Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Letter to My Thirteen-Year-Old Self

Dear Thirteen-Year-Old Christy,

I first want you to note that this letter is not being written to you with a gel pen. In the future, we have no need for those. This will definitely come as a shock to you considering that your yearbook this year had black cover pages forcing everyone to sign them with metallic ink. Whose idea was that? It was a terrible one.

But I haven't come here to just make fun of your life (though I plan to do plenty of that). That's not really fair. I've come here with some information that I wish I had known when I was your age along with some general life advice. You can take it or leave it, though I'm sure you will leave it because you are thirteen-years-old, and you think you know everything.

1. You will get married and your husband will be super hot. He will be an A+ spouse. You are going to meet him in a few years, and he will laugh at all of your terrible jokes. Here's what you guys will look like when you are sixteen-years-old. And for the record, you basically look the same when you are in your 20s.

2. That being said, chill out on whether boys like you or not. All of the boys in your grade are children. Do you know how I know this? Because YOU are a child. I see thirteen-year-olds walking down the street, and many of them are basically giant toddlers with foul mouths. I know you are rolling your eyes because you think "teen" means adult, but it doesn't. The boys in your life are not men. I tell you the truth: no man worth his salt will ask you out over AOL Instant Messenger or leave you alone at a roller skating rink.

3. You should stop parting your hair down the middle. Part it to the side. Just trust me on this one. You will thank me later.

4. Get some solid female role models. Look, Britney Spears is great. You'll be happy to know she's still around and she has become the queen of the reaction GIFs.

But I daresay there are better women you could look up to at this crucial time in your development. How about Amelia Earhart or Susan B. Anthony? Or have you heard of Tina Fey yet? You will. And it will change everything.

5. Your orthodontist is not lying when he tells you that wearing your retainer is important. Your teeth will experience a kind of continental drift otherwise. You have been warned.

6. Don't give up on math and science. For whatever reason, these skills start to decline around this time in your life. What happened? You used to go to math camp! The truth is you're not alone in this. Across the world, girls tend to outperform boys in these subjects, except for in the United States, Britain, and Canada. It is a gender gap that is largely environmental (here, Christy, read this article). I'll have you know that it is one of my life's biggest bummers that my math and science background is pretty crappy, and I just wish I had been able to remain confident in those areas. Read this book by Danica McKellar (you know her as Winnie Cooper), and keep your chin up.

7. Girl, you should really listen to this episode of This American Life about middle school. Trust me, it will help us both considerably. 

This American Life

Originally aired 10.28.2011

449: Middle School

Act One. Life in the Middle Ages.

In an effort to understand the physical and emotional changes middle school kids experience, Ira speaks with reporter Linda Perlstein, who wrote a book called Not Much Just Chillin' about a year she spent following five middle schoolers. Then we hear from producer Alex Blumberg, who was a middle school teacher in Chicago for four years before getting into radio. Alex's takeaway? We shouldn't even try teaching kids at this age. Marion Strok, principal of a successful Chicago school, disagrees. (6 1/2 minutes)

If you don't want to listen to it right now, that's cool. I know your attention span is limited, so I'll just give you the highlights. Here, Ira Glass talks with Linda Perlstein, an expert on middle schoolers and the author of the book Not Much Just Chillin'.

Linda Perlstein: This is the time of biggest growth for a human being, aside from infancy...During your middle school years, what happens during the early stages of puberty is this fast overproduction of brain cells and connections, far more than you actually need, and only some of them are going to survive puberty. This growth in your frontal cortex -- it peaks at 11 for girls and 12 for boys...and then what happens is the cells just fight it out for survival and the ones that last are the ones you exercise more. 

Ira Glass: In other words, during those years, your brain turns you into you -- the adult you. 

Basically, the things you are learning right now are the things that are going to stay with you forever! That is why, to this day, I still know every single word and vocal run of the Survivor album by Destiny's Child. Thanks for that, thirteen-year-old Christy, but you could totally be out learning five different languages and how to play the guitar and cello. You could be a multi-platinum, pentalingual recording artist by now! Get out there and learn, babe!

8. There is such freedom when you stop caring what people think. For the record, I still haven't really learned this lesson, but I've had my moments...

Unabashed freedom.

9. Later in life, you will regret being a jerk in middle school. I know you are just trying to survive, but there is a way of doing it that doesn't involve taking people down. In a little while, you will be in high school, and a lot of things will be different. You'll be able to chew gum in class, wear flip flops, and you will stop getting detentions for leaving your pencils in your locker. So much about your circumstance will be better, and without those distractions, you'll realize then that the type of survival you were seeking at the age of thirteen was actually totally not worth it. You will meet many people in this life, and every single one of them will have incredible, inherent value. Get in the habit of remembering that.

10. Your imagination is an immeasurably important tool, and you are on the cusp of losing it. I don't know when you stopped pretending that your backyard was a city or that the lady who cut your hair was a witch, but you should get back to that stuff as soon as possible. I know all you want right now are the things that come with adulthood, but I promise you that all I want now are the dreams that come with childhood. All children are given the gift of imagination, a gift that is carefully handed down from God like a collection of colorful helium balloons. If you hold onto imagination, you will fly to amazing places -- places that many people never get to see, places that even grownups should go. If you let go, even accidentally while focusing your attention elsewhere, imagination will leave you, and it will likely never return, and if it does, it will be a deflated version of what it was. Don't let go...even though you want to. Write stories every day and play always. It's the best thing you'll ever do.

That's really it. Again, I know you won't listen to any of this because people a lot wiser than me are telling you the exact same things, and you seriously don't care. Just know that, on some level, you are going to make it. For the record, I've still yet to start that girl group a la The Spice Girls, but give me just a couple more years. 

Take care, you weirdo. 

Future Christy

So that's what I would tell her. What would you say to your thirteen-year-old self? 


  1. haha this is great! I especially love being reminded that you and your hubby are high school sweet hearts. although I must admit, you both totally look exactly the same haha! I wish I could tell my 13 year old self to stop being a jerk and stop paying attention to boys. Scratch that, just stop thinking ~oh my god, searching for love~. because you are the exception not the rule, not many people marry someone they met when they were young! so I don't know why I got so worked up over forming a "loving" relationship when I was just a child.

    1. We are TOTALLY the exception. All these kids need to chill out on romance and focus on math & science! Great advice.

  2. I love this post. All of it is so true.

    1. Thanks! It was actually a healthy exercise for me.

  3. Love this! It's all so perfect! Adding it to my board for the Pinterest Best of the Blogs link up over at my blog.....


    1. Thanks, Gillian! I really appreciate the support. I'll be sure to hop on over to Young Yankee Lady right now!

  4. Christy -- great advice. I would like to write something for my 30-year-old self. We never stop learning -- or messing up -- and then learning the lessons from it.

    1. Bekki, I really do hope you write it! I would love to read it. Thanks so much for your constant support!

  5. SO CRAZY! I just wrote my 13-year-old self a letter this past week! I posted it on misstessamaye.wordpress.com :) Glad I'm not the only one who is sentimental about things like this!

    1. No way! I am heading over to read it right this second!

  6. I knew you when you were thirteen! Oh, that seems like so many years ago, lol. I really enjoy your blog posts,Christy. I read them when they show up in my news feed, and they are always so entertaining. Keep doing what you're doing!

    1. Thank you so much, Amy! I remember you and your beautiful voice quite well.

  7. This is great! There are so many things I would tell my 13 year old self (pay attention in math class! stop wearing so much eyeliner! enjoy your family instead of being embarrassed by them!), but she would never listen. She was pretty obnoxious.


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