Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Dear High School Freshman

I'm not sure if I've mentioned this... I'm one of 5 kids. Tomorrow morning, my baby sister starts high school. This is absolutely crazy to me because, well. I feel like she was just born yesterday. But, besides that, I can't help but think of all the amazing, beautiful, terrifyingly wonderful things that await her in the next 4 years.

So, this is for you, Andrea. 

Dear High School Freshman,

Welcome to high school! I bet you're super excited right now. I bet you're wearing an awesome, brand new outfit you agonized over for weeks leading up to today. I can just see you, stepping off the bus, walking into those double doors you've been dreaming about all summer. You're so excited & nervous you can hardly stand it. It's a cool September morning & everything is new & unfamiliar & absolutely THRILLING. This is the beginning of one of the most life-changing experiences you'll ever have. You will walk out of those doors in 4 years completely different than when you arrived. That's the most incredible & terrifying thing about this place. You're on your way to who you'll be & you probably still don't know who that is yet.

High school is full of all kinds of people. You will find your place among them. Make friends but do not strive to be cool or popular because that, my friend, is nothing but a facade. Your life will not be defined by whether you're head cheerleader or the quarterback on the football team. I promise that your worth is not defined by the quantity of "buddies" you have. Try instead to make a few, REAL friends -- people who will have your back through thick & thin. & from experience, I can tell you that those people are not always the "coolest" or the most popular. The most valuable friends are those you can laugh with & who you can trust. Social status will not make you happy.... I promise you this.

Another thing. Boys. This, my dear was the one thing I learned well.  I'll never forget the first time I set eyes on the boy who changed my life. He was tall & mysterious & had eyes so blue they were GORGEOUS. From the moment those eyes locked on mine I knew that my world had changed forever. He had a car that we'd take to the lake & watch the sunset. We'd hold hands, laugh & talk about how we wanted to drive at top speed  far from the limits of our small town.  We used to dream for hours about our future -- The places we'd go, the people we'd be, the things we'd experience. He made so many promises that I couldn't help but believe with every fiber of my being. He promised me he'd never leave & that he'd be there for me always. I was SURE that this was love.

I clung to that relationship desperately. Even when the red flags were trying to lead me elsewhere, I ignored them. He was ALL wrong for me & it did NOT end well. I don't believe he is a mean person, although some of the things he did were pretty mean. I thought I'd never recover. He took more than just my innocent belief in happy endings & left me feeling like a complete, naive idiot. I spent months waiting for him to change his mind. To dump the pretty girl he left me for & come back. I walked by them in the hallways, pretending not to see them because it made my chest feel like caving in. But eventually I realized that a relationship built on chemistry & desperation was doomed to fail. I can't thank him enough for deciding to release me from that mess. I'm afraid to think of how it would have ended if he hadn't.

One of the things that got me through the chaos was my best friend. He kept me
smiling through my darkest days by reminding me that I was beautiful & worthy of someone who would adore me. He promised me that I would find happiness again with someone who would know what a catch I was. That sweet boy with his contagious smile & quick sense of humor helped me see that I was more than just some dumb boy's play thing & that I should not settle for anyone who treated me as such. He was always there when I needed someone to talk to or cry to. He made me want to be the best possible me, the strong, independent woman I'd always hoped to become. I owe him for helping me realize all the wonderful possibilities inside of me. Hold on to friends like that. (Spoiler Alert -- I married mine.)

& to end this boy talk, just a quick note about those guys you may have in the "friend-zone." They make the
best husbands. Stop dating jerks. Stop dating arrogant assholes. Stop dating guys because they're hot. Date someone because they're your friend, they're easy to talk to & they make you laugh. Everything else is superficial & will get old.... fast.

But, more than anything, don't try to be something you're not. Don't let some sad, insecure classmate make you feel inadequate. You are you for a reason. God. I remember being SO insecure about my weight, my hair, my clothes. I had people say things that have stayed with me to this day. Things I still stress over as an adult. Don't let their comments destroy you. Never let anyone else's opinions define your worth. I know it's hard & I have no doubt you'll have to have a good cry now & again. Probably a lot. Maybe even at a school dance or in the gym locker room. Maybe in class or in the girl's room. You're not weak. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

You're starting an amazingly exciting adventure. Enjoy every moment. Take it all in. Laugh until you cry, cry until you laugh. Be crazy & carefree. Be silly. Be young. Sing loud to your favorite songs. Dance in the rain. These are the years when you can be an adult & a child all at the same time. Love everything from the air in your lungs to the feeling of the steering wheel in your first car to the sequins on your homecoming dress. Drink in each moment & feel, REALLY feel it all. Seriously, it goes by SO fast. My aunt used to always tell me "These years are meant for experiences." So just feel, see, & listen while still making up your own mind. You'll never forget the lessons you learn, the people you meet & the moments that help you become the person you were meant to be.

You'll do fantastic in high school. I look forward to watching you grow over the next 4 years. Never forget who you are, where you come from & what you believe in.
I'm ALWAYS here for you, doll.

I love you. & I'm SO proud of you.

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