An Open Letter to Myself at Age 14

Dear Freshman Year Meredith,

Where do I even BEGIN? Well, there you are on the first day of ninth grade, starting at a brand new school. An all-girls' brand new school. Yeesh. This isn't going to be easy, but you can definitely do this. You will survive the first day, and the first week, and the whole four years – so please, calm down. Just be yourself.

I know… self-esteem isn't exactly flowing through your veins at the moment. It's not your fault you have braces and stupid bangs and a nose you haven't grown into yet, although those are indeed the facts. But guess what? No one actually cares but you. They're all very busy worrying about themselves and their braces or whatever. I swear to you that this is true.

So, even though I know you're going to put up your CHECK OUT MY SUPER PERSONALITY! defense shield the second you walk through the door, can you at least try to peek over it every now and then? People will like you even if you aren't always "on." Really.

Don't get me wrong – I'm proud of you for being outgoing, and quick with a comeback, and willing to boldly approach groups of girls who've known each other since they were babies. That isn't easy, and I know you'd much rather be safely ensconced with your old friends right now. But do me a favor, okay? Don't show off your improvisational limerick-writing skills in homeroom the first week. That teacher you write a poem about is going to fish it out of the trash and somehow figure out you wrote it, and she is NEVER GOING TO GET OVER IT. And she is the meanest teacher in school. You are going to live in fear for four years, and this will be your fault.

Are you listening? Please do NOT try and suck up to that junior after you get cast as a lead in the school play. She's pissed off, and she's going to twist your words around and use them to torture you. Then when you are old you will write a YA novel about it. This can be avoided – just don't talk to her! Stay away!

There are a few other things I want to tell you. A guy making out with you is not a litmus test for being pretty. So be choosy. On the other hand, if you find out a guy likes you, don't automatically assume there must be something wrong with him. (That's going to turn into a pattern that's tough to break, let me tell you.) Oh – and you are not fat. In ten years, you're going to look at pictures of yourself now and realize you were a minuscule human being your freshman year. The amount of time you spend thinking you're fat could much better be used mastering nuclear fusion or sailing across the world. And burgundy lipstick? Not a good look for you. Yes, I know it's the 90s. But trust me. NO. Also, listen to your friend Georgia when she makes you grow your bangs out. It's worth getting through the awkward headband stage, especially because your mom is going to hate how you look without them. That'll really come in handy sophomore year when you're trying everything you can think of to get her to give you up for adoption.

You turn out okay, kid. You have lots of great friends and silly adventures and a life that truly makes you happy. And the fact is, you probably need all the dumb mistakes and embarrassing moments and self-deprecating phases (and there are going to be LOTS) to get there. To make it worth it. To turn you into the adult you become. To give you stuff to write about, for crying out loud.

Just try to enjoy yourself, okay? Relax. And don't push your luck.

Love, Grown Up Meredith

P.S. That junior you go to the spring semi-formal with, the one you spent weeks agonizing over asking and have such a huge crush on and are devastated by when he doesn't try to kiss you at the end of the night? The guy who makes you think you must be the ugliest girl in the world and that no one good will ever want to go out with you?

Guess what?

HE TURNS OUT TO BE GAY.

I know. I couldn't believe it either.
Meredith Zeitlin is the author of the new novel Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters.

This post originally appeared on Ladygunn. Republished with permission.

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