If I could go back and tell you something that you would need to know for every year of your life since third grade, you’d probably feel overwhelmed. You wouldn’t understand where I was coming from, what experiences I’d had, what kind of a woman I’d grown up to be. In fact, you’d probably be shocked at who I am today — you never thought you’d ever feel beautiful or be worth the time of day for anybody.
Right now, I am almost 21. Can you believe how fast we’ve grown up, you and I? I sure can’t. If I could go back to when I was that small, shy little eight year old and write something in her yearbook every year until this point, these are the things I would say:
Dear Air Bear,
One day you will realize that people are not what they seem. That girl who sits in class next to you and who you swear walked right off the pages or Roald Dahl’s “Witches”? She will be your good friend. She’ll be there for you, even at those times when you weren’t there for her.
Remember that the best of friends often come from places you don’t expect.
This is the year when you decide you like writing. You won’t think you are good at it and you won’t really know that you are, but one day you will be bent over a computer, changing your major to English, and you will finally know that you have a gift and have had it for a very long time.
Whenever you feel like you have nothing to give, remember that your words can change lives. Stick with it.
At this point you have learned who your true friends are. This is officially the last year of your short-lived popularity. You’re going to hate it. You’re going to go to Middle School and hate yourself because you are not popular and most of those kids won’t give you the time of day because of your glasses or your hair or whatever. But you know what? You’re going to waste a whole bunch of time doing that. You don’t even know how insignificant those things are compared to the things that truly matter. Friendship is more than sitting in exclusive circles with girls who don’t care about other people. Friendship is caring about _everyone. _
Be that friend.
You’re going to love sixth grade, by the way.
**Sixth Grade **
Middle school will be fun for you. It’s Junior High you’ve got to worry about. These are the years when you start closing up to people again. Don’t be afraid of them. Don’t be afraid of change. Change is good and beautiful. Change will make you who you are today. Embrace it.
You are weird and you are a nerd. You like strange things, you’re socially awkward, and to be completely honest, your whole family already thinks you’re a geek. My advice to you is that you should never care. Don’t ever let someone tell you that you’re worthless because you read lots of books or obsess over Harry Potter. Being a nerd is not a bad thing, even though everyone always told you it was. One day, those things will make you stand out brilliantly, and people will love you for them.
**Eighth Grade **
This is the year when you learned how to hate yourself. You learned (or forced yourself to think) that because you don’t know how to do your hair pretty, you’re ugly. Because you don’t have contacts, you’re disgusting. Because the boys you like won’t give you the time of day, you’re a nobody. The girls on the bus made a “Hottest Girls in Benson” list and you were not on it, and because of that, you think you will always be alone and maybe you deserve it. You won’t ever contemplate suicide, but you will spend many, many nights curled up in your bed sobbing. I wish I could hug you right now, tell you it will be okay, but in eighth grade, nobody ever thinks it will be okay. You convinced yourself that you would never be worth it, but you know what? One day you will realize how special you are, and it isn’t because of how you look or how you dress. Did you ever realize how smart you are? Did it ever occur to you that you have literally dozens of talents? You are worth it every single day. I wish you would have learned that earlier.
Dear Lou Lou,
You are amazing. This is the year you kind of start knowing it.
All I have to say to you right now is that those girls who made fun of you on Yearbook Staff when all you wanted was to fit in . . . they were jerks, and you don’t ever deserve that. If I could tell you one thing now, I would tell you to stand up for yourself, because when high school comes around, that’s the one thing you’re going to need more than anything.
Being shy is not the horrible thing that everyone makes it seem, and don’t you dare feel horrible for being shy.
I wish you would have internalized that earlier than you did. Nobody has any right to insult you or make you feel worthless. They’re going to do it. You will hang on to it for years, despite telling those people you’ve forgiven them. You won’t always be able to forget how badly you were hurt, how many nights you went to bed crying because someone told you that you looked awful that day or that your best efforts were lousy.
The next year of your life will consume you for years afterward. You have to let it go. You cannot hang on to it or it will destroy every trusting relationship you have with other people. Next year is going to cause you to not take the risks that were worth it, and when you’re a college kid crying like a baby into your pillow because you were too afraid to be vulnerable for someone who cared, your regret will feel tangible.
Stand up for yourself, let things go, and never ever let the decisions of other people close you off to your potential. You have to be vulnerable. People are going to abuse that vulnerability, but don’t let their abuse give you an excuse to build walls.Oh, I wish you could internalize that now.
**Eleventh Grade **
This year was the worst year you ever had in school. I mean, it was the best year, on one hand. You got to be the editor of the newspaper and you got to take your first AP classes. You started to seriously prepare yourself for college, and you will be rewarded for that in a few short years. But your self-esteem took a big hit. No matter how much it hurts to let the people you love go, it isn’t healthy or safe for you to remain in relationships that push you to depression. Cut the cord early. It’s already late, but cut the cord. People you love and look up to are going to tell you that your opinions are wrong, that your beliefs are wrong, that your actions are wrong, and you’re going to want to change everything for them. That is the worst decision you could possibly make. Step away from them and live your own life.
**Twelfth Grade **
Your plans are going to change entirely in the next few months. Instead of being angry about it, embrace it early. You’ll save yourself lots of days wasted in frustration and sadness. You thought senior year was great, but the next few years are going to be the most amazing of your life. Be vulnerable, be yourself, and relax. You will finally learn who you are.
Freshman Year of College
Sophomore Year of College
**Junior Year of College **
You’re still working on some things. But guess what?
You were worth it.