FRIDAY OPEN THREAD: Dear 15-Year-Old Me

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Hello tender dragons,

It’s just about that time when the year is coming to an end. If you’re like me, the end of the year always comes fast and hard. It is fall and the leaves are turning and then all of a sudden it’s holiday time and then without blinking I’m on the precipice of a new year. If you’re like me, you are drawn to reflect on your years past and your years ahead as you hurtle towards 2016. What can you not believe you accomplished in 2015? What do you wish you’d had more time for? What are your aspirations for 2016? Where will you be a year from now?

But this isn’t about New Year’s resolutions or annual planning. It’s about reaching back, into your past, and reflecting on the things you knew then and the things you know now. This month, I wrapped up some projects at my day job and I finally finished grad school at 32 years old and I quit one of my side jobs and I ended service to one of the nonprofit boards for which I volunteer. It feels like many adventures are ending and new adventures are just around the corner. I spent some time thinking about where I’d be in 15 years, which made me think about where I was 15 years ago. 15 years in the future is so far that I can’t really wrap my arms around it yet. 15 years ago is a version of me I know well. It’s a little cliché, but I decided to write a little note to my 15-year-old self. I think it made me feel better about my future self and embracing the great unknown. I’m gonna’ share it with you. I hope you’ll share your notes to your 15-year-old self with me!

kaelyn15 2

Hello amazing human,

There’s a lot I want to tell you about your future, because it is pretty good. Actually, there’s good and bad. It doesn’t all get better. That’s some bullshit, but you really tap into that strength that’s already in you. As you get older, you just get more and more sure of yourself and that feels damn good. There’s a lot we could talk about, but here’s the main things:

  1. Take care of those cozy sweatpants, the grey fleece ones. Don’t you dare give them away. They are magic and they will take you through high school and college and after-college. In fact, you will still have them at 32 and they are still the softest except they got kind of ragged, so we cut them into short shorts.
  2. Put on a bikini. Sweet jesus, you are spending so much time hating your body and not enough time wearing bikinis. You know what’s funny? You’re going to gain almost 80 pounds between now and 15 years later and you are going to love yourself so much more then than you do right now. I know that sounds impossible to you, but it’s true! You’re going to love your stretch marks and your tummy and your gorgeous legs that get you where you need to go. You’re going to wear tank tops without covering your arms. You’re going to wear crop tops. If I were you, and I am, I’d go get a bikini right now and not one of those sporty ones. The cute ones you think you don’t deserve.
  3. kaelyn15 3

  4. Spend more time with your Ama. You aren’t going to have her as long as you think.
  5. Don’t do the Slim Fast diet. It tastes like chalk and you are going to gain the weight right back and also, you don’t need to diet. You’re going to think I’ve lost my mind for saying this, but you are so beautiful just the way you are. You’re going to look back on pictures of yourself and wonder how you ever thought you were ugly and fat. Then, laugh again because you thought being fat was the same as being ugly. How silly. You’re going to realize that’s the patriarchy talking and you’re gonna buy bigger pants and eat what you want and it’s going to taste so good.
  6. Butch women exist. Find some. It’ll blow your mind in the best way.
  7. kaelyn

  8. You don’t have to be a good girl. You also don’t have to let boys kiss you just because you they want to. It’s OK to let go. It’s OK to be sexual. It’s also OK to say, “No,” and mean it.
  9. Gay marriage is totally legal now. Ellen is, like, the least controversial lesbian in the world — straight housewives love her! Bet you didn’t see that coming!
  10. kaelyn15

  11. You can have short hair. I know that hairstylist said you couldn’t because of your round face, but he’s wrong. Cut it all off, is what I’m saying. Maybe it will save you from that Jennifer Aniston bob you’ll be sporting next year.
  12. Being Korean is not going to feel right for a long time. It’s OK. That internalized racism took a long time to build up. It’ll take a long time to undo. But one day you’re going to love being Korean, so much that you want to pass it on to your future kids. You will love your round, high cheekbones and your monolids that are perfect for cat eye liner and your thick black hair that won’t hold curl.
  13. Yes, yes, your boobs do get bigger.

So, darlings, what would you say to your 15-year-old self, if you could talk to them right now? What else is going on in your life? Are you excited for the New Year? Are you celebrating the holigays? Are you binging Transparent? What’s on your mind as we speed towards 2016? Tell me about it!


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KaeLyn is a 37-year-old (femme)nist activist, word nerd, and queer mama. You can typically find her binge-watching TV, standing somewhere with a mic or a sign in her hand, over-caffeinating herself, or just generally doing too many things at once. She lives in Rochester, NY with her spouse, a baby T. rex, a xenophobic cat, and a rascally rabbit. You can buy her debut book, Girls Resist! A Guide to Activism, Leadership, and Starting a Revolution if you want to, if you feel like it, if that's a thing that interests you or whatever.

KaeLyn has written 222 articles for us.

312 Comments

  1. Wow this is powerful stuff (and those pictures of you are awesome).

    I would tell 15 year old me “Hey those feelings you have for women aren’t all friendship feelings and they’re totally awesome, go explore them!”. I would tell myself to stop hating my mom because she didn’t deserve ANY of the crap I put her through as an ungrateful teenager. Basically I would hold my hand through the bulimia and body image issues and having zero friend and tell myself that I’d grow up to be pretty awesome.
    Also I would tell 15 year old me to stop hanging out with these “friends” that spend their time making you feel like crap. You don’t need them ! Being alone is better than being with negative people!

    In other news, I’m going home in 48 hours for the holidays ! Can’t wait ! I found a present for everyone that I’m really happy with (I put a LOT of effort this year and it changed my attitude from “I hate giving/receiving presents” to “I can’t wait for them to open it!”). I’ve downloaded printable gift tags and I’m going to do pretty wrapping, etc. :D

    ALSO ALSO THIS JUST HAPPENED FOR THE FIRST TIME : I met a wonderful woman at the office christmas party and she told me about her slam poetry and her thesis on gender and online businesses and I thought she was awesome and thought “please be queer please be queer”. I asked if she had a blog and she gave me the info…I ran home and listened to some of her stuff / looked at her posts and YESSS SHE’S QUEER. Now I want to make friends with her ! Another queer person in the school !!! (Also I want to find out if she’s single but it’s ok if she’s not because YAY queer people!).

    • Also the “looking back” theme is a great coincidence: today marks the one year anniversary of my thesis defense (and me officially becoming a PhD), so I was telling my mom how looking back at the past year was so great, because so many things have changed and I’ve grown so much and isn’t it awesome ? And then she said “yeah it doesn’t get better as you age though”. Well damn.

      But anyway, happy birthday diploma !

      • Oh, boi. I hope your mama is wrong. I feel like it definitely gets better with age! Better in many ways. I guess worse in other ways, like your body falling apart with every passing day. LOL.

        It is amazing how much changes in just a few years. I hope you get to make special queer friends with your colleague! I feel like she was dropping hints with the slam poetry and gender theory stuff. Good luck! I love new friend crushes!

        And big hugs to your 15 year old self, from mine! We were horrible to our parents, weren’t we? Sorry, parents!

  2. Very powerful messages here, KaeLyn. I actually found some pictures of myself when I was 12 or 13 years old, and… wow. At that time, I thought I was disgusting, obese, ugly, and unlovable. What I see now is a kid who was attractive in her own right, and who had a lot more to give than she gave herself credit for.

    What would I tell 15-year-old me?

    1. You are good enough. Be proud.
    2. You don’t have to date boys just to make your parents happy. Your mother will die spewing hatred for you, and your father loves you just the way you are.
    3. Write. Write hard. Write often. And share what you’ve written with one of those online writing groups you’re always lurking in. You’re going to be a novelist one day!
    4. Cheating is a way that your partners show you what THEIR inadequacies and problems are. It doesn’t reflect on you.
    5. Love yourself!

  3. “1. Spend more time with your Ama. You aren’t going to have her as long as you think. – This. Most definitely this. My gran passed away when I was 17 and it still hurts.I often wonder if she’d be proud of the woman I’ve become. My heart says, Yes.

    ALSO – you guys. The movie “Carol” leaked. Also, also, NEW PJ HARVEY album news – to be released next spring! So glad I made the decision to work from home today.

    • <3 <3 to you, JP. I lost my grandma to Alzheimer’s around that age, too, and though she didn’t pass for several years, she lost her ability to recognize us and to connect with us. I also wonder if my Ama would be proud of me. I think she would. I think she would have loved me, no matter what.

      I saw that Carol leaked! Planning to cry-watch it tonight!

    • OMG THANK YOU FOR TELLING ME I JUST WATCHED CAROL AND NOW I CAN’T BREATHE WHAT IS LIFE WHAT DO I DO WITH MYSELF NOW.

      I haven’t felt like this watching a movie in so long. It felt like falling in love, with your heart racing the whole time and your stomach in knots and being out of breath and ecstatic at the same time. OMG I can’t wait to go see it in the theater now.

  4. Dear 15-year-old Me:

    1. When you come out to Mom in two years, you don’t need to be afraid. She doesn’t know how to handle it, but our parents are the best and they will never, ever reject you. Also maybe don’t tell her in a moving vehicle and then exit that vehicle like you’re James Bond doing a damn barrel roll.

    2. I know you’re deeply, passionately, unrequitedly in love with your best friend, and that she’s gay too so it oughta work out… but it won’t. No, not because she’s going to marry her current girlfriend and leave you all alone. It’s because she’s mean-spirited and selfish and you just haven’t realized it yet.

    3. Kid, you’re on the autism spectrum. You know how you’ve always watched TV specials about kids with autism and Asperger syndrome and related to them? You’re one of them. You don’t know this, and your so-called best friend doesn’t know this, but she is cruel and she will tell you to kill yourself just because she’s annoyed with your chatter and this moment wounds you so deeply that you will still feel it ten years later.

    4. Back to your best friend and her girlfriend… you see that girlfriend? Your good friend who you feel like you can tell anything to, who always seems to know what to say to make you feel better? Take care of her. Listen to her. Support her. She is the best person you will ever know. Unless you’re way smarter than me, she’ll break your heart once, so thoroughly you’re sure you will never put it back together. But you will put it back together, and she will help… and you’ll spend the next five years holding the pieces of each other’s hearts in place. Don’t let go, do you hear me? Keep her heart safe. Yours is strong, and it can handle it.

    5. I know the Prequel Trilogy has you totally bummed out about Star Wars, but don’t worry. You’ll discover the EU in a few years and get sucked in. Don’t stress about reading everything, though, they’ll declare it non-canon soon. Just enjoy it for what it is. But that’s okay, because on December 17th, 2015, you’re going to sit down to watch Star Wars Episode VII, and your mind is going to be blown. You’re going to cry. You’re going to want to pay to see it again. And you are going to fall head over heels in love with the main character. Like, you’re going to be sitting at work the next day sighing and wishing your favorite time-wasting website wasn’t blocked so you can see if there’s any fanart of her being amazing.

    6. Go check out some roller derby while you’re at college.

    • I loved all of this. And I was right there with you when it comes to teenage friendships and the way they can absolutely devastate you. <3

      I haven’t seen the new SW movie yet. I kinda’ got burned by the last few prequels, but everyone seems to be saying it is AMAZE-BALLS so I guess I have to see it!

      • It’s crazy how it lingers. I saw her once maybe two years ago across a busy street in a Boston. The rage and pain that boiled up on the spot caught me by surprise. I had to go home and rant for a while.

        Yeah, I went in hoping it would just be better than the prequels and walked out in love with it and with Rey. I personally put it third, above all of the prequels and Return of the Jedi. I didn’t expect to like it more than any of the originals. But I’ve also never really liked RotJ so YMMV. But if you like Star Wars at all I think it’s worth watching!

  5. Dear 15 Year-Old Rachel,

    It’s going to get worse. A lot worse. But then it’s going to get a lot better. But first it’s going to get worse. You’re going to plummet down a rabbit hole of anxiety and depression, and you’re going to think there’s no way out. You’re going to spend the next year having horrible panic attacks, but you will survive them all. It’s going to be hell. You’ll want to end it all, but you’ll find the strength inside to push through. Mom is going to be scared to death, and she’ll say some things that are hurtful, but she’s doing it out of love and fear.

    The next 5 years of your life will be really difficult, but you’ll defy some pretty incredible odds. Then the 5 years after that, you’ll do some more remarkable things. You’ll stop having full blown panic attacks. You’ll move to New York City. You’ll get a Master’s degree. You’ll be a theatre professional. You’ll get a dog.

    In ten years, you’ll still be hurting from your current pain. You’ll still be struggling with your body image/weight. You’ll still be single. You’ll still feel lonely. But you’ll be oh so much happier and healthier.

    Please don’t give up. Living might seem like an impossible task, but I promise that it’s worth it. You’re so strong. <3

  6. This is a great question for an open thread! I spend a lot of time thinking about this. Actually, I spend a lot of time thinking about time travel in general, and how to explain the Internet to people from the Middle Ages, and which scientists I would take time travelers to for help with explaining modern society, and whether I should be developing relationships now with an assortment of scientists so that they get to know me and would immediately understand that if I bring them a time traveler, this is the real deal. But that’s a topic for another day.

    Were I to travel in time and deliver a message to Young Kadry, I’m pretty sure she would believe future me was sent by the devil to lead her off the One True Path™. I think my only hope would be in extreme vagueness. So I would say something like, “You aren’t always going to feel the way you feel now. The more you question the things you feel completely certain about, the more you will understand why you have always been so unhappy. Adult Kadry will be the kind of person it seems impossible for you to be.” Then I would wink and disappear in a puff of smoke.

    Speaking of being the person you’ve always wanted to be, Adult Kadry is finally coming to terms with the fact that, as much as I want one, I just don’t have a brain that understands multiple languages well. I have always had mad envy towards bilingual (or more) people. But right now I’m living in Spain, taking Spanish classes every day, and surrounded by people who speak almost no English…and my Spanish skills are still plodding along at the same rate as those of an occasional Dora the Explorer viewer. It’s so frustrating to watch all these other people sprinting past me towards my goal. Forget 15 year old me; 29 year old me needs a visit from 2017 Kadry to remind me that someday, I will at least be perceptibly closer to leaving the land of the monolingual.

    • This is so wonderful and I read it and then I imagined you with that beautiful smile from your picture and I broke out in a huge grin too <3. I'm happy for you!
      And give yourself some slack about the languages :) The fact that you seem to be trying so hard is already incredible. I've met quite a few expats who never really bothered to try after years and years of leaving abroad…

    • Oh my. This made me giggle, imagining you poofing into young Kadry’s life like the tooth fairy and then disappearing in a glittery mist. Young Kadry would be so stunned, but she’d probably never forget it. Maybe after some time passed, she’d convince herself it was a dream. But then when she got to your current age, having discovered the secrets of time travel, she’d be the one traveling back through time, and it would all come flooding back. She’d realize she has to deliver the message or disrupt the space-time continuum forever. And so it will go on forever and ever, just delivering sage and kind words to your younger self for all eternity!

      I suck at languages. I took 8 years of German and still can’t speak it. It’s OK if it’s just not something your brain is good at. My sister speaks English and Spanish fluently and it’s pretty amazing.

    • Your answer traveled through both time and space visa most scientific means to bring happiness to all of us!

      You already learned a new language in a few years, a while back – you can do it again. Don’t worry about how you SHOULD learn, find your way. What makes you happy – music, graphic novels, online posting, movies?? When you are enjoying the learning process, I find it’s so much easier! I personally love music for learning (music is apparently stored in the brain in such a way that it’s one of the easiest things to remember), as well as graphic novels – they have conversation, pictures that help, and everyday language!
      Good luck/buena suerte – and I hope you find your way to enjoy the loveliness that is Spanish.

