Dear Me…

Hi, 15-year-old self, it’s Me, your 35-year-old self. If you can’t do the math in your head (which isn’t surprising, since we’re not the most mathy in the bunch), that means I’m 20 years older than you—more than twice as old.

I don’t feel that much older. Most days I feel like I’m tripping over being a grownup by accident, learning as I go by the grace of God. When I stop and think about how you think compared to how I think, then sure, I realize I’ve actually learned a lot. But mostly? It feels like I was you, then I blinked, and now I’m me.

What’s even stranger for me is that my daughter will be you in a blink. She’s seven right now, but I blinked last Tuesday, right after she was born, and now here she is, tall and gangly and wearing glasses, on the cusp of needing braces.

I’m not bothering you from your Nancy-Drew-reading, supposed-to-be-reading-The-Odyssey evening just to tell you that time flies by and you better enjoy it. Because the truth is, over the next 20 years, time will sometimes crawl by, and you will want to hurry up already and get to the next stage of life.

You’re already doing that, in some ways. In middle school, you couldn’t wait for high school. Right now, you think life will be great once you’re an upperclassman. In a few years, you’ll want anything just to be in college. Add a few more years, and you’ll think you’ll have arrived if you just get that degree and find a husband.

And in all your impatience to rush through life, I know you’re annoyed at your parents for saying the same thing I’m already telling my daughter: enjoy being a kid. There’s no reason in the world to rush life. Because that book you’re holding? That will become a rare jewel among the liturgical days of laundry, bill-paying, and baby nursing.

And also? You’re pretty and valuable and worthy, even though most days right now you feel awfully plain. You don’t struggle with self-worth, but I know you feel lost in the crowd and just sort-of blah.

You’re a good girl, but you’re not exactly spectacular in the youth group. Your grades are worthy for the fridge, but yes, there are plenty of other kids in school with higher marks. And it’s really, completely okay that your Friday nights involve hanging out with one other girl watching Can’t Buy Me Love again. Own that Friday night. Order pizza and make it count.

Keep hanging out with your younger brother, even though he’s only 10 and you don’t have a lot in common. You don’t get much time with him under the same roof, and you’ll miss that later. Those days are a gift.

That girl with a locker just a few doors down? It wouldn’t kill you to just say hi. You might make a new friend.

The nudge you feel to stop ballet, since you’re doing it six days a week and you’d like a taste of what it’s like to be a normal teenager? Totally a God thing. Jump ship. You’re just too short to be a professional ballerina, as much as you’d like to try that life. (Hint: You’re going to jump ship next year.)

You’re going to have your first serious boyfriend pretty soon, and you’ll date him for awhile. By God’s grace, you won’t get into any trouble, but you’ll break up when you’re a senior, and things will be really weird in your heart for awhile. You need to go through that hurt because you will become wiser, and you will learn that those internal nudges to do things, even when they don’t make sense in your heart but make sense in your head, are from God.

(By the way? That boyfriend will end up becoming a dear friend of yours, and he will marry another dear friend—you haven’t met her yet—and you will still stay friends two decades later. Life works out pretty well sometimes.)

You’re going overseas for the first time this year—Latvia; a newly independent country since the Iron Curtain fell about 18 months ago in your time, and then Russia. That trip will change your life, and you’ll do many more similar voyages over the coming years. Listen to the sounds of the guttural language and the lounge singer crooning “Tars in Heaven” in his best Eric Clapton, take in the sights of the fur-bobbed brows, fully taste that waffle-chicken-parsley concoction. The diesel-cigarette smell wafting from the snow-lined streets? Breathe it in. It will waft over you in the years to come, and you’ll joltingly return to that strange Soviet hotel hosting your introduction to baklava.

Life will have its ups and downs. You will want to fit in, in your own paradoxical expression of being unique just like everybody else. You will want to like the right music, wear the right clothes, get involved in the right afterschool clubs, take the right college classes—not the ones the popular kids care about, because you don’t want to be popular. You want to be a good girl, a girl who makes her parents and her youth pastor proud.

