"It Will All Be OK": A Letter To My Teenage Self....The Rollercoaster Is Worth The Ride
Early last month, Beyoncé kept it totally 100 in a Vogue spread—another surprise move from the one who invented the art of dropping albums out of nowhere. Her honest vulnerability has touched something in all of us, and being a faithful member of the BeyHive, I am now inspired to do the same with a letter to my past self—an insecure teenager (redundant, much?) who still needs (and deserves) all my love.
You got A LOT of living to do. Right now, you live your life solely for the approval and acceptance of others, and not once have you ever asked whether or not YOU are happy. That is not OK…but also not your fault. I tell you this because you are awfully hard on yourself, and you shouldn’t be. Trust me—the world (really the U.S. and yes, I will throw all the shade I want to at this great and terrible country I love) does and will continue to do a good enough job of making you feel worthless, so you don’t have to. We don’t have to.
I will admit, when I was first approached with the idea of writing this letter to my teenage self, I was thrilled. I thought it would be the ultimate act of self-love, and a way for me to chase away some of the lingering demons from the tumultuous years of my teens. But then—like so many writers have done at the beginning of project—I hit a wall. While juggling about three different jobs (Surprise! You may be a bit on the lazy side now, but it turns out we have some real hustle in us. Who knew?), I struggled for days just jotting down the first sentence. I wanted to take the easy way out. I wanted to give up, but I realized that wouldn’t be fair to you. We’re in a far better place now than anything you can imagine—and I need to pull you up with me.
I—no, WE need you to know that despite everything, it will all be OK. Real talk.
Being The Only Black Girl In A White Town
Alright, we obviously were not the ONLY black girl in the Philadelphia suburbs of Yardley, PA, but it sure seemed like it. We could write for years about the injustice done in marginalizing communities of color in the United States—and not even scratch the surface of the sick, sordid topic. But for us, it can be boiled down to one word: shame. That’s what you feel right now in the deepest parts of your body—though you won’t know exactly what it is until you are much older. Mom was right. She always is btw, so you might want to listen to her more.
But atm, I’m referring to the time you came home crying after yet another day of being tortured by the kids at school (side note: your “friends” are not really your friends). She said that people need to place other people into boxes to know exactly how to fit them in their lives… and we dear, do not fit into any of the stereotypes and preconceived ideas people have of black girls when they look at us. That level of ignorance is their problem, not ours—though it won’t feel that way. Yes, it will make you miserable for the next few years…but life certainly goes on after high school. It may not be a game, but guess what? You win.
Shame, again. In early 2000s white suburbia, your skin isn’t right, and neither is your hair, your size, your clothes or your voice. You heard me—your voice. I’m sure you remember being told by a number of peers that your voice was “annoying.” Or to “be quiet” when they didn’t like what you had to say. You will be told to take up less space, to shrink your mind, body and spirit to pander to the insecure people around you (both kids and adults). But get this—nobody around you back then was happy with who they were or how they looked. You’re not seeing our problems…you’re seeing theirs. Over time, you will start to feel more comfortable in your skin…and I probably shouldn’t tell you this, but in the future, your body will be looking SNATCHED. In the meantime, just try to love yourself a little more. Please?
Social Anxiety & The Summer Of Reading That Will Change Our Life
Don’t be scared, but in college, you will break down. You will be tired of practically killing yourself for the acceptance of others and being met with absolutely nothing. No love. No support. Nothing. After shutting yourself away in your dorm room during spring semester, you will emerge for the summer ready to face your past and get some help.
Returning home, you will be lucky enough to meet a doctor very much like yourself, who will compassionately diagnose you with social anxiety and depression, while using more than conventional counseling techniques to help you let go of the trauma you’re holding onto (the lexapro won’t hurt either). As you will come to believe very strongly, books come across your life at the time it is meant for you to read them and receive their wisdom. During this, is the time you will read Elizabeth Gilbert’s EAT PRAY LOVE, Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, Paulo Cohelo’s The Alchemist, and Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. We will learn many things from these precious literary gems...but the biggest takeaway I can give you now: YOU ARE ENOUGH.
The Death of Loved Ones
You will lose people you care about. That is a fact of life, true enough. But you will lose quite a few in your life—and some of them rather unexpectedly. It will not be simple, or fair. It will teach you about adversity. It will teach you about relationships. It will teach you about strength. It will teach you about loving life…and letting go. When you go through this, just try to remember that everyone you love is with you always.
To New York City & Beyond
Yaaasss, girl—you end up in New York.
Your strong-willed and ambitious spirit takes you there two weeks after graduating college, where you will have an equally (if not more) tumultuous start to your twenties. Crazy roommates, failed relationships, getting laid off from one job and fired from another. Anything you can think of—it will happen. BUT. Today, at 25, we’re just now starting to live our best life. We create things. We learn things. We move on. We actually like—no, love—who we’re becoming.
So, just wait—it gets better.
Cover Via Flickr