  7. Wow. This is hard. The most important piece of information that I could give to 15-yo me — that I was/am a trans girl — wouldn’t have been of any help, or even make much sense, in late-70s Utah. But there’s a few other things I could say:

    1. Sweet child, it really is going to be OK in the long run. There will be times — and right now is one of them — when it’s going to be really hard. But it really will gradually and eventually get better.

    2. You are not broken or less-than or ugly. You have a beautiful heart. Listen to the people who are trying to tell you this.

    3. I know it seems like a romantic connection with someone is the most important thing in the world, and you’re worried that you’ll never have that. Well, you will. It won’t be as easy or as frequent for you as it seems to be for a lot of other people, but it will happen. More importantly, you should know that what you’re looking for in other people is something that you’ll one day find inside yourself. And it will be amazing when that happens.

    4. Again: sweet, dear child, it is going to be OK.

    • Also: it occurred to me just now that all of those things are things that I still need to be telling myself. (Except the part about how “right now is one” of those times when things will be really hard. Right now (2015) is actually pretty awesome.

      Speaking of right now: I spent the whole Friday with my kid, who turns 19 tomorrow, and also flies 900 miles away to spend the holidays with my ex. We got mani/pedis together, had lunch, watched the new Star Wars (awesome!), had dinner. Now we’re back home, the Kid is packing, and I’m about to watch another episode of Jessica Jones. It’s been a really sweet day. I like my kid, I like spending time together. And yes, I try to tell my kid some of the same things I would have told my younger self, especially the part about having a beautiful heart.

    • Oh! You just got the tears going again!

      I wasn’t having a particularly emotional day, actually a really awesome day making art and feeling calm and happy. But all feels coming through all thelse open hearts.

      xx

  8. I’m 15. Welp this is awkward. Haha Seriously though reading this post along with all of the comments was so heart warming and reassuring. God I love Autostraddle. Happy holidays to my virtual family. Thanks for being here for me when my real life family isn’t. I’m glad I have a support network. Ok I’m rambling, bye.

    • Haha! You could write a letter to your 0 year old self, in the womb!

      Seriously, though, I thought about this as I was writing it and wondered if any of our wonderful readers would be like, “But I’m 15 now!” And I’m so glad you are here! Hugs! We are so here for you!

      And feel free to drop some 15-year-old wisdom. There are some things I’m sure I knew then that I’ve forgotten now!

    • You are important and wonderful and you deserve good things and please don’t let anyone convince you otherwise. And I feel you about family not being there and believe me once you go to college you can make a family. You’re going to be great (Sorry I just have this weird urge to mother anyone younger than me)

    • Dear 15 year old me
      1. Fight me. Nah I’m kidding (mostly cause I could totally take you and that would be unfair and also might create a paradox)
      2. You are going to stop liking anime and Sherlock and Doctor Who very soon so maybe…maybe don’t be so obnoxious about it ok?
      3. When you come out to your parents they won’t kick you out of the house but they also won’t be all that great about it. That’s okay though cause your friends and teachers and everyone who matters will be.
      4. Just get that haircut. Just DO IT. You will not regret it. You can totally pull off short hair and you will save a fortune on hair products. Trust me.
      5. Take good care of that black trench coat, you’ll still be wearing it in college.
      6. Consider bow ties.
      7. I know alcohol makes mom and dad easier to deal with but it will fuck you up. Be careful.
      8. Audition for that play. Just trust me. It’s worth it.
      9. It’s going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better but when it gets better it gets amazing so stay alive.
      10. You are a lot more queer than you could ever imagine.
      11. Male and female are not your only gender options.
      12. Answer when Sebastian calls, even if you only have time to say “I love you but I gotta run”. Just answer. Don’t ignore the call and tell him you’ll call him back later because someday there won’t be a later.
      13. Your dad is less of an asshole than you think.
      14. You’re going to get aggressively Jewish and you’re going to love it.
      15. Knitting is an amazing coping mechanism. Be safe.
      I love you even if no one else does.
      -Ari (that’s who you are in 3 years)

      Also I am done with finals and not looking forward to a month with my parents (I called them out on the aforementioned shitty reaction to me being queer last week and it just made everything worse)

      • This is lovely, Ari, full of heart and wisdom and some sad, but important truth. When I went home on college breaks and things were less than optimal with my family or just…tense/weird…I tried to spend as much time out of the house as possible by working at the McDonald’s I worked at in high school or going out. I don’t know if there are ways for you to get out of the house, but it helps. Even just finding a quiet place to sit and read or have a cup of warm beverage for a few hours.

  9. Dear 15-year old me,

    I know you’re trying. Thanks for being you, because without you, I wouldn’t be where I am now, who I am now, and who I am becoming. And I’m pretty excited about what’s next, even though I don’t know what it will be. And I know it’s going to be as hard to get to 45 as it was to get to 30. (Psst, 45 yr-old me, any hints???)
    You’re going to learn a lot, change a lot, and for a while be very angry with how you were. Let that blame go. Let the regrets go. I promise you that I’m trying to do those things now. Thanks for being the foundation that enables me to do that.
    And thanks for being brave enough to talk to the girl in art class. You don’t know it now, and you’re going to feel like it went nowhere, but I hang onto those few, nothing moments as a profoundly important seed of our present self. Here’s hoping it blooms beautiful and bright in our future. Scratch that – I promise you that I will do my best to make sure it does.
    I owe you that.

    Lighter news…trying to find queer new year’s stuff in the southeast US to start making plans. Not going well :/

    • Queer new year’s stuff. Hmm. Do you have a gay bar anywhere near you within a driveable distance? Otherwise I’d suggest inviting your best gal pals over and making your own queer new year’s stuff!

      I hope 45 year old me writes me a letter. I could really use it right now!

  10. Oh wow 15
    Hey, I’ve been feeling just a fraction of the depression you have right now and it’s knocking me down. How do you do it? How have you done that for so long and been able to keep going? I know you are getting better and your starting to figure out who you are. I think in about a year or so you are going to discover this website Autostraddle that will change your live and lead you to so many new people and possibilities. Take about three weeks to read all of their archives and then continue to check for new articles multiple times a day, that habit isn’t going anywhere it’s here to stay buddy. A lot of stuff doesn’t get better. You will be able to walk away though, you’ll find new places and people that want to protect you and be there for you. The first Thanksgiving you aren’t at home is going to be the best Thanksgiving ever.
    Oh most important, stop using those topical steroids for your eczema right now. Its destroying your skin more, use natural things and go to a naturopath now to save a lot of pain and crying when you are older. You may be able to save yourself a lot of years of itching. Also please don’t cut your own hair, I know we had that traumatic experience in 1st grade at the barber, but please when you start exploring your gender expression GO TO A BARBER! You are not a hairstylist in the least and I know you feel weird about your hair but you’ll only make it worse.
    I love you, you don’t really love yourself right now, but I’ll love the both of us enough for you. I think you are able to hold all that depression and heartache because you know someday you’ll be free-er. You are right. (Your first kiss isn’t happening for a long time and your first relationship still hasn’t happened. So calm the fuck down.)

  11. Dear 15 year old me,

    Oh little me, there are some things I would love for you to know:

    1) When you come out in a few short months, it’s going to be intense. You will go through the mess of it and will come out on top. Though at the time it won’t feel like it.

    2) You are beautiful. You are not fat. Believe me, in 13 years you’ll gain almost 80 lbs. Love your body. Keep in shape, but don’t obsess over it.

    3) Create, paint, take more photos, and draw. Create to live and live to create.
    4) Spend more time with Dad, take him up on the offers of watching a movie, take him up on the offers of running Saturday morning errands, listen to his stories (and take them to heart). He isn’t going to be around forever, relish in the time you get with him. He’ll be gone sooner than you think…
    5) The drama of high school doesn’t matter.
    6) No matter how much you try, she won’t fall in love with you. She’s your best friend, it will be nothing more and that’s ok.
    7) Stand up for yourself, stand up for what you believe in, it’s ok to have your own opinions and feelings. Also, boundaries, set them.

    You got this, kid. Life turns out to be pretty great. You have people who love you, a place of your own, a car (that you LOVE), and a pretty decent job.

  12. Okay kaelyn I am actually weeping this is so profound and so powerful,thank you.
    Even though it was only 3 years ago, here are some things I would tell 15 year old me:
    1. You’re gay. But don’t sleep with Charlotte when she tells you she is too.
    2. It may feel lonely right now, but soon you’re going to go to university and you’re going to meet loads of wonderful people, and you’re going to find your people.
    3. Stop hurting yourself, you’re worth more than that I promise.

  13. Dear 15 year old baby me,

    1. I love you!!! You are a good person. The next five years are going to make you question that but don’t be scared to take a deep breath and know that you are gonna love yourself so much, and you are going to find your way with kindness. You are starting to become aware of the fact that you have a mean streak. Don’t bury it. Don’t ignore it. Be honest with it, accept it, and do the work on yourself that you need to do so you don’t hurt the people you love. You will still hurt people sometimes. You’re still a good person.

    2. You’re queer!!!!!! So queer!!!!!! You know this somewhere deep down inside you but being bisexual is hard because you can fuck boys and never think about it. Kiss your best friend. She wants to, you want to, dump your boyfriend and kiss her.

    3. You have an anxiety disorder little babe! I know the fact that you’re crazy is scary and you’re going to spend a long time hiding it from yourself and others, but the sooner you accept it the easier it will be to deal with it. Being scared and tender and delicate is so much better than not feeling anything at all. Trust me.

    4. You’re going to get a lot fatter and a lot cooler and a lot hotter. I know it seems like those cant all be true but they are! You’re going to LOVE how you look. (And so is your ridiculously cool, interesting, gorgeous girlfriend!!!!)

    5. Falling in love is not the be-all end-all. I know you don’t believe me. But learning to love yourself is going to be the adventure you’re looking for.

  14. Oh wow things were so so different. I was very closeted, very naive, very conservative. My social realm was filled with nice people but also closed minded peers, fundamentalist Christians. My anxiety disorder was undiagnosed. My eating disorder was just beginning. I was mostly happy, though I look back and barely recognize that person.

    There are a few things that are still the same though. I’m still close to my family, even closer than I used to be, though I’ve removed myself from all my peers from that time. I’m still a nature-loving, kind-hearted, easily-stressed perfectionist. But other than that, things seem very different.

    I’d tell myself to enjoy college more, not to stress so much about grades, not to be so narrow in my focus, but I don’t know if I’d listen.

    I’d tell myself to see a doctor about some of my psychological demons before they get worse and more deeply engrained.

    I’d tell myself that the world is bigger and more amazing and more complex and confusing than I can begin to understand.

    I’d tell myself to ENJOY my bill-free and rent-free and loan-free years!

    Anyway…
    I’ve kinda neglected the FOT lately. I’ve been busy with work and grad school applications and hikes in the rain.

    Here’s a photo of my cat staying warm because I want to share it:

    This is her new favorite place to sit:

    (she’s not quite as fat as she looks because her fur is fluffed up)

    ON A RELATED NOTE! Seattle’s first cat café is officially opening! Finally! After an undecided opening date for the past year. Seattle straddlers, does anybody want to plan a meetup there?

    http://www.komonews.com/seattlerefined/lifestyle/Photos-Seattles-cat-cafe-finally-opens-its-doors-in-Wallingford-362487281.html

    I finished submitting my grad school applications on Dec 7th, so that’s exciting! I’m applying for masters programs in oceanography. I’m nervous, worried about a million little things, but I’m also really excited. I’m ready to get back to the environment of research and learning.

    I saw a lights display in a local park/garden last Sunday. It had mostly floral-themed light displays, but also an underwater jellyfish scene (see photo). It dumped rain on us and there were constantly umbrellas colliding on the path.

    My favorite holiday decorations involve the ocean, of course!

    I’m headed to a Seattle Straddler meetup on Sunday, so that should be fun!

    Queer literature:

    Thanks to autostraddle’s recent top 10 thread, I started “Paying Guests” (one of the “honorable mentions” by Sarah Waters). I’m normally more of a non-fiction person, but I’m enjoying it. I like her literary style, though at times I find it moves little slow, IMHO. Still I think it’s worth reading. On a non-fiction note, I’ve been working through “The Gay Revolution” by lesbian historian Lillian Faderman. I was hesitant to start it at first because it’s over 800 pages, but it’s really good so far – very engaging to read, not boring at all, despite its formative size. It’s an account of LGBT history (at least in the US) – I feel like this is such an important aspect of history that I’m not very well-informed about. Some of the stuff is really eye-opening – thinking about society was like just 50 years ago, not just with the treatment of LGBT people of course but also racial minorities and women. Sometimes I forget how far we’ve come. There’s still discrimination and oppression, but I think we’re making huge progress, and it’s heartening.

    Nothing much else is new. Here are some outdoors-y photos since I haven’t posted them in a while. It’s actually been pretty rainy here over the past few weeks, though my photos may imply otherwise.

    Alki beach (southern side of alki point, late afternoon).

    Yellow leaves and Pacific Madrones at Point Defiance

    Rainbow over Vashon Island

    Sunset over Chambers Bay

  15. Dear 15 y.o me,

    1. You will be dapper and know how to dress yourself for any situation. In fact youll grow to not wear jeans all the time

    2. When you come out..your parents..sister, bro in law..nieces..they’ll all accept you. So wholeheartedly you will cry.

    3. Losing her isnt the end of the world. In fact you’ll be engaged to the love of your life. And remember when she told you you will never find someone like her? Shes wrong because you found someone even better than her 100x. So dont y9u ever kneel again to beg her back.

    4. You will still be the biggest child and love All the Pixar movies.

    5. SNAPE KILLED DUMBLEDORE

  16. Dear 15 year old me.

    1. Stop inviting him over after school. He’s not your friend but if you don’t listen then know that what he does to you is not your fault. Tell someone. Get help. Don’t get caught in a self destructive spiral.

    2. Take school seriously! When you are my age you will actually like learning and regret all the goofing around and skipping class to smoke pot with Anna and Ashley.

    3. Don’t listen to Sara’s B.S. you won’t look like a freak of woman because your shoulders are slightly broader than most women’s. You aren’t going to hell and someone will love you. She isn’t your friend either.

    4. Spend more time with Rhanda. You were wrong to stop hanging out with her when you started caring about what people think. She was the truest friend you ever had. It is your fault for ruining that friendship and you will regret it forever.

  17. I am also really feeling that things-ending-and-new-things-beginning way right now. I just moved to a new town and I’m getting ready to go to a new college and I’m a little nervous but mostly really excited!

    My 15 yo self would be so blown away by basically anything I told her about my life now I think, I’d have to be gentle with her! I’d tell her to work harder in school, because someday she will want to go college and will really wish she had done better in high school. And the not-hating-your-body thing is too real! I was considerably thinner at 15 (and I’m not really especially fat now) but I really thought I was fat and ugly and I didn’t wear things I wanted to bc of it. I look at old pictures now and just don’t know what I was thinking.

    And on an unrelated note: I just found out that Laverne Cox and Angela Davis are both coming to my school next semester!!! I am so excited!!!

  18. you were so sweet!

    I went to a queer burlesque + drag holiday show last night that was super fun, and it’s been a pretty easy/pleasant week. I read Dirty River by Leah Lakshmi-Piepzna and one of those in the triology by Sarah McCarry and most of that book about emotionally focused therapy Hold Me Tight, yay reading!

