I wrote a letter to my 16-year-old self

We’ve all been there–angsty teenage qualms, unsolicited judgment over perfectly fine things, and unending existential dread. Which probably still resides within the current me. It’s true that five years isn’t too long a time, but it’s enough to say I know better. Dear 16-year-old me,

Stop trying too hard.

I know your friends have been showing you the latest and funniest Vines and you do find them funny. It’s just that you refuse to make your own account because you think it’s a waste of time. And that it’s mainstream. For god’s sake, you don’t even have an Instagram account because you find it too superficial and vain. When truth be told, you’re the one superficial and vain because you care about your image too much. “Basic” is the last you thing you want to be called–but basics are essential to life.

Eras come and go, and soon enough, that nostalgia is what will keep people bounded and bonded.

Also, you’re going to regret not participating in 2012 mainstream media in the future. There will be a looot of references you won’t have a clue about. In the end, you’re going to be the one who’s lame. Eras come and go, and soon enough, that nostalgia is what will keep people bounded and bonded. What to do when you’re an alien to your own culture, because your 16-year-old self was pretentious? I’m still trying to figure it out.

Rest easy.

So, 16-year-old self, rest easy. Take a breath and let the rest come easy. HA, your ass would’ve been proud of me for that reference. I mean, I know you don’t listen to All Time Low anymore and you’re denying you ever did. You cannot hide those 5 years of chasing them, and creating stan accounts during our elementary and high school years. Which you deleted btw. The old memes and self-edited Jack Barakaths could have been treasure now. My workmate would have loved it. But oh well.

Going back, you’re so young to let pressure engulf you. Enjoy your youth, because it doesn’t get any chiller. Your 16-year-old complaining ass might think history class is bullshit for having you memorize 50 terms for an exam. If that pisses you off, so many things in the future will, too.

Stop hiding.

You’ve always valued your privacy and individuality, which is why it takes an ample amount of courage for you to open up. However, things get rough but you still refuse to seek help because you’re scared of being judged. Remember, people who stay beneath your history and the burdens the world imposed upon you are worth keeping. Some things are not your fault, some thing you were born with. There’s no shame in being vulnerable.

People who judge you for things you had no control over in the first place are worth leaving behind. The need to impress is shallow, and will only build mediocre relationships. Growing up and facing an unforgiving world, you’ll need a backbone. Start your relationships right—find genuine people, and return the genuinely.

Acknowledge your insecurities.

The first step into overcoming something is admitting within yourself that it’s there. Hence, enumerate your insecurities. Acknowledge their presence because you cannot fight the invisible. So, don’t play blind over the looming shadows but don’t blame yourself for being insecure.

Growing up in a small town where gender norms, unrealistic expectations, and patriarchy are very much present, you are meant to be broken down. However, once you realise this degradation—subtle or not—you’ll also know that there’s no point being hard on yourself. Instead of pressuring yourself to become what society expects you to be—you’ll know best to fight societal norms.

It’s okay to be indecisive.

You’ve taken entrance exams and you ticked the course boxes based on what your parents would have loved. You’re also scared to compromise because you belittle your right to choose. Remember, this is your life and no one else’s. If only you knew what ticking a single box meant—that this would’ve been years of studying something you have no passion for—then you and every 16-year-old could’ve contemplated.

I’m still stuck figuring out the difference between what I really love and what I was made to love.

However, I understand you were made to believe that you’re completely able to decide on what your future will be at such a young age. You’re not even of legal age yet and they want you to be certain on what you’re pursuing or who you will be. To be honest, until now, I still do not know. I’m still fazed by options and career choices. I’m still stuck figuring out the difference between what I really love and what I was made to love.

So you took a path that will “pay the bills.” After two years of struggling to force yourself to learn more things about something you couldn’t care less about, you shifted. Two years for naught but I don’t blame you. You’ve met amazing friends along the way, whose selflessness and sincere concern have become your safe space. Aren’t I the person I am now because of you?

Read also: Honest, unfiltered advice on passion and practicality

There’s no harm in trying.

The world is big and it’s even bigger for a small town girl. Perhaps this is why you always doubted your passions. You stopped writing, drawing, and questioned your opinions out of the fear of being silenced. How can you be silenced if you don’t utter a word in the first place?

People have different stories to tell. No one in Earth’s entirety experienced life the exact same way you did and this goes for everybody. Whether or not people listen is the least of your worries while you’re starting out. You can never get it right the first time. The fact stays that you’re breathing—don’t be scared to test the waters.

Be kind to yourself.

Lastly, be kind to yourself. I know childhood wasn’t perfect nor was high school. But life isn’t going to be, and that’s how it is. Don’t wait for a fairytale ending for you to start seeing light in simple things. Acknowledge your privilege—beauty is in the curtains that shield the blinding morning sun. It is in the bed that encumbers your unconscious body in the dead of the night.

This does not mean, however, that you cannot be sad. It’s precisely that you can be sad, happy, anxious, and scared. But at the end of the day, please remember to be kind to your mind–an advice both the 16-year-old and 21-year-old versions of myself need.

Art by Bryan Sochayseng
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