Tomorrow is a big day for you. Your first date. Fun! Weird. But fun.
I promise I will try very hard not to imagine the 1,984 things that could go wrong after he picks you up. In his car. That he drives all by his big boy self. When did you get old enough for that?
I will now try to stop hyperventilating.
I hope it’s a reprieve from the stress, insecurity and worry you’ve been feeling over these last very long, difficult months. It’s all been a lot to take. It recently dawned on me that since moving back to Homebase four years ago, the house we will be moving into will be your fourth.
Being the oldest, you’ve carried so much of that weight upon your shoulders, so much sacrifice to support your parents in their careers. Hopefully, this relocation will be our last for a while- at least until you graduate.
In the meantime, high school is awkward enough as it. The heaviness you carry makes it even harder. It’s difficult to imagine how anyone could possibly relate, but I promise they do. Here’s the big, earth shattering spoiler: Everyone is insecure right now. An they’re so busy being worried about their secret heaviness, they barely have time to really consider that anyone else feels it too.
And wanna know something even more surprising? It’s normal and might actually help you be a better grownup.
Besides, loving high school too much may mean you’ve reached your peak…and that’s not usually a good thing when you’re a teenager and have a lot of years ahead of you.
I wish someone would have explained this to me in high school. On second thought, I’m pretty sure they did. But I didn’t listen. And I won’t blame you if you don’t either.
You know what they say about hindsight.
Alas, I join the millions upon millions of mothers who’ve gone before, hoping their words of wisdom somehow ease the burden of that ache of awkwardness you feel so acutely.
If only my adult voice could’ve whispered such wisdom into the ear of that boisterous, sometimes obnoxious teen I used to be. The one who did everything to hide the curls on her head and acne on her face.
If only I could instill within in myself the knowledge I wish you had now. What would I tell me? I suspect it would be very similar to what I wish I could help you know now.
I’d tell you:
YOU ARE NOT FAT. You do not need to lose weight. Eat right and exercise. Learn how to do it now and it will stay with you and make you beautiful later.
But more than that, I’d tell you to look outside yourself. Recognize you are not the only one…
You know that friend? The one who all the girls in your class are secretly (and sometimes not so secretly) envious of because she was so very beautiful? Be extra kind to her. Hug her. Call her more often, just to talk. She’s dealing with the hurt of neglect by a mom who is always high. You don’t know it now, but that girl will somehow become one of the bravest, kindest mothers you will ever know.
And that one who you are a little intimidated by? The friend who’s pretty much a genius? Stop letting your insecurities keep you from hanging out with her. She’s amazing and she loves you. She will be one of your dearest friends when you get older; the kind you can meet up with after a decade of not seeing each other and talk all night long. Not only that, but she’s about to experience a lifetime of the worst loss you can imagine. Her sister, her mother, she’s going to lose them too soon. She’s going to need your friendship.
And that boy you’ve harbored a bit of a crush on? The one who’s always kind to you. The classmate everybody knows will do great things with his life. Listen to him. He’s pretty darn smart. And while his logic is impeccable and it’s hard to believe there’s room for softness, he is also one of the most compassionate people you will ever know. He also just realized he’s gay. And in a small, very conservative community, that can be a pretty scary realization to have.
How about that one girl you are fully aware gets annoyed by your persistent perkiness? She’s extremely loyal and has a heart full of gentleness even if she doesn’t show it. But she’s also lonely, watching someone she cares desperately for drink themselves to death. Be kind to her. You don’t necessarily need to curb your enthusiasm, just recognize another person’s private hurts sometimes keep them from letting you in. Be patient. You’ll be friends someday.
And you’ll be surprised to know that you’re going stay close friends with that guy (and his wife) who’s pretty much adopted your family. What you don’t know is that his step-father hurts him. His bruises aren’t all that obvious though. When he comes over, do a little more to make him feel welcome. He’s good soul but doesn’t know it yet so he needs to hear it from others.
And your sweet Jamie. Never, ever forget the way she brightens your life. Yes, the things that make her self-conscious are more obvious than the rest of you. But what you don’t know now is that she wakes up everyday knowing her life will be much shorter than yours. You haven’t really considered this yet, but she won’t be able to be a mother in this life even though there are few things she wants more. And she doesn’t think she’ll ever fall in love and get married. But she will. And you will get to see it happen. Just keep being positive and encourage her. You’re luckier than you realize to know her.
Don’t forget that one boy you made out with on the ski bus. Sometimes, he turns his emotions off. Don’t let that make you think he’s a jerk. It’s because he feels so very much and is afraid of being vulnerable. Be a little gentler with him during your very public breakup. In fact, don’t make it public. Just be cool. That boy will go through hell for you. He’ll jump through just about every hoop and even hold your hair back when you throw up.
Lastly, what about that one friend? Everyone wonders why you like each other so much. You’re completely different people. It seems to everyone else you have nothing in common. But you do. You both love people completely. She’s is a loyal and true friend. What you don’t know is that there is a reason her friends don’t offer you smokes or alcohol. It’s because she’s pretty much threatened them within an inch of their lives if they do. You also don’t know the years of heartache she will endure after outliving two of her three siblings. It’s the kind of ache a person needs lifelong friends to endure. Don’t ever be afraid of your offering to her. She will always appreciate it.
You see, Sunshine? I wish I could have known all of these things back then. I would have spent A LOT less time worrying about the things that made me insecure.
While the faces and stories might be different from yours, there’s a timeless truth to the struggle of youth. You can not possibly look into the eyes of your friends and see the glorious but intense future that lies ahead for each of them. But what you can do is look into their eyes and recognize the insecurity and awkwardness they feel too. If you close your mouth and open your ears, you will be able to see it. Even more, you’ll know better how to lift them in the ways they need it most.
Never, ever forget, your insecurity isn’t the truth about you. But your ability to look outside of yourself to be a real friend might be.