow up in wide open places, the sky feels like it's pressing down on you no matter how beautiful country sumer nights are.
Most people can't see beyond that one-way main street, the lazy summer nights around bonfires, or the World's Largest Tiger Muskie (and all these things seem way lame right now, but one day they'll become bragging rights). But you've always known there is so much more to see out in the world.
You're surrounded by amazing people, though. Your parents are patient and they teach you that when it comes to dreaming, there are no limits. And I know your little brother drives you nuts, but he's kind of awesome. And your friends are pretty spectacular, cherish them while you're all still in one place. You also have some great teachers. Your English teachers will put up with your incessant writings about wanting to get out of town and how you longed for those stars to be blotted out by sky scrapers. They don't say anything when one day you write about road trips to California (yeah...what was that? You never actually had any desire to go to California) and the next day you're detailing your romantic ideas about living in New York.
You write about leaving. You plan trips you know you won't be able to take for a long time. But you know you can't just make lists and write down fantasies. If you want out, you have to do something about it.So you work hard. You're involved in every school activity you can think of. Achievement is your way out.
Then you'll work with a boy you've known most of your life and he'll become your best friend. And he loves this town. He loves the closeness that comes with having all your friends and family nearby and the safety of being somewhere comfortable and completely familiar.
You still want out, but this boy will show you the beauty and the romance in the town that has been your cage. He's the only thing that could have made you stay. But it won't work that way.
You won't go far at first. You'll move 5 hours from home and live in a college town. This will end up being your perfect jumping off point. Because then you'll live in Spain, then Saint Louis. You'll be in Denver a short while And then one day, you'll find yourself sitting in an airport waiting to board a plane to New York while writing a letter to the person you used to be.
I don't know what's going to happen in New York. I don't know where I'll live or if this job I'm interviewing for will work out. I don't know if I'm going to fly or land on my face. But I'm going.
So, dear teen me, you're going to get there (and in some ways you're always on your way somewhere else). It seems impossibly far, but be patient. Everything happens when it's supposed to.
So don't freak out.
Enjoy that small town, for it will become a place that heals you, even when you didn't know you needed it.
Because as much as you want out, you should know that town is full of people and places that will always be hard to leave. It's a place you can always go back to.
Me, or you. (We really aren't the same person, oddly enough.)
P.S. That crazy (awesome) girl who always tells you how great your hair is, even when it's badly permed - hang out with her more often. Because after graduation, she'll become your best friend and you'll be maid-of-honor at her wedding. She's going to be the one person who knows you better than anyone else - cool, huh?
Check out the Dear Teen Me website for more letters! And don't forget to pick up a copy of the book (preferably at your local indie)!