    Today my girlfriend is working from home and I like her a lot but she is eating grapefruit super loudly next to me and I want to be like love of my heart please do that somewhere, anywhere else in the house but it is also only half a grapefruit, it will be over soon.

    oh, my 15 year old self! I have a lot of affection for my 15 year old self. Here is what I wished somebody had said to me:

    1) People think you are tough and unafraid because you act that way all the time. It’s okay if you’re scared too.

    2) It’s not your job to take care of everybody. You are smart and funny and you have lots of qualities, and your friends are many needy weird girls. Weird girls are magic, and you will spend your life with the tender edges of weird girls and wanting to help them heal, but that is not your sole and primary function on this earth.

    3) Your family doesn’t get it. They love you though. Years later, when your parents get divorced, and your family rearranges itself, they will have more space to try to understand you. Right now, though, they aren’t going to be able to help you explain you to you. I’m sorry about that.

    4) Take a dance class. Maybe you’re awkward, but you’re also 15. Now is a really good time to practice being bad at stuff.

    5) Your body is fine.

    6) If you twist your hair when it’s wet into spirals, it will curl beautifully.

    7) Keep reading!

    8) You will find your people one day. It will take a long time. But also along the way you are imminently likable.

    9) Go buy yourself a hoodie and some leggings.

    10) In a few short years there will be many many books besides just Annie On My Mind about queer young folks and you will not have to wonder whether you have to go wander around the Metropolitan Museum of Art to meet a girl.

    11) Speaking of which, girls are gonna love you.

    12) You will always be a weird girl but people will love you for it, so much.

    13) Do not date the first queer girl you meet in college for all four years. Do not do that.

    14) Maybe live by yourself, somewhere? In a little studio with a clawfoot bathtub?

    15) At some point, grow your hair out. Because now you are 31 and you just don’t have the patience but you will still wonder if there is some version of your life in which you have gorgeous mermaid hair and it is unrealized.

    16) Boundaries! Boundaries boundaries boundaries boundaries. You can have them! You can use them.

    17) Ask your mom to teach you to drive stick. She gets frustrated less quickly than your dad does, and then you will know how to drive stick.

    18) Your older brother is an asshole, your parents won’t do much about that, but yeah. He’s an asshole. Sorry.

    19) Trust yourself.

  19. Don’t stop taking math. I know you want to, but just hang in there through calculus, you’ll be so glad you did. You can stop taking music classes though. Music is not for everyone.

    Take care of your brain. Keep playing rough, but protect your head. Also you won’t always have the chance to be awesome in sports- get out there, work hard and enjoy it!

    Not everything is black and white- this is going to take you a while to get comfy with, but start working on it. Feelings matter as much as facts.

    Stop thinking it’s too late for everything. Dance if you feel like it. Sign up for Pox and Pestilence ASAP though, they don’t offer it every semester!

    You’re good. You’re going to be ok.
    Go make friends with the weird kids.

  20. LOVE this thread!!!!!

    Dear 15 year old me…

    1) You will get the braces off. It will be worth it!!!

    2) Don’t read in the dark – you wear glasses now and can’t see anything. STOP IT.

    3) Something big is going to happen to you. I don’t really want to tell you what it is, because the experiences you have while getting to where you are now shape who you are, and I wouldn’t change a thing. But if I can give you a piece of advice – follow your gut, and be happy for YOU. Stop trying to be the people pleaser you completely are. Just do the right thing for you. Everything will be ok.

    4) Study harder for your drivers test. That shit was embarrassing.

        • Oh gosh! Sorry for the cliffhanger! Well… I was always such a people pleaser, way past the normal amount. It was so bad that making others happy was the only way I could identify happiness in myself. Nothing ever felt right, but others seemed pleased with my choices, and that was enough for me…at the time.

          So I married a man and pursued a career in songwriting, even though neither made me very happy. My husband was super sweet…but something was missing. I was good at songwriting and things were taking off…but I didn’t really care. It never filled me up.

          Slowly but surely, I started making decisions for myself, not caring what other people thought. I started to be honest about my feelings and what I wanted for my life. I started traveling by myself to see the world and have an opportunity to just THINK.

          I eventually realized that I was gay, and that while songwriting was fun for me, it wasn’t what I wanted from life. So I got divorced and started a whole new career, all at the age of 30. It was the scariest year of my life.

          Two years later? I’m in a relationship with the most wonderful woman I’ve ever met with a career I’m passionate about that allows me to travel for professional AND personal reasons as much as I want. Life is exactly the way it should be. I would change a thing about what got me here, but I would tell 15 year old me to listen to the voice inside her that she ignored for so so long.

          PS KaeLyn – my parents used to say ALL the time “Don’t read it bed! It’s bad for your eyes!” I thought they were full of it. Now that I can’t see anything, I’m assuming that’s the reason and I should have listened! ha!

  21. Wow, I was just looking at my high school year book just the other day. I would tell my 15 year old self that you can do anything you want too, no matter what your parents say. Make sure you have a back up plan when it comes to your career cause your first choice might not work out. You should reflect more on your feelings for your best friend and you should join more clubs in school.

    One a different note, I totally popped the “insecert” key of my keyboard cause it was driving me crazy every time I accidentally hit it instead of the delete key. So I cut out a piece of cardboard drew a happy face on it and taped it over the hole. I am so excited that I’ll never turn it on ever again.

    • Haha about your keyboard hack. Good job.

      I think I still need a backup plan for my career. I guess that’s the thing about being 30’s and up. It’s ok to change paths if you want/need to. I don’t know why we think we have ONE TRUE CAREER PATH in our teens and twenties. That is just not rational thinking.

  22. Wow this has really made me think. The world I’ve known my entire life got seriously shaken last week, so I’m considering my past and my future a lot. So yeah it’s a good time to be contemplative. Thanks for the prompt.

    Dear 15 year old me…

    You are out, well done. Don’t worry about your family they’ll get over it and in the end they’ll forget they ever had a problem. Which will irritate you. Let it go.

    Don’t wear the dresses, you don’t have to. Tell them no. Every time. Buy many sportsbras and don’t let them throw away your plaid. Be the soft butch you want to see in the world.

    Learn what section 28 is, it means you have to fight your own battles. Some douche is going to out you next year and it’s going to get hard. Fight back harder. It’ll be over by upper sixth.

    That feeling, you know the one, is depression, it’s never going away completely. You’ll be ok.

    Don’t put off your first tattoo because of fear…it won’t be your last.

    Take that corner out toward the airfield slowly. Please. For me. My back hurts.

    You are going to date some monumental assholes. Fact. Just remember it’s all a learning experience and you will come out wiser, and tougher, and knowing exactly who you are. You won’t regret any of it it at all. Hard to believe while you’re living it but it’s true. You will regret not buying a VW beetle when you’re 19…You should do that.

    When you’re 22 you will meet the love of your life in the weirdest way and the place you least expect, and about a year later she’ll be your girlfriend and you will be the happiest you’ve ever been, and will still be so 9 years after that. Trust me. It’s friggin awesome. Sickening but awesome.

  23. Omg KaeLyn is it weird if I say you were a super cute 15 year old? I mean, I looked bad at 15; you looked (& still do) picture perfect.

    If I wrote to 15 year old me, yikes. Thats right when my mental health started going downhill. I think I’d tell myself to suck it up and tell my parents I feel bad, or, when I end up being made to go to a therapist in 10th grade, maybe tell her stuff instead of lying. Start working on it then, self. Because it’s only going to get worse over time, and it’s going to ruin your life, and you’re gonna learn what it’s like to be in a mental hospital (but at least you get out in time to see Tori Amos. And to go to SPX). And it’s going to be a million times harder to fight back against it all after 11 years of hiding shit. Make it easy on both of us and deal with it starting now.

    This week’s been a little easier. We’re managing the pup situation; like this Wednesday I took out the trash. He barked at the bag, of course, but I talked to him when I left and the moment I came back in, and he was fine. We did some brief muzzle training today. Now im trying to set up my own little Christmas tree in my room, and I know he’ll freak a bit once the lights go on. We only put up half a tree in the living room this year, and he barked at it for a while, but he got ok with it quickly, actually. Before it went up, I gave him lots of treats right next to the half tree (im really sad it’s a half tree this year you guys), and I was able to get him to come up to the stand and into the branches to get the food. He loves his treats; he’s so food motivated.

    I met with a new therapist yesterday and I really like her, except she told me something that I don’t know if I can do. She said if I don’t stop doing X, she can’t see me, that’s her contract. I nodded and agreed and acquiesced. I was too afraid to ask why, and too afraid of being abandoned, basically, and of being rejected. Though her statement already made me feel rejected. So I felt kind of not in my body, and a bit of adrenaline, and I just nodded and agreed like I always do. I’m afraid if I slip up, she’ll drop me. She’s really nice and I want to try her out, but I’m afraid. Should I text her? Or should I suck it up and try talking to her when I see her Monday?

    I also bought orange coffee yesterday. Like as in it has an orange flavor. It’s good, I like it. I got it at Fresh Market; I wandered around a bit and drank the coffee and bought Chai and kombucha because I’m a sucker for fancy drinks. Food? Eh. Drinks? Omg, gimme. A $4 wrap at Trader Joe’s is too expensive, but a fancy $4 – $5 drink is just fine.

    I turn 27 in a week, but I still feel like im 14…. or 15. :/

    Also I still need to buy more presents. I have some stuff coming in the mail, but, like, idk what to give my mom. I think I can give my dad a print that I know he likes (slightly different from the one I turned in, hence a variation), but if I do that and don’t do the same for mom, she’ll feel bad, because she’s always asking for work from me. I don’t have the ability to paint anything for her– I just can’t, on top of not having the time or anywhere to do it (because dog and oil paint = I don’t want to even try it). But idk what I could give her. So much of my stuff is personal, and im also really attached to most of what I make and hate letting anything go. Which is why prints are easier. What do I dooooooooo

    Sorry for always writing so much. And thank you to everyone who’s been commenting on my stuff in the past few weeks, and messaging me. I promise I read it all and im not ignoring you if I haven’t gotten back to you yet. My phone acts up a lot and im forgetful of things. I seriously appreciate it and am so thankful for you guys. ????????????????????????????????? (those are heart emojis,if u can’t see them hehe)

    • Could you give your mom the same print you’re going to give your dad? Maybe you could give her an IOU for a special print just for her when you have the time and space to do so!

      I’m glad your 15 year old self got out in time for the Tori Amos concert! That’s important!

      Thanks for sharing so much personal and meaningful stuff. I’m rooting for you! And for your anxiety-cute doggie!

    • Oh and P.S. thanks for the compliment! I’ll pass it on to my 15 year old self. I was so cute! I was pretty sure that I was ugly and unloveable and that no one could ever be attracted to me at the time. But looking back, all I see is a gorgeous girl! I wish she’d known then how beautiful she was.

    • Re: your therapist. You are the client. You should be the one deciding whether you drop her not the other way around. If X is a risky behavior that requires her to recommend that you go to a psych hospital that’s one thing, but it sounds like that’s not the case. I have therapist friends and they tell me there are ethics therapists have to follow. I don’t think it’s ethical to say do X or I’ll drop you. That seems a shitty way to motivate you for lots of reasons. I’d try to find someone else who is worthy of your time and money. You need to feel safe in the therapy relationship. If you can’t be honest because you are afraid of rejection you aren’t ever going to get as much out of it. You need to do things for you, not just to please your therapist.

  24. dear 15 year old me,
    hi! you are so adorable! look at your weird hair! hey look so um you are gay. like really really gay. this is not negotiable. it’s just a thing that you are. gay: it’s a thing you totally are. those pants feelings? don’t ignore them until you are 24. you’ll regret it.

    it will be ok. you will be ok.

    ps yep you are gay.

  25. I guess what I would say to 15 year old self:

    1. The desire to wear clothing marketed towards women is totally cool, and it just means you are trans queer, which comes with a great and cool community.
    2. Go price a proper Persian rug, so when kids say your hair is like a Persian rug you can reply, “my hair is worth about $6000? Because, that’s how much a real Persian rug can cost.” I’m still not sure if that was suppose to be an insult or a compliment.
    3. There is a site in the future called Autostraddle, it’s not an auto site, but it is a site that will get you, and welcome you. Trust me.
    4. Proper queer porn exists and it’s awesome. You will prefer it.

    How’s everyone’s week going? It’s been very cold this week here, and it’s messing with my sleep pattern as I’m either too cold to sleep or I’m wrapped up nicely and want to sleep more. Because of that I feel asleep early watching Colbert, only to wake up moments before the musical guest, Sleater Kinney, gets on stage. It was pretty cool. :-) Also, this week I’m going to a gay bar for a friends birthday so I am kind of excited for that. Sure it’s going to be mostly dudes, but I get to be around queers, and that’s going to be fun. Yay

    Few shots night shots of the city.
    Taken from a fellow straddler’s balcony after 9pm The advantages of having a place to put the camera down.

    Overlooking the valley.

    Thank you for viewing and reading my post. Have a positive weekend.

  26. Dear 15 year old me.
    1. I love you even if no one else does. Even when no one else does.
    2. You’re going to like anime and Sherlock and Doctor Who a whole lot less very soon so maybe don’t buy that giant poster…oh oops too late sorry.
    3. Lyd isn’t the one you love. Love someone who loves you back. (Hint: she usually sits right next to you in English and Physics and every other class you have together)
    4. Go for it. Cut your hair short. You will not regret it.
    5. Audition for that play. You will not regret it.
    6. When you come out your parents won’t kick you out of the house but they’ll be assholes about it. That’s okay though cause your friends and teachers and everyone who matters will still love you.
    7. Don’t let Keller take advantage of you. Just don’t.
    8. Knitting is an excellent coping mechanism. Be safe.
    9. It’s going to get a whole lot worse before it gets better but when it gets better it gets amazing so stay alive.
    10. Look after AJ. They need a friend. Be that friend.
    11. I know alcohol makes mom and dad more bearable but it will fuck you up. Be safe.
    12. You’re going to get a lot more queer and a lot more Jewish and you’re going to love it.
    13. Male and female aren’t your only gender options.
    14. Wear more ties. Also take good care of that black trench coat cause you’ll still be wearing it in college.
    15. Answer when Sebastian calls you even if you can’t talk, even if all you have time to do is say “I love you but I have to run, let’s talk tonight”. Don’t ignore the call and tell him you’ll call back later because one day there won’t be a later.
    16. Prom is going to suck ass both times. That’s okay.
    17. When you meet Aidan run in the opposite direction, and don’t ever let them near AJ. They will only hurt both of you.
    18. You won’t go to Oxford, and that’s okay.
    19. Eat. Sleep. Take care of yourself.
    20. You’re going to love Hamilton.
    21. There’s really not much I can say to prepare you for what’s coming. Just…know that you will survive.
    22. Your dad isn’t as much of a dick as he seems.
    I love you.
    -Ari (That’s you in 3 years)

    Also I just finished my last exam of the semester and am not looking forward to a month of winter break with my family. (I called them out on the aforementioned shitty reaction to my queerness a while ago and that only made things worse…)

    • This is lovely, Ari, full of heart and wisdom and some sad, but important truth. When I went home on college breaks and things were less than optimal with my family or just…tense/weird…I tried to spend as much time out of the house as possible by working at the McDonald’s I worked at in high school or going out. I don’t know if there are ways for you to get out of the house, but it helps. Even just finding a quiet place to sit and read or have a cup of warm beverage for a few hours.

