I’ve wanted to write something like this for a very long time, but couldn’t get myself to sit down and actually do it. Sometimes I do honestly feel kind of weird being so transparent about things, but I always remind myself that if it helps at least one person, it was worth it. This article is directed at younger people because when I was a teenager, I had a lot of questions and made a lot of mistakes. Don’t even get me started about the regrets! I know mistakes make us who we are, but sometimes we lose sight of that fact in the moment. I know I did many times. I want this article to be relatable and to show younger people that they’re not alone and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I hope that you guys can read what I have written in this hypothetical letter to my past self and feel like somebody is walking with you and metaphorically holding your hand if you’re going through something similar. Enjoy these next coming years! Believe me when I say this, it’s not the end of the world!
Dear 14 year old Me.
I come in peace! I’m writing this from the future. It’s now the year 2018 and a lot has changed. The world is a very different place now and many people including me have different values.
Our 25th birthday is around the corner which means almost 11 years have passed. It honestly really hurts me to say that and makes me feel incredibly old. A quarter of a century is a really long time and they say that age brings knowledge, so I thought I would write this to you( Myself) to help you get through the confusing, but formative next couple years that are ahead of you.
It’s September 2008. Playing Call of Duty 4 on Xbox until 3 in the morning with your friends is still socially acceptable and grade 9 is about to start.. I know you’re extremely nervous and for good reason. These 4 and a half years boutta’ be crazy…4 and a half because you’ll start grade 13 because you won’t be sure about what you want to do in post secondary and will ultimately opt out half way through in case you were wondering about the extra half year.
As I said before, I’m here to impart some of the knowledge I’ve acquired over the past 11 years onto you to help you find your way faster and to help you avoid making the same mistakes I made.
Don’t worry so much about what other people think!
This is high school for crying out loud! Shouldn’t you be terrified? Elementary school was soft and people judged each other, but not as much as people in high school will, right? Well, yes and no. You will have to make sure that people see you in a positive way because you don’t want to be shunned like an outcast, but don’t go to extreme lengths to fit in. Everybody needs to conform and fit in to an extent, but a lot of people try so hard to conform and fit in that they end up losing themselves and becoming brainless robots that don’t think for themselves and have no other goals, other than to please others despite the voice inside of them screaming to just be free.
Dress how you want and be yourself. Remember that green plaid shirt that you have sitting at home. You’ll wear it to school one day and people will stare and you’ll fear their judgement so much that you won’t wear it again, but guess what? That shirt still fits 11 years later and people really dig it in the future.
Do things because you want to!
This is kind of connected to the first point. There will be a lot of decisions that you’ll be pressured into making because you’ll want to fit in. You’re a strong guy though, you’ll manage to fight the peer pressure to drink and smoke for all of high school, so pat yourself on the back for that alone. Smoking weed and drinking alcohol aren’t bad in moderation, but giving into peer pressure IS. Sports are fun and I know you enjoy wrestling, but you know deep down that you’ll never pursue it seriously, so just leave the wrestling team. It’s actually that easy. It was fun at the beginning, but the enjoyment has since faded away, so you are free to stop participating. You also like to play basketball.. yes the legendary question you asked your grade 7 coach that shall never be mentioned on this blog is still very fresh in people’s minds, but that’s not what’s holding you back from joining the basketball team despite everybody telling you that you should because of your height. You enjoy playing basket ball for fun, but there are two things holding you back from actually trying out for the team.
1.You’re scared of messing up and or making a fool of yourself in front of other people
2. You know playing on an actual team just isn’t your thing. You’d rather stick to playing for fun, so tell that to the people who are trying to get you to join. They have good intentions, but they can’t read your damn mind. How the hell are they supposed to know what you’re thinking? Just straight up tell them you only like playing for fun.
Now let’s talk about football. You know dammmmmmn well you don’t want to join the football team. Football was never your thing and telling everybody “I’ll join next year” up until grade 13 is not only lying to everyone including yourself, but it’s also giving people false hope. Honesty will become one of your values in the next 11 years. There will be many times when you’ll feel pressured to make decisions you don’t want to make, but these are the few that came to mind first.
Don’t compare yourself to others
I remember my old self and I know this will be a hard one, but do your best. Don’t compare yourself to others. SOCIAL MEDIA IS A LIE, I REPEAT; SOCIAL MEDIA IS A LIE. People only post what they want other people to see on social media. It’s not all real. The people who’s lives seem amazing and who are seemingly travelling and going around to different places while some how getting great marks and drinking every weekend are only posting what they want the world to see online. They struggle too! Their lives aren’t nearly as amazing as they make them seem. Snap out of this way of thinking early if you can, man. It will make the next couple years a lot more pleasant. Some people never snap out of this way of thinking and continue to compare themselves to other people ON AND OFFLINE. These people are suffering whether they accept it or not. Watching people do “better” than you all day while you beat yourself up isn’t a happy existence yet people do it ALL the time. Don’t allow yourself to be one of these people.
