Lately there’s been a rash of people posting letters to their 16-year-old selves online. “Dear Me, It gets better.” “Dear Me, You will get through this. Don’t worry so much about your weight.” “Dear Me, He’s not right for you. He will destroy your soul and leave you thinking it was your fault. Run.”
While I’m no stranger to navel-gazing (People’s Exhibit A: THIS ENTIRE SITE), I can’t help but feel that the whole “what I would say to my younger self” conceit is, well, pretty useless, for various reasons. I mean, aside from the obvious fact that one cannot literally go back in time and change anything. Even if that were possible, and even in the highly unlikely event that teenage C had the capacity to take any such advice and encouragement to heart and act upon it — what then?
Is there value in considering what would have happened, what might have happened? The only possible utility I can see in such self-indulgent whimsy is cautionary example, but caution is ever wasted on the young. “Learn from my mistakes,” we say to the current generation, which in turn rolls its eyes just as we did.
Write your own letter. Would you have listened to you?
None of your suicide attempts will succeed, nor will they result in any effective mental health care or family support.
The police, the State, the psychiatric hospital, and the group home will do absolutely nothing but make your relatives resent you for embarrassing them.
Your father will never acknowledge that what he did was abuse. Don’t waste years trying to punish him.
Your mother is mentally ill. Don’t base your idea of normal on her.
Your siblings will always see you as the black sheep. Don’t give yourself a lifetime of grief trying to fit in and maintain relations with them.
You are, in actual fact, intelligent and attractive. Don’t believe you have to have sex with everyone who tells you so because no one ever will again.
God loves you unconditionally. Come to him sooner rather than later.
Grownup C with decades of scar tissue.
No one will ever care about your school attendance record. Don’t sweat the demerits.