But something pretty great will happen. You’ll do all this for quite awhile—the people-pleasing—but then one day, when you’re 29, you’ll hit rock bottom. You, your husband, and your little girl will go to a Greek island, and you’ll sit on the porch of your little hovel of a hotel room, and you’ll realize that the opinions of other people are sucking the very life out of you. You’ll see that all your life, you’ve equated their opinion with God’s.

It’s so bad it’ll wreak havoc on your body with depression, and you’ll need to take care of that. You’ll go to Thailand, you and your little family, for two months to sort things out. And it will break you and heal you. Your breaking will release from your body the weighty burden of needing to please everybody, and in the healing, you’ll find a newfound desire to be yourself and be how you were created. No matter what.

And it will be glorious and redemptive. You will start writing. Remember when you were in eighth grade, and you decided you wanted to be a writer? It will happen because you’ll allow the breaking. It will hurt, and you will be superglued back together—you won’t be perfect, in other words—but you’ll look a lot closer to how you were originally intended to look.

So keep reading those books, keep thinking you’re a promising writer, and give yourself eighteen times more grace than you currently do. You are not your grades, your ability to turn a pirouette, your ability to memorize Philippians, nor your likability. You are you.

Go back to Nancy Drew. (Want a clue? It’s in the clock tower.)

Love, Me

Emily Freeman is one of my dear friends who also happens to be one of my favorite writers. Her new book, Graceful, just released, and it’s sitting right next to me. And? It’s stellar. It’s written for teenage girls, and my teenage self NEEDED her words. Needed them. I already look forward to passing it on to my own sweet girl.

Emily is inviting all of us—any that want to participate—to write a letter to our teenage selves. It can be sweet and simple, or you can turn digital pages in your online diary. If you feel so led, publish it on your blog this Friday, September 14 and link to it at Chatting at The Sky. It should make for some fabulous weekend reading.


Tsh Oxenreider

Tsh is the founder of this blog and just finished traveling around the world with her husband and 3 kids. Her latest book is Notes From a Blue Bike, and believes a passport is one of the world's greatest textbooks.

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  1. Jenny Runyan says:

    I would tell my teenage self to be more confident in her self and abilities, and to not stress so much about boys, since the one who really matters will come into her life years later.

  2. I would tell her that people are more important than performance and that honesty, loyalty, integrity, friendship, and trust far outweigh appearances. And that popularity is so meaningless, fickle,and fleeeting. The tables will truly be turned in ten years.

  3. I would tell myself not to worry about what others think. Listen to my heart, do the things I really want to do without worrying that someone else will think I am weird or dumb. It’s easier to “fit in” if you are true to yourself.

  4. I would tell her that she is not plain, that she is an interesting person, that she needs to treasure herself far more than rubies, and if she just waits, she will find a dear husband who treasures her as well.

  5. I would tell her the same thing my mother told me and I am already telling my own daughters – ignore the ones that make you feel bad – you have the power to walk away, not let their words affect you, do your own thing and be who you are! Don’t give away that power!

  6. Despite what you suspect, everyone is NOT having sex!

  7. I would tell my teenage self to dump her boyfriend. Fifteen years old is too young for that level of commitment, and you rarely see him in person anyway.

  8. I love this idea. It’s a silly thought, but I wish we could send letters to the past for real. Here’s my reason why. I’m up crazyearly this Monday morning and I just read in my facebook feed that over the weekend a 14 year old girl in a neighboring suburb committed suicide…apparently after being bullied. Kids have SUCH a hard time believing that bad situations/relationships/etc are temporary. What if her 35 year old self could have told her how fleeting the bad really is?

    • but would the 14 year old self even listen?
      unfortunately, the teen years are coupled with the ideas that:
      1) we are invincible and
      2) adults don’t/can’t understand us
      that poor girl, and her poor grieving family. such a heartbreakingly permanent solution to a temporary (though painful) problem.

  9. I would tell her that it’s perfectly fine to be out there with the grown ups. Big ideas sometimes need the mature minds to help them spring successfully to the world. Downgrading yourself to fit with your age group will bring little true joy and only delay the real fun.