      • I’ve been spending more time than can really be considered reasonable at the library (there’s pretty much nothing else to do in the town where I live, unfortunately). My parents have been trying to guilt me into spending time with them and it’s awful and I just can’t wait for next semester to start

  27. Dear 15 year-old me:

    1. I know everybody says your best friend came out as bisexual “for attention” and that’s really hurting you right now. And I know you’re so scared that if you do the same, people will laugh because you think you’re fat, hairy, ugly, and always feel like you fail at being feminine enough. So if you’re doing it for attention, what is that supposed to mean? Oh, boy, do I know those thoughts, way back there in my head, still. I know your small town isn’t the best place to explore your sexuality, but please don’t keep it locked up for another ten years. You are okay.

    2. Don’t let that 28 year old asshole in your band kiss you. I know you feel like you’re finally cool and maybe this is your only chance in your entire life of kissing everybody, but don’t. Just step away. Think about why he doesn’t date girls his own age. I know, this weird thing is going to happen where your parents don’t seem to mind that you’re dating this guy even though they have been so overprotective in the past, because they’re so relieved you must be straight. I’m sorry that nobody steps in to stop this. I wish I could.

    3. Addendum to 1 and 2: Your body is fine. People will like you. You will learn to like you, too, and learn to enjoy moving your body and decorating your body and treating it with respect.

    4. Don’t let creepy assholes deter you from playing music and going to shows. Don’t let people grill you on your right to be there, or your knowledge of every band’s discography. Go. Have fun.

    5. You’re just making friends with this guy who is going to go away to college and decide he knows everything about the world. Soon, he’ll start lecturing you about going out and meeting new friends, all by yourself. You’re going to be confused because you thought he WAS your friend. You realize something must be wrong with you and cry and cry. I wish I could tell you it would be alright or encourage you to seek therapy sooner. You’re not going to know about your social anxiety disorder for another 7 years. I wish I could just tell you not to blame yourself and to stop talking to that guy. I know you think he’s trying to help, but he is way out of line.

    6. You don’t know it, but you’re actually developing so many strategies on your own for your ADHD that you won’t know about for another 13 years. I know it’s hard, because you feel like you’re not smart, and like you’re just scraping by, but this is actually a huge accomplishment. You are going to make it through college and university without a diagnosis, but you are going to do it. It’s all you.

    • OMG N.2… There was an asshole like that. I was 14 and he was like 20 (ewww) and he was the coolest and payed the drums like a god and the only guy who gave me any attention and I felt special and then he gave me too much and i’m sooo glad I listened to my guts and backed away as quickly as I did. He would keep on calling me at like 2 am even like 6 months afterwards and I would feel so scared to risk running into him in the streets and 14 year old me would think it was my own fault, that I shouldn’t have run like I did and 27 year old me wants to tell her : NO YOU WERE RIGHT TO RUN LIKE HELL BLESS YOU I LOVE YOU.

      So yeah, this I would tell to 14/15 year old me too.

    • “Your body is fine. People will like you. You will learn to like you, too, and learn to enjoy moving your body and decorating your body and treating it with respect.”

      I LOVE ALL OF THE SELF CARE WE ARE GIVING OUR BABY SELVES SO MUCH RIGHT NOW

  28. 1) Yes it is badass you walked away from your own death last year when we where 14 because you and only you put a stop to it. Be proud that you walked away from him at your own damn pace, that you didn’t run or speed walk.

    But oh god I’m so sorry she let us down, he was her child too and there just fucking wasn’t money to send him away. You’ll understand that eventually, but it still stings.
    Not just because it feels like your mother chose him over you, but because continuing to “live” in the same household as him for a couple more years possibly did more damage than surviving what would have been murder in the second degree.

    Seriously tho that time he yelled at you for wasting a lean cuisine by eating it is still funny when you’re 24 and dealing with all the trauma stuff from him and all the things that happened from K-8th grade. Just don’t tell that story to tend hearted people, it makes them upset.

    2) Break up with you know who, they will hurt you so much more because they love you and you let yourself love them back. You’re young and there’s lots of other fish in the sea like that girl catechism class or one the others who think you’re so cool (they turn out to be gay and yes that means you were a queer beacon in high school, congrats)

    3) Do more volunteer work at that animal shelter and the food pantry

    4) Get a job when you’re sixteen and hold on to the driver’s ed papers. Just cause that class in this year when you’re too young to apply doesn’t mean you should forget about those papers.

    5) Um those feelings that you fail at being a woman might be because we’re not a woman and not because we don’t have a hourglass figure or larger cup size et cetera to properly fill out women’s clothes.

    6) No you’re not imagining things those classical female nudes do look familiar for a reason

    7) Don’t try to be girl, try to be yourself even if that’s just touch too much for those around you. I know you don’t believe you’d try something so dumb, but you will.

    8) AC/DC will always be our music (refer to #2 and give it a sec, you’ll laugh so hard)

    9) Eventually you no longer have the face of an angel smiling with sin, just a straight up sin face. It’s great.

    10) Once you understand #8 remember which zodiac sign you are.

      • Oh I realised it, just lost the bit in what ever number re-write for #1 that was clearly telling 15 year old me not to forget it and that life is precious. As long you live in breathe you have a chance for anything. Dead you no chance of anything.
        Because when I reached that rock bottom my of my young adulthood I stopped seeing my survival as badass, but foolish instinct I should have ignored. Fighting back when attacked is something even the dumbest non-human animal will do, it’s nothing to be proud of. Being alive stopped seeming like a gift and nothingness seemed so beautiful.

        Lost lots of details in the re-writes, but I’ve spilled lots of stuff before.

  29. Dear 15 year old Whitney,

    Hey you! It’s me! Your 29 year old self! What? I look like I can’t get into R rated movies without an ID? Fair enough younger me. You are gonna have a baby face for daaaaaays. Have fun with that!

    So you’re big into the baggy sweatshirts and jeans huh? I know your body feels weird and lanky to you right now and that all the more feminine clothes people try to get you to wear don’t feel right, but you’re gonna figure out that clothes from the men’s section and more masculine wear in general is your jam. And you look damn hot as well. So, some peace of mind for you there.

    Also, you struggle throughout your life making close friends. I know right now you don’t really have a friend group and the band kids have rejected you cuz you quit saxophone, but you do end up doing a good job of putting yourself out there and creating community because of these awkward and lonely high school days. You use your memories of lonely weekends as motivation to bring people together and have close friends. Yay you! Just don’t forget to take care of yourself and let down your walls so you can have some close friends as well. I know. It’s hard, but you try and it’ll pay off eventually.

    Lastly, your love of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and sharks never goes away. Don’t be ashamed! 90s and childhood nostalgia is a huge thing for millennials right now so just keep on keepin’ on.

    Love,
    Whit

  30. 1. Yay! You just figured out you’re not straight from kissing Carolyn. Congrats on that. Don’t beat yourself up because you never said, “Hey, if you wanna date me that can be a thing, but you should probably deal with those feelings instead of dating your bf and getting absurdly jealous when I start actually dating other people.” You couldn’t say that at the time, and that’s okay.

    2. You do not need to decide whether you like boys or girls more! Like, ever. THIS IS A DUMB QUESTION. (By the way, non-binary people also exist, and you are one of them. This makes you feel a million times more comfortable being with people of various genders.)

    3. Yes, people will want to have sex with you! People you think are hot will also be attracted to you! You will have great sex! I promise!

    4. There is this super cool thing called political organizing that you can do in college! You can even do it for a job after college. It’s really hard, but also really worth it.

    5. Your super annoying little brother? Yeah, he comes out to you when he’s 15 and you’re able to give him all the great advice you wish you could have given yourself. He’ll be one of your best friends/ your twin 5 years apart.

    6. You can get top surgery without wanting to be a boy! There is no rule that says you have to have boobs. It’s okay if you just wanna forget about that for a little while though.

    7. Your dad sucks, and he’ll continue to suck, but he’ll become a very small part of your life when you’re on the other coast and barely see him outside of Christmas, and that’ll feel a lot better.

  31. Dear KaeLyn, both selves –

    I love love love your letter. Thank you for sharing your selves with us <3.

    It made me think of "Good as Lily" by Derek Kirk Kim

    It’s one of my fave graphic novels that has the protagonist encounter herself at different ages. I highly recommend it!

    As for myself – dear 15 year old self, don’t listen to a damn thing anyone says about what you wear. In the future, you’re going to meet your wife-to-be because you wore a 1960’s wedding dress in public, on the underground, with a veil. And she is going to bring you more happiness than you thought possible.

    Not to mention, she likes it when you wear cloaks to castle ruins, and make kids believe in ghosts.

  32. 1. Your life is gonna be way different to how you imagined it to be. 23 year old you is gay & chronically ill & fatter than ever but loves herself way more than you ever imagined possible.

    2. You will learn who you are. Slowly but surely.I know that you aren’t sure who you’re supposed to be right now so you’re being the rule-abiding A-student you think everyone wants. This is not how you’ll turn out. You’ll work it out. You’ll stop feeling like an automaton. I promise.

    3. There’s some tough stuff coming up. There’s some fucking awesome stuff coming up. You’ll get through it all with incredible memories to show for it.

    4. Life gets a ton better when you’re done with school & move out. Bide your time.

    5. You don’t have a crush on that guy. Crushes aren’t about thinking that someone is the best of a bunch you don’t care about.

    6. You’ll meet some incredible people who actually agree with your ‘radical’ politics &, in your own way, you’ll start to make positive changes to the world.

    7. I’m 100% sure that you’d be terrified/awe-struck by 23 year old you. That’s a sign of how far we’ll come. <3

  33. 15 is the age I was when things were really bad and I left high school, claiming I would “never go back to education again” because I hated school so much, but I’m (hopefully!) graduating with a BA next year, so take that, baby me!

    Also, just honestly: Things will be so bad for what feels like so long, and then you’re going to have a better life than you’ve ever had before, and you’re going to feel genuinely great every day.
    Like one day your base level will actually be happy and positive, can you believe it?!
    God, I want to hold 15 year old me so tight and just let her know that she’s gonna grow up to be so capable and good.

  34. Dear 15-y-o Laxmi. We’re only 3 years apart, don’t get excited.

    1. Yeah, definitely bi. DO NOT FEEL UNDER PRESSURE TO COME OUT WHEN YOU REALISE THIS.
    2. None of your guy friends will ever support you emotionally. They are weak and disappointing and you will regret all the time you spent on them.
    3. If you don’t want to study medicine, figure out plan B now, because A Level Chemistry is awful.
    4. English Language is your favourite subject and there is no reason not to follow your heart and carry on with it.
    5. Your parents may never understand you, but they love you.
    6. Don’t get tumblr. Just don’t.
    7. Fullmetal Alchemist is great but there are much better things to spend money on. Truly.
    8. Don’t grow your hair out, just because your crush told you that girls should never cut their hair. You look great, and he’s not worth any of your time or tears.
    9. Recognise your internalised racism, misogyny and biphobia, and strive to rise above it. You, and the people around you, are worth it.
    10. Love yourself more.

    Take care.

  35. Hey babe.

    1.) You’re an amazing, phenomenal person. Most of the time you’re aware you’re pretty great, and I love you for that. Sometimes you don’t think that, and that’s usually when you’re confused or you’re not good at something. Failure isn’t bad, babe, it’s how we learn. I know it feels gross, and it feels grosser when people make fun of you for it and your parents tell you it’s because you didn’t try hard enough. Just because you failed at a task doesn’t make you a failure. Remember that (and know I’m not just saying that because I think it’s easy to move on. I still struggle with it, too. Struggling is okay, too. It’s part of life).

    2.) Straight girls don’t constantly wonder about what it’d be like to kiss girls. They just don’t. I know you’ve only had crushes on boys, but that’s just because you haven’t known any butch girls yet. Bi people exist.

    3.) Your first kiss and first relationship are quite a ways away, but it’s okay that it doesn’t live up to your expectations. It’s okay that it feels weird. You’re not broken, babe, you’re asexual. You don’t have to believe me (god knows I didn’t believe it at first either), but look it up. Keep an open mind. And let yourself set boundaries.

    4.) I know dresses make you feel uncomfortable a lot of the time. I know dresses make you feel pretty-enough, too, sometimes. You can wear the dresses, if you want (but you don’t have to. You are beautiful enough without them. And “pretty” is not the toll you pay for occupying space in this world). You can keep the long hair, but you don’t have to, and you do look good with short hair. You just had a bad haircut for a while. Beauty is not one-size-fits-all. Beauty does not automatically mean feminine. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself and wear only what you’re comfortable with. We look great in a tie, just so you know. We look pretty dang great in a dress though, too. It’s up to you, either way.

    5.) Your name feels uncomfortable, but you think it’s too weird to change your name. You have my permission to name yourself. You don’t need to feel weird about it. Most reasonable people will support you, especially your friends because they love you (though they might not get it right right away). When you’re thinking about it though, don’t focus too much on Alex. There’s a reason it never felt right as anything other than your middle name.

    6.) Look up the word transgender. You have google and a computer. The things you want to know aren’t all there, yet. The things you want to know are a little bit outside and on the fringes, but you’re smart. Try to read between the binary lines you see, I think you’ll be able to figure it out. But they will be someday soon, and you’ll cry a lot and kick yourself for not seeing it sooner, even though knowing that would be like asking you to do calculus problems before you took calculus. If you’re feeling brave, share your results with Erica. It’ll do you both a world of good.

    7.) When mono test after mono test is negative, ask for the referral to the psychiatrist. I know it seems like the hardest thing in the world to do, but it’ll help. It’s still the hardest thing in the world, because depression sucks like that. Things will get worse before they get better, but this letter is proof that you can survive them. That you do survive them.

    8.) You have limits to your abilities. It will be a while before you find some of them, so believe in yourself–you’re capable of a hell of a lot and it’s frankly astonishing. Also trust yourself that when it feels like you’ve hit a wall, you actually have. It’s not another test or a way to prove to yourself and everyone else that you’re superhuman. You’re not. Sometimes it’s fun to pretend though, especially if you wear a cape while doing so. Don’t let what others think stop you from wearing that cape or from having wheelie-chair races or other silly things.

    9.) Let others love you. I know it’s hard and makes you feel vulnerable and deals with the DREADFUL EMOTIONS, but people do love you. Also, stop being so frightened of emotions. Everyone has them, including you (no, don’t roll your eyes at me).

    10.) You do cool stuff like kayak off of waterfalls as an adult. Just sayin’. I know you stopped kayaking because of weird body feels and sometimes you regret it, but know you can always come back to it. You can come back to other things, too. Also, while you feel like a huge dork sometimes, and think that future!you sounds way cooler, know I’m not. Like, really, really 100% not. I’m at least as big of a dork as you. I’ve just learned to own it in a way that you haven’t quite yet. And you’re a lot cooler than you give yourself credit for, kid. Other people just don’t always see it that way, and it’s their loss.

    11.) Lastly, wear your damn glasses, kid. You’re damaging your eyesight not doing it, and you’re not fooling anybody when you say that you can adequately see the board.

    Absurd amounts of love,
    H—

    • “…’pretty’ is not the toll you pay for occupying space in this world”

      Can I get this tattooed somewhere on my body?

      This is beautiful and I’m so happy to know present-day you and to have this little glimpse of 15-year-old you. I’m glad you connected.

      • I can’t take complete credit for those words because I know the sentiment came from a spoken word poem I heard a while back and it’s stuck with me pretty since.

        Yeah, 15-year-old me was uncomfortable, mostly. A good portion of that was normal, natural/expected teenaged discomfort due to rapid growth and changes. But a good portion of it was also due to baby queer feelings that I didn’t understand and didn’t have any references for it or words to help understand it, so I just messily crammed those feelings/emotions into a suitcase to unpack later, when they were all wrinkled and smelled like sea salt and mildew and socks and the tube of toothpaste split that was packed in there split and covered everything.

