An Open Letter to My 14-Year-Old Self


Dear 14-year-old Jessica,

After 2 years of pleading, our parents have enrolled you in the public school system, a major change from the past 9 years of homeschooling.  I will not congratulate you on your “victory.” Wearing pajamas all day and sitting around stewing in your own oddities was not a bad life my sweet child. Alas, you insist upon making terrible decisions, and high school will be a living nightmare for you. I will advise you from the “what I know now at 25.75 years old” standpoint.

Your first week of “real” school will feature September 11, 2001, 2nd period Latin will be disrupted by an announcement and utter chaos will ensue. It’ll be a very scary and sad day, it will continue to be scary when you’re an adult. As a side note, please remove the salami sandwhich you brought to school that day from your locker earlier than December.

Unfortunately, the clique of other homeschoolers who would be your friends are all together being homeschooled- gleefully ice skating and going to Six Flags at 11 am on weekdays and you will be fighting a losing battle to fit in. First the popular girls will adopt you but you will ultimately be emotionally trampled due to your spine composed of mini marshmallows, lackluster cheerleading performance, and (this is purely speculative on my part) probably the giant gap between your two front teeth. When everything goes up in flames you will sit alone in the back of your classes and eventually discover the nice people (read: the druggie-slackers). They will be your friends.

They will teach you to use dark brown eyeliner as lipliner. You will look very scary. (On the plus-side you’ll have endless photographs for something in the future called “Throwback Thursday”). They will take you to Asbury Park to have a fake ID made. They explain this can be used to buy cigarettes. You’ll put on red lipstick to look “older” but ultimately the photo will make you look like a weathered hooker named “Sabrina Adler”. You don’t know how to light a lighter on your own and for this reason won’t take up smoking as a habit. Because desperate times call for desperate measures (and make no mistake — these are desperate times), you will keep up the appearance of being an avid and passionate smoker of the tobacco, but you will not inhale (are you supposed to inhale?). You and Bill Clinton have this in common. That joke will be funny to you in college. It could be funny now if you used the internet for something other than browsing Actually, go look it up now. Can you Google yet?

Your new BFFs will take up increasing amounts of your time, but when you ask to go to a co-ed sleepover, our parents will draw the line and cut off ties on your behalf. You will thank them forever or at least until you are 25.75 years old. While there is value to being accepted, I think the greater value is being free to hold onto whatever naive ideas you still have. There is no rush to become hardened towards life. I promise you it will happen on its own. It will be beaten into you against your will.

At the end of Sophmore year, you will become inexplicably and deeply depressed. You’ll decide things will never get better, make our mom cry and stress everyone out beyond recognition. Bed will be where you stay days at a time and every action will be a struggle. You’ll announce that you don’t believe in God and while that won’t be true, deep deep down, it’ll feel good to say at the time. When you decide you’re done living, Mom will eventually stop forcing you to go to school, and let you drop out. Considering you get to complete rock bottom, there wont be another option and the white flag will wave on all sides of the war.

During what would have been Junior year, you’ll work full time at a health food store (the seedy looking one on Rt. 9 across from the Dunkin Donuts). You’ll be the only female employee, with the brief exception of a girl named Ashley who you are fiercely envious of. The rest will be oddly mannered college guys. You won’t learn geometry, the standards of indoor volleyball, or how to sustain the life of a raw egg, but you’ll learn about life — and that you shouldn’t ever ever ask boys what they are watching when they are tightly gathered at work around the computer upstairs or any other place. You’ll learn that older boys in bands are really fun to fall in love with and then you’ll also learn never ever fall in love with older boys in bands. You’ll become a vegetarian and completely fail your SAT’s. These two things are probably not related. The 8 month employment will end when your 83-year-old boss will hide a toothpick under the industrial refrigerator and 1 month later she will hold it in front of your face and demand answers regarding sub-par sweeping. You’ll remember this as a pretty good year.

Senior year you will man up and return to public school. The first day (wearing Birkenstocks and a frayed jean skirt, driving your tan 2001 Sebring convertible and blasting O.A.R), you will feel hopeful. However, much to your disappointment, not much has changed. Someone will actually throw a physical baseball at your car. You’ll start skipping classes again, your grades will fall and you’ll start eating breakfast with the principle once a week to talk about “your future” (or lack thereof).

In December, you start eating lunch alone in the Library which turns out to be a divine appointment. You’ll make actual, real genuine friends with the smart kids and form something called a “Ya-Ya Caucus” (long name: Ya-Ya Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). Although you constantly question whether they actually like you, everything will start to feel ok. You’ll hang out and do friend things like convince college boys to give you their email addresses for your first Facebook pages, have sleepovers and trade Jack Johnson CDs. They’ll be encouraging and you’ll actually graduate with a 1.82, considering your track record everyone will be thrilled. In the next decade, you’ll accomplish and experience more than you can hope for, but graduating High School will still be your proudest achievement. Your diploma will hang proudly next to your B.S., M.S. and M.B.A.

Our Mom will submit the wrong senior picture and you will be immortalized in the yearbook (that you won’t buy) as a frightened chimpmunk. You will be a true slacker, and your name will have no senior quote underneath it. You won’t go to prom, but you’ll blog through the experience- finally using the internet for something useful. You’ll embrace believing in God again and that’s another thing you’ll do right.

Good luck with everything. You will get through it all, I promise. What is down will come up.


You in 11.75 years

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image – TC Flickr