  10. Oh goodness. I think I would tell my teenage self to stop worrying about leaving the small town she grew up in, because once she does, she will miss it, and eventually find her way back. Oh, and to also ask her mama how she manages to do as much gardening with two kids 🙂

  11. Keiz Pipkin says:

    I would tell my teenage self to not be afriad of emotions – they don’t make you weak, they make you real. And crying or being (justly) angry will not make you manipulative like some of your friends…

  12. I would love to give my teenage self a hug and tell her, “all those classmates you desperately wish would just LIKE you already and be your friends? Look in your heart and realize that YOU don’t particularly like THEM. And then cherish the TRUE friends you already HAVE. That’s where it’s at. The rest is just fiction and not worth your self-torment.”

  13. Stop fighting with your mother, and spend sometime getting to really know her. You don’t have as much time with her as you think.

  14. I thought I was fat back then, and now my post-three-babies body would kill for those thighs and arms I thought were big! I would tell myself to relax and see myself as Christ sees me, not get nit picky about numbers on a scale or on a tag. 🙂

  15. What would I tell my teenage self?! Oh my. Sweetie, there’s more to life than school and the clicky groups which exist there. So you don’t know what you want to “be”? You still don’t, at 40(something). Be better. Boys aren’t everything. Grades aren’t everything. Enjoy 🙂

  16. I’d tell my teenage self that it’s okay to not have everything you want-and to never get those credit cards!

  17. You need to trust God and yourself and stop going after things that are not important – you know you want to. What boys think does not matter. You are better off creating friendships with the young women around you than hanging around your boyfriend all the time. He will be gone in a year and you won’t see or hear from him any time in the next ten years. Be confident. Stand up for what is right even if you are the only one.

  18. I loved reading this, Tsh. Thanks for sharing! I would tell my teenage self a few things- “Trust God with your past, your present, and especially your future. He knows what He’s doing (even when you think you know better).” and “Try to savor every day. You’ll lose your mama when you’re 29 and you’ll have lots of things you wish you had said/asked/made sure she knew.”

  19. beth lehman says:

    i identified with so many things you said to your teenage self. so so many. yes, stay in the moment. stop thinking about the next thing and the next. be kinder. go outside more. i think so much about this now that i have a 12 year old daughter. i’m really curious about the book!

  20. Susan LaPooh says:

    This post really spoke to me!

    I would tell my teenager self – go for it. Don’t be afraid. The possibilities are endless.

  21. Such a wonderful post! I’d tell my teenage self that only God’s love for me matters, not what others think of me. No amount of fame, fortune, or likeability in this life compares to the next life. Be me. And work on being a better me. Let go of the comparison, the competition, and the perfection. Perfection is only going to happen in Heaven, and there is nothing I can do about it here.

  22. What you are on the inside is much more important than how you look on the outside.
    Wise words for me as an adult too.

  23. I would let her know that everything is going to be okay. That it’s okay to relax, have fun, and not take life so seriously all the time! 🙂

  24. I prayed for some help yesterday and believe it or no, this post is exactly the message I needed. I would tell my 15 year old self that she needs to listen to her gut and 20 years later she doesn’t have to stay miserable just because she is afraid of what her parents will say. I know it’s sad I still care but I think it’s that first/oldest child thing. Today I am going to try to take charge! Thanks!

  25. I would tell my teenage self that it is so important to care about humanity and look beyond myself– because there is so much more than my suburban world to experience. Then I would tell my teenage self that she will absolutely explore that world, but not to be scared, because God is in control. I also tell this to the teenage girls I work with on a daily basis! Thanks for this wonderful post!

  26. Such a fun idea, Tsh!
    I would tell my teenage self to ignore boys! The best one, the one worth your time, will come after college!

  27. Robin from Frugal Family Times says:

    “Wear sunscreen! You can’t spend all summer teaching sailing and get so ridiculously brown and not pay for it later.”

  28. Being the good girl isn’t the point.

  29. You don’t have to try so hard – you’re already wonderful, and this constant striving is no way to live.

  30. Wow – what a great post. I would tell my teenage self to slow down. Don’t get so wrapped up in some boy that you miss out on making great girlfriends. Also, that I’m worth it so the boy should have to work harder at a relationship with me – and he should cherish me and treat me with respect. And that it’s okay for my to fight for that – expect that and wait for it. I would tell her to be a better friend and sister and daughter. I would tell her every little thing is gonna be alright!!!