    • “Straight girls don’t constantly wonder about what it’d be like to kiss girls. They just don’t.”

      !!!

      Are you in my brain right now? This is a thing that I have thought word for word and actively remind myself of anytime I slip towards second-guessing myself

  36. Whelp, this is quite the grab bag, but here goes.

    Dear Baby Queer Girl:

    Everything you’re telling yourself about that heart that’s trying to beat its crazy way right out of your chest? They’re all wrong. Your desires ARE namable, and knowable, and NOT too much for other people, and not deep dark secrets, and not wrong.

    And while we’re at it, the narratives you have been absorbing and regurgitating since before the seventh grade — that you are broken, that you and your feelings and your perception of the world exists only in relation to other people — those are lies. You are whole and your feelings are real and you are exactly enough.

    You are so much stronger than the world has told you you are. Five year-old you knew this. She knew her worth, she knew what was wrong and right. Listen to her now. Never stop trying to find your way back to her.

    Very important: The Delia*s models are photoshopped. For real. Everyone has pores; stop obsessing over yours.

    That friend who helps you throw up down by the creek when you ditch choir practice — she’s not a friend.

    I know you’re shy around boys, but you really don’t have to get drunk and make out with them. It’s way more boring than you thought it was. I promise.

    You won’t always have to feel grateful to someone just because they want you.

    Because like I said before, and I will keep saying until you hear me, you are exactly enough. You don’t need to date someone to be filled up or validated or “get your pass to the rest of the world.” You are just as real as every other walking cosmic meat machine miracle on this planet. Can’t you see it? Don’t you know how strong you are?

    Also: I promise, you’ll like skinny jeans more than you think you will. Just give them a try.

    And guess what: For every second you spend, despondant over feelings for your best friend that you can not name or understand, for every moment you feel like a walking ball of need and exposed nerves and impossible desire, there will be an equal and opposite second in the future when you have never known that you could be so happy. There will be that first kiss with that first curly-haired girl on the steps of a church. The first pair of Converse All-Stars. The first time you go to SF Pride and look around you and where there should be grass, there is just a sea of happy drunken bodies of people just like you. There will be so many firsts, and seconds, and then the rest of your life, and it will be SO. WORTH IT. I know that now it hurts. But oh dear baby queer, I promise it gets better.

    (Also, again, you’re not a freak, and way more people from your high school are queer than you thought.)

    Chin up. Keep on trucking. Never stop looking for the the things you knew to be true when you were five. Don’t go to that one Christian therapist. Eat all the chocolate. Love yourself like you love your dogs.

    And, maybe, like, come out BEFORE you’re thirty. Because fifteen years is an awful long time to waste.

    Love you,

    Queer Girl

    • Similar to this, that I didn’t say before. You definitely can go to A Camp during your second week at college, don’t worry about classes, it will not be a big deal at all. And it will change your live, so don’t miss that opportunity, cause for the rest of college its only going to get harder to make it to A Camp in spring. Guess what this chance is your only chance for going in fall, and you’ll be so glad you did it.

  37. dear tiny me,

    that thing you’re feeling about girls that feels an awful lot like how you feel about boys? that’s real and legit and you’re bi as hell. it will take you 8 years and a relationship with a really awesome woman to know this. good job on not pushing these thoughts out of your mind or dismissing them too much; bad job on not acting on them until now. (like why did i have to be the one to go the distance??)

    you will realize that most men are unfit for conversation but a lot of them have really nice faces.

    maybe get your driver’s license. don’t let that one panic attack behind the wheel stop you. because i still don’t have my license mostly out of sheer inertia which could definitely be solved by you taking care of this one. consider it payback for me dealing with our bisexuality.

    music is really important, but don’t rely on musicians to save you. be your own damn hero.

    your fanfiction is bad but it makes you happy. that is reason enough to keep writing it.

    make sure to eat. please.

    love,
    much bigger me, an obviously qualified human to give you advice who is not at all procrastinating on a research paper (yeah, beats me too)

  38. Dear 15 Year Old Me,

    1. You’re not gonna date any girls before you meet the person you marry. Sorry. You do get to kiss a lot of girls–a small consolation. That doesn’t make you less queer, and the people you choose as your friends will understand this.

    2. You’re agender. There, you finally have a word for why you feel so alienated by the gender binary but also don’t identify with calling yourself transgender. Eventually, that word won’t feel quite right either. But people like you are trying to build a vocabulary for someone like you who absolutely refuses to play nice with the gender binary. Some people won’t believe you and say, “It sounds like you are female but you are just frustrated with how women are treated in this society.” They don’t get to tell you who they are. Also, that person should be avoided in general because they try to convince you that therapy wasn’t good for you dealing with your trauma. That person is very wrong on many levels–and yeah, you’re gonna waste some time trying to be friends with them but it will ultimately be a good learning experience.

    3. It’s okay that you’ve taken this long to figure out your sexuality and your gender identity because you had to disentangle it from your trauma. The abuse you lived through doesn’t dictate either of these things; this will be the best thing you hear that year. It’s probably gonna take you the rest of your life. You’ll eventually have enough money and independence to have butch clothes right next to the femme clothes in your closet.

    4. Your mom knows. She’s always known even before you did. She’s gonna get upset when you tell her that you’re bi. It’s not because she’s mad at you. It’s because she’s afraid for you. Eventually, she’s gonna stop coaxing you into fitting the female mold (unless you’re visiting your dumb relatives, but you already know that’s just part of the social contract.) A day will come when she helps you pick out very dapper queer clothes. You will look so great.

    5. The person you marry will understand you in a way that no one else ever has. Your gender, your personality, your flaws–everything. They’ll understand because they have a little bit of that in them too. You’ll realize how suspicious you are of happiness. You’ll get over it and make the right choice.

    6. Learn to dress more adult before you graduate high school. I know you think you’re so cool because you don’t care about fashion and you see no value in learning about fashion, but not learning about fashion or caring about fashion is why you end up wearing the same shirt for the next ten years. It’s also why you feel like you’re just pretending to be a girl and keep worrying that everyone is gonna find out you were just faking it the entire time

    7. You’re kinda racist. Yeah, you have your Korean friends and your school is filled with so many Chinese and Korean and Indian people and you think you’re so open-minded–but you’re kinda racist. You’re gonna realize this when you become a white person who works at a historically black university. Your oh so liberal high school? Also kinda racist. Your town that keeps congratulating itself with how liberal and progressive it is? Super racist. Undoing that takes time. Just keep at it.

    8. Therapy is really scary right now. You will be so glad that you went through it.

    9. That person you had the biggest and most overwhelming crush on that was older than you? He keeps saying he doesn’t like you. He does. He will admit this years later. A few years later, he’ll pretend he never said that. He’s gonna be a great friend—up until he meets his special someone. That’s when you’ll realize that he was just trying to sleep with you. It will hurt.

    10. A lot of men will make friends with you. Virtually all of them are doing it to sleep with you. It’s gonna be heartbreaking to realize that ultimately, they don’t value your friendship. You’ll figure this out because they disappear when you date someone and magically appear when the two of you break up.

    11. Stop saving stuff for a special day or rainy occasion. Seriously. It will make life interesting.

    12. Adulthood will dim your spark but not extinguish it because you’re stubborn enough to hang on to it. You will get your spark back. It will feel great.

  39. Dear 15-year-old Juliet:

    Do not be afraid. I know things feel so strange right now because your world is tilting slightly to one side and you don’t know how to keep your balance anymore. I know you are trying not to love because it scares you more than anything you’ve ever been confronted with, but that girl, the one who knocked you off your feet in dance class, the one you think about kissing sometimes and then tell yourself it’s all in the name of friendship—let yourself feel for her. Allow yourself to be finished with guilt and fear and denial. You are going to come through all of that and you will do so magnificently. You will write her a letter before you learn to talk, and after you have started speaking you can learn how to be silent again. You will fall passionately and pragmatically in love with her and she, in her own stoic, quiet way, will care for you, and a year from now she will kiss you in your bedroom on a rainy November night and you’ll spend days thinking you were dreaming. And one day, yes, things will draw to a close, and there will be other girls, other moments. (You will discover that you have a type: androgynous and unemotional.) You will still be afraid of love but you will realize, slowly, how to stand on your own, and how to let other people help you. And things will not be perfect, but they will be well. Your fashion sense and haircut will improve. You’ll become wiser and more naive. I want you to know that not everything will be good but that does not negate how good some of it gets. I want you to know you deserve that. There are a lot of changes in store for you and you are not going to be prepared for some of them, and sometimes it is going to make you feel like you are losing control because of how fast you are changing, you will not know how to keep up. You will emerge from your chrysalis tentatively, your wings awkward, your mind uncertain, stepping out into a new and unfamiliar world. And you can do it. And you will make it. The universe is infinitely complex and gloriously varied and there is so much left of it for you to discover if you can just be a little brave sometimes. I promise you have the capability. Remember to be kind, not just to others and to yourself, and that embarrassment is all a matter of perspective. Be curious. Be brazen. Let yourself go sometimes, because if you don’t start now you may never learn to. And know that, no matter what, you will always be loved, and by no one more than myself.

    With affection,
    17 years

  40. Don’t hold yourself so tight you feel your bones bend. In the coming years, your worth will not be measured in what passes through your lips or doesn’t–and no amount of abstaining will make you want anyone else any more. It’s okay not to want, you can still adore your people in your life without feeling lost and unwanted.

    There are funerals coming for you. Learn to sway in them. Forgive yourself for not reaching the teenage pillars at the “right” times.

    You will be told: you are broken, a ruined thing that can’t be fixed. Accept these things as half-truths (because is it really ruin if it has always been?) and indulge in the ways your so called broken pieces equip you to see the world differently. These will push you forward if you don’t let them cut you down.

    Demand what you need–or else find yourself swept into romances you never agreed to by boys who want you as a kept object. Those who prefer trickery to asking are not worth friendship either and offering it is not often a kindness. Kiss that girl three times instead of twice, but eat something first so you can dance.

    Remember how to skin your knees and keep walking. Sometimes that is enough and sometimes that is all you have.

    /end ridiculously over indulgent letter.

  41. here’s your updates from the future, kid: your day as the cool kid with the great hair seriously is coming, much as it feels impossible. keep laughing at the people who make fun of you, because you’re right about them. as in, i just checked their facebook accounts, and you’re right about them.

    and some advice: buy bigger glasses. wear skinny jeans sooner.

    also, you’re still not famous. bummer! but you’ll be glad to know i’m still working on it.

    xoxo,
    25-year-old-you

  42. Dear 15-year old me,

    YOU ARE A LESBIAN.

    You hate spending time with those guy friends in your friend group because you are a misandrist queer, and – pay attention, I am one of the only people who is going to say this to you – that is 100% okay. Actually, it’s better than okay. It’s amazing, and liberating, and empowering, and YOU.

    xox

  43. 1. Be kind to your friends. They love you and they will be there for you when you call them crying late at night. Be there for them.

    2.When they tell you that your decisions will turn out well, they’re telling the truth.

    3. Change is hard. But it’s worth it. Trust yourself.

  44. Hey kiddo,

    You don’t have to dress like you think you should. Wear what you want. You can even – gasp – buy from the men’s section!! And the world won’t explode.

    You’re way cute. I promise. You’ll feel even cuter when you cut your hair in a year or so’s time.

    When you figure out why you think about your best friend so much, you’re going to start feeling like a lonely gay kid…the feeling lasts a while. And it’s tough sometimes.

    But you’re gonna find your people! And the friends you already have are so great. Stick with them, but also talk to new people. Talk to cute girls. Talk to anyone and everyone. Some of the best things ever will come from this.

    Don’t be scared. It will all be okay.

    Masses of love,

    From You in Four Years (probably different from how you thought you’d turn out, but oh so much more yourself)

    P.s. Stop hating on T Swift. It’s not cool. She’s actually amazing.

    P.p.s. See also: Kristen Stewart.

  45. Dear Mason,

    Greetings from the future. It’s a bit different then you imagine it.

    First off, break up with She Who Must Not Be Named. You are only going to cringe at the relationship in retrospect. Actually, on second thought, don’t break up- you may need to learn this lesson.

    Secondly, stop freaking out about relationships. Actually, if you aren’t doing that, don’t start (I may be getting you confused with 20-year-old Mason). You will find the right one, eventually. You will get laid (although, your plan to not lose your virginity until you’re in grad school will work, though you actually won’t be all that happy about it later). You’ll even get engaged.

    You should know, though, it won’t fix you. You may say, but I can’t be trans, I don’t fit the stereotype. It’s just a personality quirk, a sexual kink, nothing major.

    Well, guess what. A lot of us don’t fit the stereotype. You can be trans despite not “always knowing”, despite liking girls (trans lesbians are a thing- you’re one of them), despite not being all that interested in crossdressing. And you will be happier as a girl. In fact, you don’t really know what happiness is like yet. It’ll be scary, but, believe me, it’ll be worth it (incidentally, you will be shocked at cute you turn out). You don’t have to act on this information immediately, but just know I saved you another 11 years of worry.

    Other general advice: learn how to sing, it’ll come in handy, and it’s fun. Getting into the wind ensemble is not as big a deal as you think it is. Learn how to study- make flashcards and *review them every day*. When you’re in college, focus more on math- I know it seems crazy, but you’re going to end up doing your dissertation on mathematical modeling. Learn more microbiology, too, and geochemistry. Make sure your dad gets his prostate checked *often*- it might save his life. Mom means well, but has some narcissistic tendencies- start recognizing that well, and you’ll save yourself a lot of therapy.

    Email a girl named [Name Redacted]. Tell her to avoid walking home alone from practice at USC around the end of May in 2011.

    On February 27th, there will be a west coast swing dance in Moscow, ID at the 1912 Center. There will be a woman in a turtleneck there. Ask her dance (though be careful- she’s recovering from an injured foot). Compliment her on her turtleneck. You won’t regret it.

    And, above all, hang in there. You’re going to like your life.

    Sincerely,

    Tessa

  46. I’ve always insisted that I wouldn’t do anything to change the past because all of it was formative in making me who I am now, but I would definitely tell 15 year old me to do her math homework and wear her retainers.

    • Right. I don’t know if I could change how I felt at that time. I felt what I was feeling really deeply and I think I had to go through that to get to where I am.

      But sometimes I wish I could hug my old self and reassure her it is all going to be ok.

    • I know! It’s incredible! I didn’t know how people would respond to the FOT theme this week. I thought they might think I was being too cheesy. But this has been so touching and beautiful and hilarious to read! I’m so glad we are sharing this together. I’ve teared up more than once reading these happy-sad letters and sage advice and loving self-care.

  47. I wish so much sometimes that I could go back in time.
    1. Recover from the anorexia now, it will never make you happy, it does hurt your parents but it hurts you too.
    2. Your parents will never apologize, they will never admit to what they did. They will never change. Let it go, move on. You don’t need their apology to be free.
    3. And you will be free, it will take longer than you want, but you will live your dreams. It will be hard work and it won’t be perfect but it will be better.
    4. You will not start liking guys. It won’t happen so stop trying to force it.
    5. Be yourself, other people’s opinions do not matter.
    6. Try new things, you hate it but it’s good for you.
    7. Do sports. Ignore what other people say. You have fun doing it, it doesn’t matter how bad you are.
    8. It will be okay.