It’s ok to be different!
Not many people will be into or do the same things that you do and that’s perfectly ok. Celebrate your individuality. Be happy about being different! You’ll meet people who share your love for languages, videos games, getting Xbox achievements and your slowly emerging love for travel in high school and later on in life. This all leads me into my next point.
Don’t change yourself for other people!
There will be times when you will want to change yourself for other people… but remember what I said in the paragraph above this one! Try to maintain your individuality. I know myself and how I was, so I know, you’ll try to follow this rule, but will give in just like all humans do at times. That’s ok and part of life, but I want you to really allow yourself to feel how disgusting it feels to be fake and to lie to the only person that’s always been there for you without a doubt; YOURSELF. I’ve seen many people completely change themselves for other people and it hurts me every time I see it. You’ll witness it in high school too and there will even be a few times when you’ll see it and try to snap the person out of it and you’ll see the pain in their eyes when they realize that they’ve lied to themselves and others for so long that lying has become their new version of normal and they lose their sense of self and don’t know how to stop being fake.
Reading is fun!
I know you won’t believe this, so I don’t even know why I’m writing it, but it’s worth a try. High school will really kill reading for you. You’ll have to read a lot of books that you’ll think are very stupid. I honestly still think some of the books were really stupid when I think back to them in hindsight… even after 11 years! You’ll go through high school without doing very much leisure reading aside from language learning kits and work out blogs and it saddens me when I think back to how much knowledge passed me by because I didn’t read more. I hope this letter will change that for you and I hope you ultimately decide to read it because if you don’t… well that would be an awkward waste of time travel now wouldn’t it?
You’ll come close to finally starting to see how reading books can be interesting in grade 12 during an English assignment. You’ll have the choice between four books. You won’t care about three of the 4 books, but there’s one book on sociology that you’d like to read. Unfortunately you’ll get forced to read the book about the Gulf war. You find that sort of thing interesting, but dat sociology book thoooo… you’ll plead with the teacher to let you read the other book, but she won’t let you. There are way bigger issues in life, but looking back on this, I honestly think that reading this book would have made me like leisure reading a lot earlier.
You’ll eventually end up reading a book called The kite runner… Yes, it’s the exact same book you saw while you were cleaning the basement, but that’s not important. The book will captivate you and make you feel emotions that a book hadn’t made you feel since you read The city of Ember in grade 7. It will light one of the sparks that will eventually lead to you enjoying leisure reading again.
Depression and anxiety are ahead, but there are ways to deal with them!
Depression and anxiety will haunt you and many other people throughout high school. Many tough times will manifest themselves, but with the right tools and mindsets, you’ll be able to get through them. Some of the depression that you’ll face in high school will be caused by things that seem important in the moment, but will stop being important down the road or you’ll just get over them. Some, but not all. I’m not here to lie to you and tell you that it’s all sunshine and roses because new things will pop up that will lead to more depression in the future. Remember how I said that honesty would become one of your closely held values in the future? Well, I wasn’t kidding, so be prepared. When you feel like shit, I give you my sincere promise that is not the end of the world. Always remember that.
The anxiety you face in high school, on the other hand, will almost completely be caused by things that don’t objectively matter as much as they seem to in the moment. You’re probably just making a big deal out of a small situation. Is that saying that you’re wrong for feeling how you feel? No, far from it. I am however saying that if you just view the situations differently, you’ll see that they’re not as bad as they initially seemed and with time you’ll learn how to reframe situations and sometimes even enjoy anxiety and learn that you can make it work for you rather than against you.
Be open minded!
Sometimes I look back at you and wonder how we’re the same person because of how closed minded you can be. It’s ok though and it makes sense. As a religious person, you kind of have to be closed minded to things that don’t fit your world view. Open your mind! Not just to things that further prove your point! Open your mind to other people’s opinions and listen to them even if you don’t agree with them. You have many questions about your faith that are continuing to go unanswered. That’s ok! It’s a good sign. Asking these question is a sign that your mind is slowly being opened and you’re starting to see other perspectives more. Don’t fight the questions. You love to ask questions, ask as many as you can!