  31. Don’t be afraid to trust people with the real you or with the things that make you that way. Some people might still choose to reject you, but there will be some that won’t, who will continue to love you and support you and won’t judge you for being you. And trusting now will make it so much easier to do it in 20 years.

  32. Boys are not everything!!

  33. Great post. I would tell myself to stop looking for happiness and fulfillment in things and people and ask myself ‘where does true happiness and peace come from’. I did eventually figure this out but I made many mistakes along the way!

  34. I would tell my teenage self the same thing I tell my two oldest girls over and over:
    “No matter what you think you see in the mirror, and no matter what comparisons you are making- you are beautiful. Be confident in that, and stop obsessing over how you look. You’ll miss out on so much if you let your self-conciousness rule your decisions.”
    Oh, the different choices I would have made if someone had told me that…

  35. i would tell myself, “it gets better!”

  36. Dear 15-year-old ME,
    Hang out with your friends and stop dating stupid boys. The right one will come along in 6 more years. Take the hard classes and stop wimping out, you’re smarter than you think. Learn to eat well now even thought your metabolism is the highest it will ever be. And don’t get that bi-level haircut, it will be called a mullet later.

  37. I would tell myself that being able to succeed without trying doesn’t make you smarter, just lazier.

  38. You don’t need a man, a house, a career, or even children to make you happy or complete. You are perfect where you are. Live how you want, and be proud of yourself.

  39. I would tell myself to forgive and move on. There’s freedom in letting go of painful things and hurtful people.

    I’d also tell myself to notice my now darling husband a year sooner! 🙂

  40. Oh, this is so good. Have you ever heard of futureme.org? I think more of us need to take advantage of it.

  41. Too early in the morning to decide what I would tell myself, but I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed this post, Tsh. Thanks for opening up; I feel like I know you a little better now.

  42. That God loves me. Completely, utterly, and totally, and I don’t have to do a thing to earn it. And I should hold out for a man who loves me exactly the same way.

  43. Don’t settle for being treated anything less than what you deserve. Keep immersing yourself in what delights your heart – music.

  44. Dear teenage self, You are lovely because God loves you…

  45. Be nice. I was pretty cruel to a select few and really wish I could go back and change that.

  46. I would tell my teenage self to enjoy more. Take more risks, make more mistakes. That’s what you learn from, that’s your story. I would tell her that life is so not going to turn out how you think, God has a whole different plan for you. And, it’s a good one.

  47. As the mother of a 17 year old daughter, I tell her frequently “Spread your wings go be yourself, God and Momma will be here to catch you if you fall” I would love to read, highlight and share with my girls.

  48. To my teenage self,
    God is watching over you right this minute. And He has wonderful plans for you. Is He going to let you make mistakes?? Yup. But He is going to be there every step, every hurt, every high, and every low. You won’t realize this until later in life, but that’s ok. Because it is all in His timing. He is going to take care of you. Even in a few years, when you go through the lowest low and He decides it’s time for Mom to go home to him, he is planting paths and people in your life to get you safely to the other side.
    P.S. I love you. I wish you loved yourself more.

  49. I would tell my teenage self so many things. But the most important thing would be to memorize jeremiah 29:11, and LIVE it! God has plans for you bigger than you can imagine. Believe it!

  50. Wow. Amazing post. I would say, stop trying to look “busy.” You will be busy soon enough.

  51. I often wish I could go back and live life then as the person I am now – things would have been so different!

    I would tell my teenage self, “You’re not as big as you think you are. Your body is shaped differently than your friends, but it doesn’t mean you’re fat. Get into running, do some real exercise, learn the freedom of loving yourself!”

  52. I would tell teenage me not to take herself so seriously and not to worry about what other people think of her.

  53. That girlfriend whose friendship is all-or-nothing…things are not always as they appear. Yes, she’s hurt you dreadfully, and given you so much pain from the rejection. But things are not always as they seem, and that little girl who has been through the trauma of abuse has so many heartaches that come through in the jealousy. Crazy thing is, 2 little girls are hurt from a similar trauma. The adult paths taken are separate, but the journeys will end in His Home. Amen.

  54. Love this exercise. . . one thing I would tell my teenage self is that life is too short to be consumed by body image and the skinny ideal.