    In other news, I’m visiting the US for the first time in 1.5 years and home for Christmas for the first time in 3. My relationship with my parents is complicated but it’s nice hearing everything in English and understanding everything. Jetlag is awful. Why did we invent time zones and a way to cross them quickly?!!!

    • “You don’t need their apology to be free.”

      Seriously, I wish I had received a letter that said this every year in my 20s. This is so true, but has always been so hard for me to accept. I always want people to acknowledge when they were wrong, but all too often that’s just never going to happen.

  48. Dear Me Jr.,

    GOOD FUCKING JOB MAN! You made it! Thank you for getting me here; both of us here, really, because I know you didn’t get to enjoy much of your life yet. But even though you made some catastrophically bad decisions, you made them for good reasons, and you were right about all the important stuff even though you didn’t know it at the time. It’s gonna take a long-ass time, 20 years or so, but your life gets SO MUCH BETTER, a whole different world.

    Remember that pup tent you saved up for when you were 12 and it took maybe 12 weeks of saved allowance money but you finally went down to GI Joe’s sporting goods and bought a tent and no one in your family understood? Last year we finally went on that solo camping trip that you wanted and IT WAS RAD, just like you thought it would be.
    And yes, Me Jr., you get to be a scientist for your adult job, just like you hoped. It wasn’t pretty getting here, but we made it to the finish line, and although it’s not perfect, it’s still pretty dang great.

    p.s. I promise this is the year we get to go go-cart racing.

  49. (I love this thread so much)

    Dear 15 year old me:

    1. First of all, you’re totally rocking that look you have going right now. Keep on wearing those weird t-shirts from the kid’s department with those pleated skirts from hot topic and those leggings before leggings became cool again. Don’t throw away that plastic thrift store jewelry. Everyone says you’ll regret how you look in photos later, but you actually look awesome. Keep on being you because you won’t get to dress like this forever. Also never throw away your lime green fishnet shirt, because someday, you’re college roommate will make a joke about keeping a box of clothes around “in case we time travel” and you’ll wish you had it.

    2. Get your eyebrow pierced. I know mom says that she won’t help you pay for college if you get it done, but the truth is, she isn’t going to help you pay for college and you’ll someday be burdened with thousands of dollars of student debt and you’ll be working three jobs to pay it off, none of which allow an eyebrow piercing. Get the piercing while you have the chance.

    3. Also, you’re gay. I know you’re 15 and way too busy to think about dating because you are busy taking ballet lessons and reading Harry Potter books and obsessing over your grades, but it’s going to save you a lot of trouble if you just realize this now.
    3a. Don’t date that boy who worked at the Hamburger Station because he was weird and you know it, and he always smelled like hamburgers. You will date him for 9 months and then break his heart. Then, five years later you will run into him at a target while you are wearing your pajamas, and he will insist you meet up for dinner to catch up. At this dinner, you’ll come out to him, and break his heart all over again. Save him the heartache and yourself the guilt.
    3b. You don’t have to lie to boys and tell them you are super religious and it is against your religion to have sex before marriage. You can just tell them no and saying no is enough.
    3c. When your mom asks you if you are gay, tell her the truth. It will save you a lot of trouble later.
    3d. Yes, you can still be a lesbian and wear dresses and do ballet and have long hair. I know you don’t see people in your life who look like this, but they exist. You also don’t have to use the word lesbian if it makes you feel weird.
    3e. That girl at camp is also gay and she definitely has a crush on you. Someday, you’ll see her wedding photos on Facebook and regret missing that chance.
    3f. Yes, I said wedding photos. Gay marriage will be legal someday, even in Ohio.

    4. I know you’re really worried about buying all of the Harry Potter stuff that you can get your hands on now because you’re afraid the fad is going to pass and you won’t be able to get it later on. Still buy as much as you can because that stuff is awesome, but don’t worry. There’s still an entire wall of Harry Potter stuff at Hot Topic. There’s an entire Harry Potter amusement park.

    5. I don’t want to tell you about this thing, but I have to. Right now, you are 15 and happy, but in two years when you are almost 17, the worst thing possible is going to happen to you and your best friend is going to die suddenly. There are going to be a lot of people trying to help you, and you need to let them. The pain is never going to go away, but I promise things are going to get better. I know this is going to hurt you so badly that there are days where you can’t even see 10 minutes in the future, but when you are going to be ok someday. It is going to take a long time-many years- and a lot of professional help, but you are going to be ok. Life is going to be brighter again. Don’t let go.

    6. Back up your computer more often.

    7. There’s a close family friend with a young daughter, and I know you are jealous and angry beyond belief that your family is giving her so much attention. Give this kid a chance. She’s not going anywhere. In fact, she is now nearly 15 herself and she is your greatest friend in the entire world, despite a 13 year age difference. Someday, you’ll tell people you are sisters because that’s easier to explain than “well, my mom used to babysit her a lot and we’re really close…”

    8. Take more photos.

    Sincerely, 27 year old me.

  50. Hmm.

    1) That instinct to get out? Follow it. Any way you need to. But don’t be afraid to come back when it’s time. And the time will come.

    2) You’re going to cry every time you move, just so you know.

    3) You should break up with that high school boyfriend a little sooner than you did (for him, sweet kid that he was); you both knew what was going on long before you had the guts. Hell, your mother figured it out sooner than you did.

    4) Keep all those hotline numbers on magnets. Just in case– back-up plans are good. You’re maybe a little to “independent” for your own good at times and it’ll cost you.

    5) Feed your serious friendships. Don’t let them whither from neglect.

  51. Dear 15-year-old me:

    1. You’re going to struggle a while with your identity. You’re going to pretend like you’re the straightest straight person to ever be straight. You’re going to wear those heels you hate and those dresses that make your boobs look great but it all feels off and you’re going to pretend like you’re not screaming on the inside. You’ll eventually figure out you don’t have to wear those things. You can still be cute in converse and a t-shirt. Just give them your signature smirk and smile and you’ll do so well.
    2a. Don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t do something. They mean SO WELL and it is not out of trying to stop you. They are just scared and don’t know what lies beyond what they know. You can do it. You can do anything you put your mind to. Stop listening to them. You know in your heart of hearts you are strong, fierce, determined and can do whatever the fuck you want.
    2b. Also believe in yourself and your abilities. (Also, current self, you should probably believe this too, so I’m conjuring my 45-year-old self to tell my 29-year-old self to start fucking believing)
    3. The day you get that pixie haircut is the day you truly start living. It is the start of everything. You’ll love that cut the first time you get it. It opens up to you actually loving your hair instead of hating everything it is and is not. It is also probably the day you finally start loving you for you.
    4. It’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to not have a reason to be sad. DO NOT LISTEN TO PEOPLE WHO TELL YOU, but you have such a great life, you shouldn’t be sad. Just walk away, walk away and go be sad because telling you to not be sad is just making it worse.
    5. You are allowed to feel whatever feelings you are feeling. You do not need to explain your feelings to anyone.
    6. You always have such a pure heart and intentions. You think that EVERYONE is this way. They are not my dear sweet one. They are not. Some people do not have the best intentions for you. I want you to not, I repeat not let it get to you. Some people are mean or have suffered in their own life. They feel like they need to belittle you and make you feel worse. You can be doing your very best and they will still treat you like a piece of trash. Don’t worry. Ask yourself, Are you doing your best today? If you answer yes, don’t worry, don’t fret. You are doing great and can’t help what other people do. Some people want you to fail and will try everything to get their way. Just do your best.
    7. Always always always do whatever it is you think will make people laugh or feel special or just make them a thing. You always second guess yourself and think is this weird? No, like just make the thing.
    8. Some day your wardrobe is going to be so on point and you will love every piece of clothing you own.
    9. Just love yourself.
    10. All those days you spent wondering if you could ever live in California and you were literally California dreaming, it will all come true. It might seem like a really tough challenge and how will you ever do it. You will, just believe in yourself. Everyone will question your decision but you know what to do. Trust your gut, it knows things!

  52. Dear 15yo me,

    1. The word you should search for when you finally get the internet at your house is bisexual (also queer, but you might yield fewer search results for that). You’re also trans and that’s totally okay.

    2. Don’t stop writing. You’re going to be a good writer someday, even if it takes another 15 years.

    In unrelated news, I got a nose piercing last week! It looks grand and I feel/look more queer than I ever have! 15 and 16 year old me would be very proud. :)

    • Yay nose piercing! I have slowly started removing all the piercings of my youth, but my nose stud remain and does make me feel very visibly cool/queer!

      I dunno what would have happened if I’d typed in “bisexual” in my AOL dial-up days. Hopefully good things. I don’t think I had the guts to do it back then!

        • One of the most pivotal moments in my life was when I typed “bisexual” into google and discovered that there was a word to describe people like me. That didn’t happen until I was 25, and I feel like my life before that was just a lot

        • One of the most pivotal moments in my life was when I typed “bisexual” into google and discovered that there was a word to describe people like me. That didn’t happen until I was 25, and I feel like my life before that was just a lot of wasted time.

          Still, I don’t know if I could have handled that information at a younger age, when I was deeply religious and convinced than anything queer was disgusting. So maybe I found myself as soon as I possibly could have.

  53. At 15, I needed for my feelings to be validated and know the world was not ending so…

    My dear, your pain is real. You are not too young or protected to know anguish. Right now, you cannot imagine how happy, understood, affirmed, and capable you can feel. Even if “it” does not get better, you will.

    • “Even if ‘it’ does not get better, you will.”

      Exactly. This is why I was meh about the “It get’s better” campaign. I found it condescending and thought it minimized the feelings teens were legitimately experiencing. It was a patronizing way for adults to show support (even if the videos were touching). I guess it does “get better” for some people, but not necessarily. The world doesn’t become that much less shitty. You live into your strength, the strength that is already in you, you know? I think more than anything our younger selves need to know that their voices and emotions are real and that their pain is valid.

      • Yes! As someone who sought out “it gets better” videos as a sad high-schooler and found their message deeply unsatisfying, your criticisms ring true.

        Thank you for your response! It is lovely to see my feelings so thoughtfully reified.

    • YES. I remember when I was 13, one of my friend’s parents laughed at me and said, “You’re too young to have real problems.” So many adults are so dismissive of pain at the time in your life when you most need someone to acknowledge that your feelings are valid. I really try to be the kind of adult I wish I’d had in my life when I was 15.

  54. First, I wanna say I’m only 19 and I thought I would have a lot of wise things to say, but trying to come up with them has made me shaky and unsure. Here it goes.

    Dear 15-year-old me,

    After you graduate high school, the fog of depression you only sort of realized you had will suddenly lift and you’ll realize it wasn’t normal. Eventually you will be inexplicably happy on regular days.

    I know it took you a long time, but if you can accept your gayness sooner, maybe you can get a girlfriend in high school and do the cute couple-y thing. Or go to prom and take a girl. Or come out to everyone (but we’re still working on that).

    Write more! Write, keep writing, and do not stop. You are such a good writer.

    Do more math earlier. Keep getting smarter. Take more chemistry and physics. I don’t know what you do with all your free time, but try to use it better.

    Again, you’re a sexual being, but you’re homosexual. You will fall in love, and it will be with a woman. (She’ll never know, but that’s okay.)

    You are capable of being loved and found attractive. Yep. For real. Girls will like you. And you will like them. And hey, guess what? You’ll get to kiss one!!!! She’s beautiful and amazing and if you can possibly kiss her earlier, maybe you can date.

    Love,
    You

  55. And also to celebrate Star Wars The Force Awakens (for everyone who is going to see it/has seen it DONT SPOIL ANYTHING I CANT WATCH TIL MONDAY OMG) Here is my Metal Earth Collection for the Force Awakens. I still have 4 to go that they released like last week and I cannot wait to get my hands on those.

    FIFTEEN YEAR OLD SELF THIS IS YOUR FUTURE:

    She will make you laugh and cry and angry and extremely happy. The world looks like it’s ending but know that there’s nowhere to go now but up up and away!! <3

    PS Happy birthday to my Christmas Tree <33333

  56. Aww, you were such a cute kid! You look great now of course, but I imagine 15-year-old you had a few more insecurities =)

    This is a great OT topic! It’s making me wonder what I’ll be wanting to say to myself in another 10+ years @_@


    Hey Ash,

    I know you think you’re pretty cool and put together now (and you are! for a teenager anyway), but you’ll get more confident in yourself in time and worry less about what other people think. It’s okay to wear things that make you feel good & rad and not just camouflage yourself with geeky tees. You’ll see eventually, and though I’m not sure small_midwest_town is ready for you to shout your trans-ness from the rooftops, you can push androgyny pretty far!

    In college, be less afraid of trying stuff out even if it’s new and scary and you’re bad at it. Don’t just run away after that 1 aikido class; give it an actual try! I don’t know if they had ice skating; I assume so since there was an ice rink. Give that a try too. Sure you’ll never be an Olympian or anything, but it’s super fun! Oh, and do more internships — you’ll thank yourself later when you get tossed out into the real world; trust me.

    You will eventually travel around Japan for a month, mostly with your beautiful girlfriend. I know, pretty inconceivable, but it actually happens (with pictures to prove it). The relationship won’t last forever, but enjoy it while it lasts!

    It’s hard, but don’t waste too many tears on people who cut off contact with you; they seemed wonderful for a while but, sweetie, there’s nothing you can do about and it’s really their loss.

    Also, in college & beyond especially, get out there and try to make friends with more queer girls; they’re pretty much the best.

    Love,

    2015!Ash aka you in 11 years ???? gosh that seems old huh

    PS: totes discover colored hair extensions sooner; they’re way cool!

  57. Love the article, inspired me enough to stop lurking and contribute something.
    —-

    Dear 15 year old me,

    I know this will shock you (you little homophobic prude) but in exactly 10 years from now you’ll be slightly hungover after an epic night out at a gay club with some amazing friends and having made out with literally one of the hottest girls I’ve ever laid eyes on.

    The next 6 or so will be the hardest ones, so hang in there. You’ll have amazing moments in those years still, live for those, they’ll have to tide you over.

    And yes, with hindsight suddenly some things will make perfect sense. You’ve already had one of the first really confusing moments holding hands with the sweet emo girl and enjoying it even more than you’d ever admit. There will be many more moments like this, but you won’t be ready to realize what they mean.

    One day you’ll meet a girl, she will become one of your best friends and be the most painful and amazing thing that happens to you. You’ll fall in love with her and suddenly so much will make sense. Unfortunately she’ll have just started dating someone by the time you realize you love her. But it’s ok, you’ll date some incredible girls and there is a plot twist currently unfolding around this one, so no spoilers here.

    And now I want you to forget everything you just read. The journey to this point will make you the person you are today, someone who is finally happy in their own skin and sexuality.

    XXX

    • Welcome to the (commenting) community, officially! The comments are my favorite part of Autostraddle because I get to meet and connect with these very awesome people from all over the world, so I’m glad you’re here!

      This is a very reassuring letter. Thanks for sharing it with yourself and with us!

  58. I know it’s not Friday anymore, but I really wanted to contribute to this- awesome post.

    Hey 15 y.o. Lynnesha,

    There you are. Go stand in a mirror and really look at yourself. No, don’t protest- you’re not at all fat. I know, you feel huge. You feel like you are an ugly hippo. There’s this thing called Body Dysmorphic Disorder- you have it. Look it up and stop binging and purging. Did you know you have an eating disorder? If you don’t, you’re going to hurt yourself. I know because…been there, done that. There’s more to you than your size, and you’ve always been quietly beautiful. No one else can give you that- you’ll have to know for yourself that you’re gorgeous and worthy of love. Embrace the things that make you unique and accentuate them. Mom is ok with makeup, and you really look super cute with eyeliner and a little tinted gloss. Try it.