Losing your religion ain’t that bad
The following will shock you, but the future you is no longer Christian. You’ll finally except that you’ve lost your faith in early 2016, so you still have a couple more years to wrestle with what you truly believe. Reading all of this will probably really hurt you because you made being Christian such a big part of your identity and the thought of losing that part of yourself is unfathomable, but I know you because I am you and I know you have your doubts, I know you want evidence before believing. These are all good things, don’t fight them!
Anyway, hunker down and prepare for a lot of dissatisfactory answers to a lot of the questions you have about your faith and no, church won’t save you. Ironically going back to church is what will ultimately lead to you asking the questions that will ultimately lead to you losing your faith in the end.
Look up the definition of “confirmation bias” while you’re at it, It will blow your pubescent mind and maybe even speed up the process!
Screw having an identity!
Just like all the other kids, you’ll try and find out who you “truly are” or what your “identity” is. This is stupid. Live life and enjoy it and don’t let anything define “you”. Nothing is objectively “YOU”. You like learning languages, but they don’t define you. You like going to the gym, but the gym doesn’t make you who you are. You like playing Call of Duty, but that’s not your objective purpose on earth. Just go with the flow, try many things, have lots of experiences and even if you’ve been doing something for years, don’t be afraid to drop it because you’re afraid that you’re losing part of yourself. What ever you’re getting rid of doesn’t define you as a person. People may know you for doing certain things and associate certain things with you, but that still doesn’t make these certain things define who you are as a being.
Don’t save your assignments until the last minute
Must I elaborate? Habits are difficult to break once they’re ingrained. Too often will you wait until the last moment to do assignments in school and then get stressed out or even freeze! This habit will follow you into adulthood to some extent. If you just start your assignments earlier, you’ll be able to avoid this whole fiasco. You’ll be able to truly tap into your creativity because you’ll have the time to actually do so. Call of Duty and the gym can both wait!
A mark on a test doesn’t define you!
Just like everybody else in school, there will be tests that you will do well on and there will be tests that you’ll do poorly on. Always remember that one single test doesn’t decide your entire future. Everybody learns differently, so failing ONE math test doesn’t objectively mean that you’re stupid… although… math class WILL make you feel like that a lot… It doesn’t mean you’re stupid(I’m saying this twice for emphasis), it just means that you haven’t figured out how to adequately study math yet. You’ll learn in the future that the right method can make almost anybody pass tests and learn quickly. Remember how it took you 9 months to feel comfortable speaking German? Well guess what, you get to that same level in Portuguese in 4 and a half months and you reach a conversational level in Catalan in just under one month. Hard to believe after being removed from French immersion in grade 6, right? Don’t fret over one bad mark, use the time to figure out how to learn to learn better and more efficiently, it works for languages in the future, so why wouldn’t it work for subjects that you’ll need to be tested on in the present?
Be more confident and push your comfort zone!
Many things will scare you, trust me and I’m not talking about horror movies either. I’m going to let you in on a little secret; They terrify you now, but believe it or not, horror will become your favourite genre in the future. You somehow learn to enjoy them and to not be afraid. You’ll never low-key spend 2 nights sleeping with the light of the Tv on because the stair scene at the end of the grudge had you shook. That will definitely not be your proudest moment…
Many aspects of life will scare you too, but just be confident and push your comfort zone. The more you do it, the easier it will get. Remember, however that it gets harder as soon as you stop pushing it. I don’t want to hear anymore of the “If I don’t try I can’t fail” bullshit! If you ever even think that thought again, I’ll build a time machine and come back and hide your ice cream. Oops.. That reminds me… you’ll soon find out that you’re actually lactose intolerant…I hate to be the bearer of bad news… Sorry, not sorry.
If you ever feel too comfortable in life, it means you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. Keep pushing yourself and one day you’ll look back and be shocked at the things that once scared you and made you feel trapped.
Anyway, I know you read this far because I know you’re a curious person and that you’d want to hear your future self out. You’re going to learn a lot in these next couple years. You’re also going to feel many different emotions… some will be great and some will be terrible. There will be times when you’ll feel extremely lonely and wish that you had some form of a guide… kind of like an older brother… or just somebody who just understands how you’re feeling and who has recently been through it, but come out stronger at the end of it all. I know this because I felt that way many times. I hope that this letter, although short, can serve as the guide you always wanted. Keep your head high, man. I know you got dis!
On a parting note, get into the habit of keeping your room organized NOW so that it’s easier in the future and spoiler alert, you finally make it to Germany, but the I won’t tell you when. It’s an amazing trip though!
Sincerely, Your future self.