A Letter to Teenaged Me from Me at 41
Updated: Sep 11
Dear teenage me,
I’m so sorry you didn’t realize your pale skin was perfect. Pictures did not capture this fact, not to my eyes at 16. I wish you'd have known the beauty of your own skin and being in it.
I wish you wouldn't have been embarrassed you couldn't tan. I’m sorry the public pool was uncomfortable for you because of others' jokes.
You're pretty in your own unusual way, although I know you can't see it now. Although some kids and adults tell you you are far too thin, you’re just right. You’re only 98 lbs but that’s because you take after your mother and aunts. Your overbite and that gap in your front teeth? It’s charming.
I’m sorry no one told you it was ok to be you, to have the hair and skin and walk and teeth and voice and thick holler girl accent you do.
Your hair is so black. I know kids made fun, called you a devil worshipper and Beetlejuice. That pitch black hair is beautiful, mostly because it's natural, it's that of your mother‘s and grandmothers' and aunts', another trait they passed down to mark you as one of their own kind, possessing their same strength, their all-too-human weaknesses, and your stubbornness. By the way, the stubbornness will serve you well later in life, but not always.
I'm telling you now, since no one else did, that being a writer is going to become more difficult the older you get, but also more meaningful and more necessary to your survival.
Even with all that going for you, you're not going to figure things out one day. There's no ship coming in or a true love ready to wisk you away to your "real" life, not at 15, 25, not at 35.
You are beautiful and raw and strange, a 15-year-old waif-like lgirl-child, curious, insecure, with rough edges. You may be short and stringy but you were born with a love (and a knack) for stringing together shiny words.
My final words to you: it's all going to be alright even when it isn‘t. You will live. Even after each harmful person, each illness, every failure, car accident, every death, every new apartment and broken heart. You must like yourself as much as I do. See yourself, even though they don't. I know it's too late for you to hear me.
Is it too late for you to hear me? Are you listening? Listen, I will always be here for you. I accept you. I love you, overbite and all. String-bean bodied, black-headed little holler girl. Love yourself right now, because once you finally learn how, you’ll be the happiest you’ve ever been and strong, no matter who or what changes in your life.
Signed, 41-year-old Me
PICTURED: Me at 16 with my oldest niece, Taryn Conn, and sister-in-law Kelly.
Below: Me at 41. Finally confident. Ready to mother and protect inner-child Andi, the one you needed. I’m here now.