    Come out. You’ve been holding this secret since you were 12. Yes, you have celeb boy crushes, but coming out and admitting to your slightly homophobic self that you are attracted and pulled to women will be good for you. There are girls at your school who are mutually interested, that you’re passing up for guys who do not have your best interest at heart. Stay away from them, especially that light-skinned dude with the fingernails. Trust me. In a few years, you’ll fall in love with this amazing woman who shows you what you’re made of, and will truly feel what it means to be wholly accepted for who you are.

    Hug your mom more. Her whole life is you and your little brother, and in about 10 years she’ll start to wonder who she is. Help her to have experiences- offer to babysit, hook her up with your friends’ moms, and be there for her more. When she gets to be an empty nester, you’ll help her to have friends she trusts – something she didn’t have when you were growing up. Her happiness will increase her life span, and we want that.

    Get closer to your little brother. He needs your guidance, and he feels like our parents prefer you. Help him to see that he’s worthy and can do anything he imagines. He wants to be closer to you, but your teenage angst is getting in the way. He’s really a great human, and he loves his big sister.

    Lastly, have as much fun as you can in high school. Yes, you have to get into college, but you’re preventing yourself from having the type of fun that only minors with little consequence can have. You’ll soon find that the things you do in your college years have consequences that suck, like failing and such, so get out that urge to party and be wild now. Yes, that college you want to get into will send you an acceptance letter, but you won’t be ready for it unless you get out some of your fun time now.

    Also, you’ll prefer Lyn. Not because you’re embarrassed of Lynnesha, but because you get too annoyed with people saying your beautiful name wrong. Don’t let anyone give you another reason.

    That’s it- good luck out there, kid.

    Love,
    Older You

  59. Oh boy, this hit me right in the feels.
    I’ve spent the last two hours making coffee and thinking of what I could’ve told my fifteen year old self to help me out, but keep running on empty.
    “Get out! Seek help!” None of those were viable options, at fifteen.
    I could say that fifteen was, when things fell apart, but it only got worse and worse from there on out.
    My mom was, no, is, an alcoholic, or as Hemingway would say, a bad drunk.
    Most days were ok, but the bad days were very bad.
    At fifteen, we suddenly up and left the sunshine state for dreary winter Germany.
    We left my friends, my life, and I could feel myself begin to unravel then, for the first time.
    There was a shadow suddenly,a means of escape, an option, a lure.
    A heaviness.
    So, I guess I wouldn’t tell myself anything but “Thank You.”
    “Thank you for hanging in there.”
    And I wouldn’t talk about the struggles or the fights, the therapy and how life has the capability to heal you, like a wound.
    But maybe, I would tell myself, how, I will stumble across an accident or a person in distress here and there, and do my doctorly thing which is mostly keep everyone calm and call an ambulance (so, nothing,really), but then, sometimes, often actually, someone will say, from the bottom of their heart, “Thank God, you were here.”
    “Thank God, you were here.”-and all my 35 year old keeps thinking, is ” I almost wasn’t.”
    I will tell my fifteen year old self how I still carry her with me.
    And that she is loved.

  60. Dear 15-year-old me

    • first off: yes, we can take 30 seconds to geek out over this whole time travel thing, because !!!
    • second of all: those little intrusive thoughts you’ve been having about how nice it might be to spend a lazy afternoon making out with your best friend on your spare bed? Yeah, you’re really fucking queer, and that is okay. Please don’t waste the next few years agonising about it: your friends won’t actually care, Mum and Dad will actually be fine with it, and you do not need to be validated by your therapists like it’s some kind of tickbox diagnosable thing. You are queer, and your feelings are valid (and yes, those dudes in those bands ARE still hot, and that is okay too).
    • right, yeah, I said “therapists”. Look, I’m sorry, but the next few years are going to suck and I don’t think I can help you, although here, have a hug. Your A level results are going to be terrible. Your dreams and self-identity are going to come crashing down round your ears. Charlotte is going to continue being Charlotte, and while she will apologise later, I’m sorry for all the shit she has and is going to put you through. Mum and Dad are going to say and do some things that will really hurt you, but I promise they won’t actually mean them and that they are trying to help. Know that your relationship with them will get better. And know that despite what it seems like when you’re 18, you will get other A levels with better grades, and you will go to Uni and graduate with a good mark and a science degree (though not that kind of science, sorry. Our brain doesn’t actually work that way, but I know you’re gonna stick with those A levels anyway and that’s fine).
    • speaking of, I know she’s amazing, but maybe try and rein in your hearteyes over your Biology teacher a little? And the Cec thing is never going to happen, so chill. Maybe try and flirt with Katie more though, you never know! And don’t be so mean to Lizzy, she’s a sweetheart.
    • so when Cec says this dude Adam has a new puppy, you should go and see it! And you should chat to him! And when he asks you to dance, you should totally dance! But uh, I know you won’t think he’s actually hot, and you will save yourself a lot of embarrassment and him a broken heart if you don’t actually date him because trust me, if you want to try and “prove” that you’re bi and not an Irredeemable Lesbian, it would help if you were actually attracted to the guy, otherwise your data is, y’know, invalid.
    • and by the way – I know you feel like No One Understands You and everything (and I get it, I do), but try not to be so judgemental towards the rest of your year, many of them are lovely people you might enjoy getting to know them better while you still see them. Also, your fashion sense is amazing and I love it, but the baggy trousers are not a good look, and black washes you out terribly. But get that haircut, and go for those piercings (though please try and remember to take better ID for your second ear piercings, otherwise Dad will have to come and confirm that you really are 19 and that shit’s embarrassing).
    • stop lurking in fandom spaces so much and join in (though please don’t post any of that fic), you might make a ton of new friends! And enjoy that fandom while it lasts, because in a few years it’ll be gone and eventually, so will the bands (except one). Plus like I said, if you really must have validation that your Gay Feelings are Real and not made up (which, oh honey no), fandom is a better place by far to learn to be comfortable with yourself than waiting for adults to tell you what to do. Also, while I’m here: get into Stargate Atlantis, One Direction, Hawaii Five-0 and Adam Lambert when they begin; you’ll feel much less like an trespasser then :D
    • and lastly: when you’re alone in the study room before lunch and sitting on the windowsill and hear the iPod playing Bon Jovi, DO NOT thoughtlessly try and hop down when the song ends to find a better song. Trust me, just…pay attention to where you put your feet on that chair.

  61. I could definitely give some advice to 15 year old me, but I feel like I’d be lying if I ended on a good note…
    18-and-turning-19-tomorrow me just finished her first semester of college with a 4.0 and survived possibly her worst mental health spiral ever, and that’s great, but she still is struggling – mostly with the fear that she’ll never find the friends she wants, “her people,” and she’ll never fall in love and she’ll be a lonely, sexually frustrated virgin forever.
    I wish future me could come give current me some advice…

    • FWIW, I felt the same way at that age (minus the 4.0, though), and while it took a while, I did definitely eventually find my people and fell in love (several times, actually- even got laid, although it took a while).

    • Just passing this along…


      Hey Ash! This is your future you. We’re 30 now and it’s pretty OK. Sometimes it sucks, but it’s mostly OK.

      Hey, that first semester of college was a little rough, especially since you’re supposed to be having the time of your life or finding yourself or whatever. But don’t put so much pressure on yourself. Life doesn’t happen on a schedule. Take care of yourself first and foremost and figure out what makes you happy. If you don’t feel quite as confident as you’d like right now, that’s OK. Try to push yourself out of your comfort zone just a little. Go to that gay club meeting or talk to that girl you have been staring at in class or reach out to that person on the internet that seems really chill. Internet friends are real friends. Sometimes best friends! Approach new friendships with an open heart, as open as you can pry your heart, that is. That’s how you’ll find and connect with your future BFF.

      Just remember, when things look bleak, that you are doing great right now! You are a survivor and you are strong as hell!

      Oh, and we’re going to get laid eventually and it’ll be kind of awkward because it kind of always is at first. But then it’s going to get fun and soon it’s going to be no big deal. I mean, really, at 30, sex is just one piece of your life. It is not the first thing on your mind most days.

      You’ve had some very cool experiences in the last 11 years and I’m sure there are a lot more to come! Try to be a little kinder to yourself. You deserve it! And the truth is that there is no one true path. That’s what keeps it interesting! You’re going to love how your life turns out. I promise!

  62. Been a while. Life has been weird for current me lately – but in the best way. I got a promotion at work and got into a long-distance relationship with one of my best friends at around the same time, so balancing that has been a good problem to have. I wish we could spend the holidays together, but meh.

    Anyway:

    Dear 15-year-old me,
    Hello you gorgeous wonderful girl. You seem to be doing well, and that makes me so happy. But…I hate to say it…things are about to get weird.
    First off, not being heartbroken about your boyfriend breaking up with you is totally okay (especially because he did it because you wouldn’t kiss him. Wtf?). In fact, it’s fantastic! But…it won’t always be that way. In fact, it’s about to get worse.
    You are not only going to quickly befriend your PEOPLE program counselor next summer, but you will fall for her. Hard.
    Yes, I said her. And it will be okay. I promise you. Liking her – and other girls – does not make you weird. You will embrace your queerdom and people will love you because of it.

    Liking the news doesn’t make you weird either. Keep that going despite what others may say. It’s not stupid. It will help you figure out what you want to do when you grow up – although you’ll be behind the camera, not in front of it.
    Speaking of. You may be jealous of other women who have ‘the look,’ but please don’t be. You are so so incredibly beautiful just the way you are. (and that’s another thing! Being in the news will help you find someone who sees that. And it will make you so very happy.)

    One more thing – just keep swimming. Both in the pool and in real life. You got this, girl.

    I love you,
    CC

  63. Dear teenage Steph,

    Be kind to your sweet self!

    Relax. You don’t have to be perfect for your parents to love you or for your friends to want to hang out with you.

    It’s okay, and totally normal, to have emotions, but girl, you’ve gotta learn how to deal with them. You might think you’re just sad and angry because your parents have high expectations and are very protective of you, but going to college will not solve everything automatically. Have an open heart. Don’t be afraid to pour out your heart to others. Dare to be different. And live in the moment, for god’s sake. You’re only 15 for one year!

    Follow your questing heart. Definitely do Peace Corps when you graduate from college. Learn that you learn from your mistakes. Be you, and be proud of it.

  64. I would give anything to get this letter through.

    Dear 15 year old me,

    1. The way you feel about that older girl? That’s called attraction. That’s how other girls feel about boys. Yes, you have a crush on her. But don’t worry too much about that, just don’t tell anyone how much you like her. She will drive you nuts for a while and then the feelings will fade. She will continue to confuse you until she finally marries a man. But the end game will be that she will marry a man. She’ll make a good single friend for a long time so enjoy that.
    2. Your Junior year is going to be the very best year of your life, enjoy it.
    3. Don’t ever buy something just because you think it’s the appropriate choice for a girl. Just buy what you like and enjoy it. Pants will work for everything and if they don’t it’s not worth your time. Don’t even spend money on makeup. You will always hate it.
    4. For God’s sake cut your hair off. Long hair is not going to magically make you straight.
    5. There is no magic switch that will flip when you are “ready” to like a boy and settle down. You will never feel anything for a boy. And that’s ok.
    6. Don’t pretend to have crushes that aren’t there. It’s not worth the effort.
    7. You should go ahead and study computers. You’re good at it and you will save future you a whole lot of hassle of you go ahead and get a BS in comp sci.
    8. Those Christians who tell you the “Truth” about why people are gay and promote stories of people who were gay and now aren’t, they are wrong. Despite all your will power you can’t choose not to be gay, so just don’t even listen to them.
    9. You want more than friendships with girls. Don’t try to get your friends to be more than they are. What you want is called a girlfriend, a partner, a lover. Invest more time sooner in hunting one of those.
    10. That other friend. You’ll know it’s her because your heart will stop when you first see her. You have a crush on her too. And that relationship is something more than friendship. But she will marry the guy, as much as it looks like she might not. Don’t give that much of your heart away to anyone who isn’t willing to call you their girlfriend.

  65. Dear 15 Year-Old Me:

    1.) Tell someone (besides your best friend) about your anxiety and depression.
    2.) It’s okay to like pop songs. It’s okay to like pop songs. IT’S OKAY TO LIKE POP SONGS.
    3.) Get your goddamn license at sixteen. Don’t wait until the week before you start college.
    4.) Don’t quit dance classes. Just don’t do that to yourself. You’ll regret it.
    5.) Kissing is not NEARLY as important as you think it is.

    Those are the most important ones for my little self to know, anyway.

    This holiday has been rough. My grandpa died Monday night, and the funeral was today. It’s been awful seeing everyone around me so upset. We’re all too emotionally drained to have any holiday spirit right now. But, there’s six days til Christmas, and just one more day until the solstice and the days start to get longer, and I’m holding onto that.

    And on that incredibly sad note, see y’all in the thread next week.

  66. I know everyone thinks you’re gay, they’re right.

    Don’t talk to mom anymore, Aunt Becky is gonna do a better job, mom will hurt you again for fun.

    For real, you are for real GAY, do not date a single boy, he does not deserve that.

    Learn to drive, it’s more fun than when mom tried to teach you in that vibrating bathtub of a camero. Maybe get a forerunner. And a dog, you want a dog for sure

  67. Dear 15 year old me,
    Those feelings you had for girls were valid. Don’t get a boyfriend. It will wreak havoc on many friendships. Don’t feel obligated to go gaga for boys. Do know it was the right choice to not come out in high school. Know that you will make many awesome friends who are accepting of your lesbianism. Know you will make many lgbtqia+ friends. Know the crushes you thought you hid so well were really obvious. You will reclaim and embrace yourself as a curvy femme. You will learn to love things enthusiastically, and that it’s not cool to be indifferent. You will get an alternative lifestyle haircut. Don’t. Your long curly hair is gorgeous just the way it is. Food is awesome and you don’t need to throw it out.

  68. 15 year old Heather,

    It’s only been five years, but believe me in five years everything has changed. You think you’re going through the worst part of your life— and then you meet Felix. Don’t date Felix. You will love him, and he will love you, and when he passes it will nearly kill you. That may sound selfish, but I promise it’s for the better because you’ll realize when you turn 18 that it wasn’t romantic love, no matter how much you tried.

    You kissed Selena this year. That’s how kissing is supposed to fee. Don’t kiss her again no matter how badly you want to, in fact cut her out of your life, she’s toxic. So is Lexsy. Selena will pretend every time you kiss that it never happened she will never wake up and realize she wants you. Lexsy will force you back into the closet every time you try to come out.

    Don’t be afraid. You brother is a jerk and that’s not going to change, but don’t you dare stop standing up for your little sister. When you do come out in college (and college will change in so many ways) dad will protect you from him, and so will mom. Do not be afraid.

    In five years, you’ll still have Nate as a best friend, you’ll have had your first girlfriend, and maybe you can’t drive but that’s okay. You’re happier than you’ve been since you were a child. Your anxiety has gotten better to a point you can talk to people without panicking. There are still bad days, but since you started writing poetry, since you came clean about everything that’s happened to you and stopped holding in your secrets, you are happier.

    Go to audeo. Don’t try to cling to your friends the ones that matter will still care about you and the rest don’t bother to remember your name. You’ll be happier, and save yourself a lot of grief and pain.

    This is corny, but I swear to God, while you still believe in him, it gets so much better. I know you’ve been hearing that since you were seven years old, but I promise it’s true. I know you stopped believing in those words a long time ago, but believe me, it does.