  55. I think I would tell my teenage self to enjoy the friends you have, they will be lifelong treasures. And to look around for opportunities to make new friends because, otherwise, you will be missing out on some pretty great folks.

  56. I would tell her to stop working so hard to make the popular crowd like her. It doesn’t matter then and it doesn’t matter now.

  57. I wish my teenage self knew the God that I know now. I doubted Him back then. I was His, but didn’t have the relationship that we have now. I would tell that girl to seek Him with her whole heart, mind and soul… that He is worth the search…. the search takes time and devotion…. hold nothing back!

  58. I would tell her to embrace who she is as a unique and beautiful individual. I would tell her to stop working so hard to gain approval. I would tell her to do what she loves, not what she thinks she should do to make everyone else love her.

  59. If I could tell my teenage self one thing it would be to NEVER give up on my dreams. EVER.

  60. Dear Teenage Me,

    “You be you.” It’s what your mom keeps telling you. You should listen. She’s totally right.

  61. What a beautiful post! Seriously loved every moment of it.
    If I could tell my teenage self anything, I would just tell her it gets better. It all works out in the end. High school and all the sadness that she had to endure in that time will all go away and be in the past and not much of it will matter even 10 years from that time. I would tell her she has a beautiful life to live for – a beautiful son and happy marriage.

  62. I would tell myself “stop caring what others think of you. “

  63. I’d tell my teenage self to learn to trust without always needing tangible proof. That’s important later.

  64. I’d tell myself that kindness trumps beauty. That there will rarely be regrets that you didn’t spend enough time prettifying yourself, but there will be lasting regrets about times when you failed to be kind.

    And? Appreciate your strong long running legs, and revel in the gorgeous fall afternoons of cross country, because running will hurt and then be impossible in your 40s. Sigh.

  65. Danielle W. says:

    To stay with her parents at the hospital all the months your brother and sister are in the trauma unit. 16 is too young to deal with it on your own. Your parents are overwhelmed too, and need you as much as you need them. While it may be hard to deal with reality now, you will save yourself years of running from it.

  66. I would tell my teenage self it’s okay to not always be okay.

  67. I completely agree with the advice not to rush through life. I don’t think most, if any, teenagers can absorb it but it’s so true.

  68. dear teenage self: ALWAYS stay close to God, no matter what others say or do or how they try to influence you – God is the only One that matters.

  69. I love this post–so sweet and nostalgic.

    I would tell myself that the boyfriend/friend who was in my life for YEARS is just a pipe dream, and there’s no substance there so STOP CHASING IT ALREADY! And also, get some better friends, earlier.

    Sarah M

  70. I would tell her: Don’t worry. You will have a husband one day who will cherish you. Stop looking for boy attention now and concentrate on being a fantastic young woman. God has a great life planned for you.

  71. I would tel my teenage self to stop hating herself, for Pete’s sake 🙂 to trust in who God made her to be.

  72. Thanks for the post, Tsh 🙂 If I could send a note to my teenage self, I would encourage “me” to have more fun. Yes, work hard at grades and continue to give sports 110%.. But go and do more unique and outside-the-box things. It will give you more confidence and help you figure out who God wants you to be.

  73. I would tell her that only Jesus matters. Focus on Him and you won’t always be thinking about these “self” problems.

  74. Rhonda Mangin says:

    I would tell myself to stop being so passive and stand up for what I believe. (In a respectful way, of course)
    Great post, I would love the book!

  75. Being good isn’t everything. Follow your inner desires!

  76. I’d tell my teenage self to take notes, because my 37-year-old self has blocked so much of the teen years out of her head, it’s very difficult to recall that girl anymore. And I’ll need to relate to her again in about 10 years when my own daughter joins the ranks. Heaven help us all. Beautiful post, Tsh.

  77. Too much emotion to say more than just “glad you began writing again.” So gifted and thank you for sharing in this self-aware, but more God-aware way.

  78. ‘Study harder’, ‘don’t start smoking, you don’t look cool doing it’, and ‘use sunblock, not baby oil’ lol

  79. Cheyenne Renard says:

    Dear teenage self. TAke time to fall in love so it can be for a life time together also get a good education and get a good career so u can always take care of your self u wont have to depend on any one if you dont want to .Thank you so much id love to win the new book please pick me Cheyenne of Henderson Nv

  80. I would tell my teenage self that if you need to lie about it, it isn’t worth doing! I would have saved myself a lot of heartache if I’d known that earlier in life.

