Letters To My Younger Self #2
Dear 14-year-old Anne,
I was actually thinking about you today. Long before I'd remembered I was going to write you this letter, I was thinking about you. I was thinking about you because I came across a folder of your writing. I can't class that writing as mine, we are so different you & I, but I am proud to have once been it's author. I think as we grow up, we have a tendency to become dismissive of our younger selves.
I'm sorry for all the times I've been dismissive of you, fourteen year old me. I'm sorry because today I found a little window into your thoughts, your ideas, your mind. Half finished novels, poems and songs, the nanowrimo stories, your bucket list of dreams and ambitions. The diary you keep, writing letters to the day you've had? Absolutely beautiful. I'd forgotten about that Spanish assignment, and that boy who you like. Four years doesn't sound like a long time, but it is really. I realise now; having had the rare opportunity to see life through your eyes again, how much I have to thank you for. The one thing I loved the most however, was the way you signed off your last letter:
"This is a new chapter that's beginning . I hope you're ready, because I think it's going to be extraordinary. "
I love it because you don't know yet just how true that statement is. In mere months you are going to stumble across a website about going on a gap year. The dreams will start to form in your mind and for years you will silently chase them, determined to succeed. And you do.
Your imagination is limitless. So many characters, plot lines, song lyrics. You astound me, sometimes, so often I forget that everything I am, started with you. You are signing and performing all the time now, and I hope you appreciate it. In a few years the lights on that stage will be turned off for the last time, and you will stop performing. Every so often someone will force you to sit down at the piano or pick up the guitar but it will be infrequent. Appreciate it while you can. Sometimes I wish I could live another day as you, with the friends you have and the dreams you chase. You don't realise it, but girl, you are extraordinary. I hope I never lose the skills I learned as you. You are brave, hard-working, excitable, passionate and stubborn.
14 is an age you will come to look back on as being pretty awful. It's the age of braces you're so embarrassed by that you never really smile, of bad fashion sense, awkward boob growth and even more awkward crushes but looking back, I realise a lot of this year you are living is also pretty darn wonderful. It's the year you grow from 4"9 to 5"2 (then stop growing forever), the year you accidentally borrow a real, living sheep and nearly die skiing off the side of a cliff. As I said, wonderful.
I hope you continue to work hard. Your classmates are at an immature age, but appreciate not having any serious exams just yet. Appreciate the hours you have after finishing your homework to watch friends and how i met your mother and every csi ever made. You're extremely lucky you know. Appreciate your teachers. The ones you look up to, who make you laugh or entertain you. Appreciate how hard they work. You won't realise how hard it is to be a teacher for another four years, so make those years count. You are on the brink of a new beginning, you know.
You are in middle of chasing so many dreams. You want to be a writer, a performer, a dancer, a teacher, a volunteer, an archeologist, a ski-instructor, prime minister. In short, you want the world fourteen-year-old-Anne and one day you will get it. I hope I never lose your ambitions. I want to cling on to all of them; now more than ever. As I've grown I've pushed a lot of them under the rug, tried to focus on just one or two, but the truth is we will never be a just-one-project type of girl.
I'm sorry to say it, but right now you are at an age where people will try to use that ambition in a way that is harmful to you. On the back of the blog that you are getting daily, horrible hate mail for, and the 10,000 followers you have somehow gathered together on wattpad, you are approached by a big publishing company that want to publish the novel you have written.
It's a dream you've wanted forever, and so you won't understand why you feel quite so out of place in those meetings, sitting in neon-pink skinny jeans while surrounded by men and women in suits. You will try to convince yourself that you are excited, reminding yourself that this is your dream, but slowly, those doubts will eat away at you. It's your dream, but this is not how you want to achieve it. Still, it will take you months of feeling out-of-place and not-included before you do something about it. It will take all of your courage to stand up in the middle of watching your story be re-written and edited beyond recognition and say "no, this isn't what I want." It is half-ten on a Wednesday morning and they will look at you like you're crazy. You will doubt for years whether you made the right choice in walking out of that room; wondering if you should have stuck with it. You hear stories of old friends being published and when you read their plays and novels and scripts you won't be able to prevent yourself from thinking 'that could've been me.' It could've been, you're right. But one day, you will read your friend's bestseller and you won't think that. But that kind of acceptance doesn't happen overnight.
These doubts don't go away quickly. You will realise, when that wattpad account you're pouring your heart into gets accidentally deleted and you lose 10,000 followers in one night, that it's okay. You will never put as much focus on the follower count as you do on the quality of what you are producing ever again. Three years later, when you are seventeen and much more introspective than you are now, you will find a proof copy of that novel; and you will cry and laugh and cringe and read it back with your friends surrounding you; and you will finally lay to rest your doubts. You will begin blogging again, focused on creating a safe, positive space where you are nothing but yourself. It is nowhere near as popular, but it makes you ten times happier. It is in those moments that you realise you were right to walk away. You were cheated and used and I am proud of you for realising it before it was too late.
Instead; when you are 18 you will be published properly in a zine. You will find out about it while volunteering in India, making you a published writer and teacher all at once. You will realise that you can be all of the things you want to be, and limiting yourself to just one is silly. Your writing is handed out in New York and as the weeks past it will be read all over the world. A piece you are really proud of; a piece that your friends discuss in their politics tutorials in universities half a world away. The money for that article doesn't go in your pocket, but goes to a charity you've always supported, because you've realised there are some pieces of writing you just can't accept money for. It took us four years, but we did it. You will read that piece and you will think 'this is me.'
Four years. I can hardly believe we've been apart for so long. It feels like an eternity since that Wednesday morning, but take confidence that I write this to you with all the hindsight four years of reflection can bring, and you're doing the right thing. Of course, we'll forever wonder what if? but so does everyone. If it's meant to be, you don't just get one chance. Remember that.
Keep on dreaming,
your future self.
p.s. this is my favourite photo of you, with one of the greatest people you know, to remind you that whenever you think 14 is a terrible age, it is actually wonderful. Even if you never actually looked directly into a camera and left me with the most ridiculous ID card photo the world has ever seen. <3