I wrote a letter for the Dear Teen Me website.
It was both harder and then easier than I thought it would be. By the time I was done writing the letter (and staying within the word counts) and then sorting through the photos, I had ideas for at least another dozen letters.
I think it’s a great exercise for writers trying to bring up some youthful memories.
You can read the letter here and see some funny old photos of me and my sense of “fashion” too.
I made a few of those mistakes myself. But isn’t it nice to be able to tell Teen You about the happy ending? 🙂
It sure was, Jenn! I found the whole process very healing.
Interesting that we remember the things that were important then, still important now although we know they shouldn’t be, like boys & clothes & our rooms. Those high school kids hold so much promise & mostly don’t know what to do with it. I just had a couple of my former students visit yesterday, ready to be seniors. I could see that some parts of their lives were going so well, & other parts were skimmed over, so not so good. I loved your honesty about the changes you made that you regret, & we’ve all been there, have them cemented into our minds. Thanks Susan.
That’s it, Linda. I assigned so much important to the wrong things. And I continued to do it for many years past high school. Sigh. Some lessons take me a VERY long time to learn.
You are brave to write to your teen self (I’d be reluctant since my teen years were not the greatest), and that you’d share that with the rest of us. Thanks!
Thank you, Karen. I don’t know that is was brave. There’s a lot of things I didn’t write about it too. But it did make me feel better. You might try doing it and not sharing it with anything and see if helps you heal in some way. And of course I didn’t write about EVERYTHING. There are some thing that will always stay secret.
Here Goes as you said very healing !
Dear Teen Anne
People often ask you what age would you like to go back to if you could? You never answered this question. Mostly because you cannot think of a happy time in your childhood that you would like to go back through. Your very young years filled with pain, loneliness and much saddness. I don’t believe I ever saw you laugh or smile much at all.
You could not wait to turn 13. As if you thought that somehow that might fix everything. Nothing was further from the truth in fact it proved to be the most disasterous year of your life. One that would leave indellible memories etched in your heart and in your mind. You had already endured 4 operations 2 of which were on your eyes and 2 on your legs. You already had to wear glasses from the age of 18 months. Having thought that was the end of the operations you were horrified to learn at the age of 13 you had to have another one. Each time you never learned of your impending fate until it was too late and you could never do anything about it anyway. The last operation proved to be the most painful of all. As you were about to find out even more painful than childbirth. You felt like your foot was on fire and there was never anyone there to comfort you and tell you everything was going to be alright. Oh yes , your mother was there but she never did that. You never thought it was too much to ask but it never happend.
You got out of the hospital after 3 weeks. As it turned out it was more fun after the initial pain than you thought, You got married, well a virtual marriage anyway. To a boy named Peter. He went home before you though. It would never have worked out anyway because he was always going to get better you were not. Not in the physical sense anyway.
After 3 months off school, you had to try and catch up. This proved to be very hard. They did not make you repeat the year though. The torment and ridicule continued as it did right through your school years. You could never escape it and you never really had anyone that understood. You being the only one in the whole school that was different. You only had one more year to complete to get your high school certificate. Oh how much you wanted to go on further. Your father however had other plans for you, He used to tell you constantly that you would never be any good and you would probably never even get married. You were to prove him wrong in that area as you know.
You cried yourself to sleep a lot. No wonder you never liked the dark. After finishing your school years at just 15 you did a secretarial course. You hated it so much. You knew in your heart that you could do and wanted to do other things but you were trapped. You attended everyday through fear more than anything. Afraid that your father would think even less of you if you didn’t complete it to his satisfaction. What a great burden you carried and what a great sacrifice you made at his expense. For what though.
You finally found a position in an office in a furniture furniture factory just around the corner. After much searching and plenty more disappointments. You were never happy there though because you never ever wanted to work in an office. You never had the confidence nor the courage to stand up to your father and tell him so. By this time you were aged 17 and you had only been there a short while before they told you that there was no longer a position for you. This they said was due to the down turn in the industry. You knew better though. You spent 5 years unemployed after this disaster because there is no other word to describe it,
You got so depressed that you even used to have thoughts of taking your own life. You surely remember the day you had the razor blade in your hand and you were going to slit your wrists. Lucky for you that you didn’t, because you know now that things turned out alright, For those few agonising hours though that is all you could think about. You just wanted it all to stop. All the pain , the disappontment, the rejections. You ended up on medication for anxiety, that which you are still on today.
For 5 long years you were unemployed no wonder you were depressed that would have been enough for anyone. You knew you could do it. No one was willing to give you a go they could not see past your disability, to see just what an asset you would prove to be.
You did prove everyone wrong though. You finally found a position. Which to this day you have been in for 27 years. You got married, the least said about that the better. That having lasted just 15 years. Out of that marriage though you have too fine sons. Now even a grandson.
This all come about because you finally found the courage to ask for the help that you obviously needed. You used to see it as a weakness, that of great shame. The thought that people might think you were crazy as well as your physical limitations. Oh how you should have had the courage to ask for help sooner. You could have saved yourself years of needless grief.
You in some ways still have that now because that was the way you were conditioned but you are better able to cope with it now. You also know that you can’t change the things of the past. All you can do is acknowledge that some not so very nice things happened and move on to a bigger and brighter future. For there is one out there for you. Of that I am certain.
– Anne McKenna
Thank you for sharing, Anne. I hope it helped you to write it out.