  81. Dear Me,
    All that dark poetry you’ve been writing in the privacy of your room this year? Well, it will eventually give way to writing “posts” on this thing called a “blog”. And your typed words will have light flooding in around all the open spaces. You won’t be perfect, but you’ll be happy…

  82. Wow. Great post. I would definitely tell myself to be me and not care what others think, to not bow to peer pressure of any kind because most of those things you will regret doing because they were not your choices. They were someone else’s.

  83. I would tell 15 year old me that God will change my life when I’m 18 so what I think I’ll be like at 19 is totally NOT what will happen. And that guy I meet when I am 19, be nicer to him, I married him 7 years later.

  84. wow…this exercept is profound…I did tell my teenage self even parents make mistakes and their choices of words and actions are not always ideal but they are all you have got and that even though it seems tough and miserable as a teen God has not let go of you or your life…wen all else seems to have…

  85. stephanie williams says:

    That your true friends will like you being YOU, not you being them. So wish I learned that sooner rather than later, seems so logical looking back.

  86. I’d tell myself to have more fun and worry less about pleasing others. I’d tell myself not to be ashamed of who God created me to be.

  87. Go do that student exchange program!!! You will love it!! Don’t worry about leaving the boyfriend for a year…he will be there when you get back (or maybe not but either way it will be OK!).

  88. I would tell her that it’s important to maintain true friends who last then spend so much time trying to make boys like her. Friends {sometimes} last forever, & boys rarely do. Although I did marry the boy I loved at 15 when I was 18 ;).

  89. Put simply I would tell myself “don’t lose yourself, your spirit when falling in love. True love is found when you find someone who cherishes you, does not control or hide you. You an amazing beautiful young woman and will find your prince, learn to love yourself first.”

  90. I would tell my teenage self that reality is better than imagination, and to get out there and be with people who are real. They make it all worthwhile and give you memories and experiences. Don’t miss the chances to make some!

  91. Loved your letter! Here’s mine… Dear 15 year old self: Learn about boundaries, stand up for yourself more, go out of your way to be nicer to people, spend more time with your dad. Even though nobody has a computer but YOU, it’s not nerdy… learn to use it. Practice drawing more, ask your mom to give you singing lessons (because she was going to do it, but won’t tell you until you are older and wished you had learned how to sing). Don’t worry about gaining weight. Believe me, you will gain plenty when you go off to college. Enjoy being a skinny, computer, artsy nerd. It will come in handy someday:-)

  92. Relax.

  93. I would tell myself that the world is much larger than high school, that most of the time people are talking and thinking about something else completely, and to always be kind to others.

  94. I. love. this.

    I would tell my 15 year old self that no amount of risk-taking and dare-devilling will fill the empty spaces in your heart.

  95. I LOVE what you wrote about getting over the need to please. That’s definitely what I”d tell my teenaged self… You are NOT what people think of you, you are so much more… Thanks for this! loved it!

  96. My teenage self should be strong – have an opinion, care less about what people think about you. Be a leader, not a follower. And weight just doesn’t matter as much as you think.

  97. Don’t give up your interests for the sake of fitting in. Do the ings you enjoy–you might meet interesting people who love the same things. Trust yourself and your feelings. Spend more time with your family. Don’t obsess over “that boy” and just have fun!

  98. Lauren Nicole says:

    What I would tell my teenage self:
    Stop spending so much time wondering why you don’t get invited to parties and why no boys seem to like you. You are rich in true friends and don’t need those “kids who party” to like you. As for love, your Higher Power has a magical plan for you that you will never see coming. 🙂

  99. I’d like to tell myself to FOCUS on school and not be in such a rush to get married. That guy you want to drop out of college to marry is NOT the one for you and you won’t go back to college to finish your education once you are a single MOM.

  100. Dear Sarah,
    Lean on God when you are scared or hurting. He wants you to. God does’t make mistakes and He made you exactly the way He wanted.
    God has a plan for you. (Try not to screw it up:)
    Love, Sarah

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