By Dina Rock
The other day I was rummaging through some old photos, and I came across a picture of me at 14 with the worst haircut I have ever had. (Apparently only Carol Brady can wear that style.)
I looked at my teen self and said out loud (luckily no one was in the room), “What were you thinking?“ As I laughed at myself, I thought, “What if I had a ‘Peggy Sue Got Married’ moment and was able to go back in time as my 48-year-old self and speak to the 14-year-old teen? What would I say to my younger self?”
Of course this led me to think about what I have learned in my life. Oprah has a column in her magazine (oh I miss Oprah) that she always ends with, “This I know for sure.” And so I started to think about what I know for sure that I wish I had known back then.
I was shy back then. (To my friends whom I’ve met in my adult years, this will seem shocking.) I was the kind of kid who was fun and funny with friends but quiet in school and very aware of the social groupings of high school.
So I decided to write a letter to my teen self.
Dear Me at 14, 15, and 16,
First and foremost, you made it. You turned out great. You are happy and your hair will get better as each year and product progresses.
I want you to know that inside you is a strong, funny soul—a person who is moved to tears by Hallmark commercials and can burst out laughing at a great joke.
I also want you to know to trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. If someone calls herself a friend, but doesn’t act like one, believe it.
Always raise your hand when you have a question because others are thinking the same thing, and you can be the brave one to ask it.
Ask your question again and again until you understand the answer. YOU are in charge of your learning, your discovery and your path, and YOU WILL get there if you ask questions.
Life is scary, bad things happen, but ALWAYS look around you because there is someone doing the right thing, someone helping and someone to show you the good in humanity.
Fitting in. Oh Dina, that is a big one. First and foremost, fit in with yourself. Feel comfortable with who you are, and know that there are others like you. Popularity is a phase. Being true to yourself and knowing who you are is a gift.
A friend once told me to live life. “Doing it afraid.” She was right. I have learned that in my 40’s. Please don’t wait that long. Take chances; jump at opportunities.
Knock on doors as opposed to waiting till opportunity knocks.
I’ll be here waiting for you. Enjoy the ride. It’s got its ups and downs but you are always “belted” in by people who love you.
Your future self (who now gets it),
I thought I was done and I was about to tuck the letter away with the picture when I thought to myself, “Should I add more? Should I tell her to eat right? Exercise more? Cut class a few times?”
Nope… If she’s happy she’ll figure it out, she’ll be happy with who she is, she’ll tell her family and friends she loves them and she’ll be great.
But maybe I should have discussed more about the 80’s hair…
Dina Rock is a 5th grade teacher at The Agnon School and a Fellow on the Teacher’s Advisory Group for National Council on Teacher Quality.