    Don’t be afraid to cut off your hair, to be the only person out at school, and when you’re offered the chance to read your poetry at school. Do it. You will regret it if you don’t. You have everything you need to survive and to thrive, you just don’t know how to yet. You’ll learn though. I promise you will.

  69. First time commenting, after reading while I was a 15 year old but never commenting. Now I’m 20 and finally coming to terms with the fact that I’m not totally straight, again. So to 15 year old me I would say don’t let boys tell you you’re straight. You’re not, you’re bi or pan, but you’re definitely not straight. Fall in love with girls but don’t be upset if nothing ever happens with them. It’s not you, it’s okay. You’re probably depressed. Get help with that while you get help for your anxiety. Life will be so much better in the long run once you get help with your mental health issues. Get help with classes immediately. Don’t assume you can just get your grades together. If you need to drop a class, drop a class. Everything really will be okay, one day, I promise. Also dump that boyfriend and stick with your decision to do so when you do. Seriously. Don’t let him talk you back into the relationship. You’re okay now. 20 year old Sydney is okay now.

    This is a great idea!

  70. Dear 15 year old me,

    this is not a “you’re doing great, thumbs up, love yourself” letter. even at 28, you will still be way to driven to not use such an opportunity to address deficiencies, and in great detail. but you also have learned that it is ok to acknowledge yourself and other people. so, before i start, let me give my best shot at that: you are doing pretty fine. you have a very bright mind and a kind soul and the ability to learn and ask the right questions. i’m glad to have you.

    and now let’s get started.
    most importantly: you have a tendency to chose your desire over integrity vis a vis your relationships, i.e. cheat. You will do that to your first, non-functional relationship, and to your subsequent, functional relationship, and they will both be deeply hurt for years to come, and you will feel bad about it for years to come. I feel that you do that (cheating instead being honest) mostly because you are afraid of conflict and feeling all the feelings. You’re not very brave that way. This is your (and my, btw, having figured out what a problem is does by no means mean I have solved it already!) main quest in becoming the person you want to be. Try to get at tackling it early, talk, talk, talk to your lovers. Don’t think it’s shameful per se to desire more than one person. It’s shamefull to lie, or to avoid telling the truth. Read “the ethical slut”.

    This whole being very christian now thing will take a turn towards being very painfull when you realize you’re gay and then deduct that you must, of course, leave the community (which means a lot to you), even before you out yourself. Be braver, my sweet darling. I know, it’s the feelings part again. But be braver, and let them react. Because be letting them react, you will see who you can count on, who is still with you. Of course, the others get a way better shot at being cruel to you that way. But in retrospect, it might have been worth retaining some connections to your roots instead of ripping them out all together preemptively.Do it for me?

    Same, but much more important, goes for your close circle of friends, the magic four-leafed clover club. Yes, all other 3 members are just as christian as you (or more so). But they took your half-assed coming-out surprisingly well, and leaving them behind abruptly because you feel your first insencere breakup with your girlfriend, who was also close to your circle, made you undeserving of their company, and effectively shutting them down, will hurt for years to come. Only 7 years later will you realize your closest friend would have never turned her back on you, and while you’re good now, and even visiting each other some times, those seven years took a lot of potential depth out of that friendship that right now you feel you can count on in everything. So have trust, and put yourself out there, make yourself vulnerable.

    The gay. Let me make that short. You are very gay, genderqueer even. This is – please work that through early because it will make the above exposure activities easier – NOT immoral. It is not something to be ashamed of. You are not a failure, a slightly chipped table, because you reap all the A’s and succeed in everything but you are gay. This is not Karma adjusting you downwards. It’s like an eye color. Nothing more. Not, at all cramping your style. In fact, going pretty well with your style. But for real, though: this whole ambition thing is a bit too wound up, anyhow. You will still be working on this for years, but fulfillment needs not be achieved by hitting full scores on whatever educational or professional challenge society offers you.

    Because of the gay, just stop trying to get excited about guys. Ain’t gonna happen. Also, be not afraid,you’re gonna be hot. In that tall, androgynous way you could not shake off even if you tried (don’t. there is no moral imperative to wear dresses, either) but fear it will impede very much on your performance (again!!stop doing that) on the mating market. but alas: beautiful females and genderqueers will find you – hot. You will be very attractive to people that you, in turn, find very attractive. Which will do wonders for your self-confidence. Also, outing yourself to our parents: not such terrible thing to do: mom will actually laugh in your face when you half-ass her by saying you’re bisexual. Then she illustrate the bisexuality with personal anecdotes you never wanted to hear. So maybe go with lesbian already. :)

    Look forward to the year after high school. It will be liberating and great, intellectually and emotionally, and some of the people you meet will stay with you for good. Embrace the freedom this year offers to you. Don’t be scared about not performing enough. But as I said, don’t be tempted to cut off ties to home, however narrow it might feel, preemptively, just because you found some great people.

    Also, look forward to the merit program you’re gonna get selected for (yes, you. inspite of your defiencies and your rampant inefficency, can you imagine!). You’ll find good parts of your tribe here.

    Consider doing law instead of economics, as your performance based view will only be validated in economics and thus be harder to contain. Join a big band in the first semester. Or try and be rejected. But don not not try it because of fear of rejection.

    visit your grandpa often, convince him that he can still go fishing with you. You’ll miss him when he is gone. Start doing pushups, it will help with your back.

    To sum it up: be brave, kind, have trust in people. Don’t let fear of rehjection reign your life.
    And don’t think about performance all the time, for god’s sake, or at least acknowledge that you are doing quite alright, and relax. And I promise, if you start, I will absolutely carry on the torch in approximately 13 years.

    Hugs!

  71. There’s light at the end of the tunnel, and a tunnel is a tunnel and not a cave because it has an end. That end is not going to be the same place as the entrance, but trust that it will be exactly where you need to be.

    The people surrounding you wish they could gobble up all your hurt. Let them.

    Be brave.

  72. I love this idea.

    I would tell 15 year old me that having sex with guys isn’t gonna get better so stop trying to pretend it is. I would tell her how silly it is to not believe in love. I would tell her about change, and what it’s like to be comfortable in my own skin. Also, to stop trying to fulfill any image that’s being pushed on.

  73. Dear 15 year old self,

    The past three weeks have been alright.

    Driving is much scarier when you are on the road with other cars and not in an empty parking lot (I think I’ll/we’ll get better with practice).

    Don’t stress about getting a job at camp, just enjoy the summer as much as you can. It all works out

    College gets more frightening as you get closer to it. (I don’t have any encouragement on this topic.)

    Don’t feel like you are obligated to come to everybody/anybody at any point. It isn’t most people’s business and your comfort is more important.

    Yours truly,
    yourself

    P.S. Tell your 14 year old self that you don’t have to keep on kissing that boy (if your favorite part was when you were holding hands and walking, that’s probably a sign), but you don’t have to feel bad about having done it

  74. Dear fifteen year old Ash,

    1. Stop worrying so much about being in a relationship. I know you think the clock is ticking, and I’m still not completely sure why. You will find lots of people who love you. They won’t think you’re ugly. In fact, most people now don’t think you’re ugly. Also, being ugly isn’t the worst thing in the world.
    2. You’re smarter than you give yourself credit for. Don’t take pre-calc. You don’t need it. You’re awesome at statistics and economics and honestly… that’s a lot more important. You’re a great writer. Pursue that and you’ll be amazed where it takes you. Your college English professors are gonna love you, especially the feminist literary theory ones.
    3. Stop resenting your parents so much. They love you a lot. But don’t feel like you have to make them happy all of the time. You don’t.
    4. When it comes to love… always follow your heart.
    5. Stop eating so much candy. Running is actually fun if you want to give it a try, but hiking is great too. Learn the names of plants and trees and birds. When you feel depressed, take a book of poetry and your journal to the woods and just get lost for a couple of hours. That’s where you’re at your best.
    6. Girl, when you wear that army jacket and bell bottom jeans… you look seriously hot.
    7. You do look good with short hair. Stop worrying about your “fat face.” You’re not a manic pixie dream girl and you don’t want to be one.

    May the force be with you,
    Ash

    So now that I’ve written this I’m reflecting on it. It’s kind of a hard thing to write (recognizing that this is a totally fictional think I’m doing but also thinking seriously about what I might have done differently had I known back then what I know now). I’m not sure that I would change anything. Sure, I got married to a dude. If I hadn’t, maybe I would have come out sooner. But then again, maybe I never would have come out. I really feel like I had to go through all the things I went through to get to where I am now. I think this actually gave me a chance to forgive my younger self for a lot of things… she was a pretty cool girl.

  75. Dear 15 year old Megan,

    1. You’re gay.
    2. Don’t date all of those boys, you will be unhappy and uncomfortable. You will feel inadequate and that no man will ever love you and want to marry you. Save yourself the time and pain. You don’t need a man!
    3. Don’t sell yourself short. You are amazing. Take a moment and just let yourself, for once, soak in your awesomeness.
    4. You may think you want to be a mechanic and tattoo artist, but honey, you are no artist and don’t know the first thing about cars. Stop ignoring your mom and look into colleges.
    5. College is great, don’t be so afraid of it. You will meet the girl of your dreams there and be so extremely happy that you will not miss being a tattoo artist.
    6. Be happy, you’re going to do great.

    Love,
    Adult Megan

  76. Dear Me at 15,

    1. Be kind. At age 40 you will look back and the only true regrets you’ll have were the times in your life you didn’t treat people kindly. Be kind to others and yourself, always.

    2. Try to be honest. I know you can’t tell people you are gay. It’s 1990 and you live in the bible belt. But don’t let the lies about who you are attracted to seep into other aspects of your life. It makes things awkward and robs the world of who you truly are, which is nothing to lie about.

    3. Abandon the Journalism degree and pursue Computer Science, even though in 1993 it’s not what girls do. Do it anyway because you are good at it.

    4. Don’t worry so much about what people think of you. Really.

    5. Your grown up life is going to be awesome! You can’t imagine what the world will be like in 2015. You are married (yes, married – it’s legal now) and you have kids. You are the most normal family on the block. You are a fun mom. You are in love and happy, I promise.

    6. Moisturize. Please.

    Love,
    40 Year Old You (Me)

  77. Dear 15 year old me,
    You don’t like boys. Stop trying to convince yourself you do, it is only going to waste a lot of your time and energy. That boy is cute, yes, but you’re not into him. But talk to him, maybe you can be friends. You need more friends who won’t stab you in the back anyway.
    You can cut your best friend loose. I know it is hard and it feels impossible because she has literally been there forever, but she only hurts you again and again and again. Also, don’t trust her. If you do decide to cut her off it will save us the trouble now.
    One day you will climb a lot of stairs to stand on the ledge of a building you will never forget. You need to know that this emptiness you feel today will go away someday. It is worth it to go on even if it is hard, even if it feels impossible to move. Put down that razor blade, the scars will haunt you and you will not know how to stop once you start. We are still trying to stop, we count the days and slip often, too often.
    Don’t leave. Three years later you’ll be heart-broken (not the romantic kind) and you’ll will be the most furious you have ever been. It is only about your ego. Remember that thing about not making decisions when you’re angry. Good things have come of leaving, sure, but your grandparents may never forgive you for it and even if they do, you may never learn forgive yourself for what was essentially abandoning them because they hurt you. They hurt goes away, the guilt doesn’t.
    Maybe your father doesn’t suck so much.
    Maybe your mother doesn’t suck so much.
    We’re still debating both.
    Learn to love yourself.
    Know that you are enough.
    When someone tells you they love you consider that it might actually be true.
    Stop thinking so goddamn much. Learn to cut loose.
    It is okay if you don’t like the pronoun she.
    Stop wasting money on makeup you never use, put that into books. Comics. You love comics, the sooner you start the better.
    Write, honey. Write. Write. Write. Don’t question your ability to write. It is the one thing that helps you go on. And one day we might even finish something we start.
    We met an amazing girl who told us she loves us. We’re still trying to believe how that could be, though.
    You’ll make it, because I am here… unless this letter fucks that up.
    -Al

  78. Dear 15 year old me,

    I know you’re lonely.

    Next year, you will meet some people who will change you forever. You will see her and never feel the same again. It will take you too long to realize what it means, but she will be your first kiss and your first girlfriend and you will hold her and swear you’ll never feel this much again. You’ll meet a boy who will show you what the world can be. He will give you your first drink, he’ll show you your people, he’ll make you understand that you’re someone people want to know. You will dance the night away together and go on adventures to the other side of the world. They’ll leave you at the same time and you will feel lost. She will break your heart, but you’ll never regret it. You’ll never stop worrying about him. You’ll visit, and he will be okay, I hope, but you should call him more often. He will still be your best friend, but you will also find others.

    You’ll be 19 when they leave for different countries, but you won’t feel ready for the world. You’ll make new friends on your own and realize that you are. You will move to a country where you know no one. It will be the best decision you’ll ever make. You’ll make new friends and keep the ones from home close. You’ll fall in love again and it will be completely different in the best way. You’ll learn that you are so much better than you think.

    Never stop hugging your parents. Take care of your sister, she’ll need you.

    X

  79. Dear 15 year old me,

    1. You are anorexic, and it’s time to get help. Your therapist is lovely and you become a much better person. You are so much happier than you thought it was possible to be. Sometimes you are not as happy, but you are certainly on an upward trajectory.

    2. Date those boys. You had fun and learnt a lot about yourself. You’re gay, but it’s still okay that you dated those boys.

    3. Do not break up with your current boyfriend to go out with that other one a week later. You will regret that for years to come. Don’t be cruel to your current boyfriend, he really deserves better.

    4. Don’t get with that last boy. It becomes a toxic, multi-year saga that could have been avoided. He outs you and you break his heart, over and over.

    5. A few years later, you don’t mind being outed. Nothing bad happened.

    6. March at mardi gras. When you see your friend, push your way through the group you are marching with, wave at where he stands in the crowd watching the marchers. He will quickly become one of your best friends. When you find out he has depression, make an effort to be there for him. You know how it felt.

    7. The next year is possibly the most transformative year of your life. You learn to love your family. You come out, on your own terms. You decide to love yourself. You become a better person.

    Love, future me

  80. Hey you

    Yeah you, I know you, you are so very angry and afraid and so hungry, nothing in your life is in your control not even your mind (it’s called panic disorder, you’re not insane) you’re life is going to get worse, far worse but a lot of things will eventually change

    Here’s my shout out to 15 year old me:

    1. You are queer, and I know how terrified even hearing the word gay makes you feel, they may have been right about that but they were dead wrong about the rest of it

    2. Please stop starving yourself, I know it makes you feel powerful and indestructible but it’s a lie

    3. Embrace your masculinity, be butch, be a dyke becuase you look sexy as all hell in a dress shirt and tie

    4. He won’t be the love of your life but he will be your best friend

    5. People will think youre smoking hot, no really, trust me

    6. Stop sleeping with people you don’t care about, sex with people you love is so much better

    7. People will admire you and respect you and you don’t have to wear your rage like armour for that to happen

    6. She will rip out your heart and light your soul on fire, it will take you a long time to let it go, fall in love anyways

    7 buy boxers sooner!! It will make you feel incredibly confident and sexy

    8. sorry to break it to you but 5’0 is as tall as you get and your going to stay with a 34A cup, it doesn’t matter the way you think it does

    It’s going to be worse in so many ways, life will be even harder than it is now (I know it sound impossible) but one day you will know yourself seperate from anybody else or crude stereotypes and she will be somebody to be proud of, keep your head up kiddo

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