Dear 14 Year Old Me…

(Thanks Daily Prompt for the, er, prompt)

This is not a trick. Nor, as you’ve sometimes hoped, are you stuck in a Holodeck program aboard the starship Enterprise. A door is not about to appear out of thin air. Wesley Crusher is not about to walk through that door and rescue you. I know that’s disappointing, but I have much better news for you: you will get out of Wilmington.

It’s not going to happen in two years, like you’ll hope when you apply to go to college early at Simon’s Rock, but it will happen. You will graduate, and you will have many more adventures than you can even imagine right now.

I don’t want to give too much away, but you will not end up where you expect and your route will be circuitous. In fact, I think you’ll be rather surprised by it all. If I were to tell you that you will be living in Portland, Oregon, engaged to an amazing man, and still trying to figure out exactly what you want to do with your life 16 years from now, I know you won’t believe me. It gets even more strange when I tell you that you lived in Canada for five years, Portland, Maine, for two-and-a-half, and never wanted to go back to live in Boston or move to New York City or San Francisco like you always thought you might. Oh, sure, you’ll think about it, but there was something about the soggy Northwest that kept calling to you.

You’d be shocked that you’ve given up on the idea that a suit and tie is the only appropriate business attire, and that you feel much more comfortable in jeans, Keens, and a t-shirt. (Don’t worry, you still dress up to go to the theatre or the symphony, when you can afford it–things aren’t all that barbaric.) You’d also be surprised by the regular acupuncture and regimens of Chinese herbs you take trying to stop your liver from beating up on your heart, and getting your qi to flow more powerfully and efficiently through your body. Oh, and you’re also not so much of a city boy anymore. You look forward to camping trips and to getting off the grid. You think you probably don’t do it nearly enough.

I could go on and on and on about all of the things you’d be completely shocked by, but there’s also so much that is entirely recognizable. You’re still wearing glasses (and you still have the All About Me book that proves that you’ve wanted to wear glasses since you were five). You’re still a bit of a smart ass and a know-it-all. You still have a somewhat fastidious attention to detail and a craving to having things in a certain order and to do things a certain away. But you’ve also learned to appreciate a little bit of chaos and randomness in your life. If your fiancé has taught you anything, it’s that it’s important to let go sometimes and just enjoy the ride.

And, speaking of your fiancé, he looks like nothing you would expect and he’s not anything like you thought he would be. Well, that’s not entirely true: he’s caring and kind and sexy, but he also drives you crazy sometimes because he’s almost entirely your polar opposite. If not for you, he’d be eating Ramen and never have clean clothes. And that’s not just your future self being haughty–he’s said it himself. You take care of him and he takes care of you.

I guess all of this is to say that while it’s important to plan for the future, don’t be too surprised when those plans don’t exactly work out. Keep planning, stick to those goals, but don’t become so rigid as to not be able to bend with the wind.

I think the most important thing that we have in common–and that I sometimes wish I had held on to more of–is a bright-eyed sense of wonder about the world and about new experiences. Four years from now, someone will describe you as a kitten, playful and explorative, who gets confused when your claws get snagged on something and things don’t go as you had expected. This will not feel like a compliment at the time, and I’m still not sure if it was meant to be one or not. But please don’t give up that feline sense of curiosity. Don’t stop exploring. Don’t stop pushing yourself. And don’t retreat into that shell. Yep, you’re a Cancer through and through, but don’t use this as an excuse not to feel your feelings when you feel them. (You ought to recognize where that line comes from by now.)

Which leads me to family. Yes, you still go home and look around and wonder, “Who are these people? Where did I even come from?” You will still look at them all, sitting there, and, they will look familiar, and you’ll still sometimes wonder who they hell they are.

But (and it’s a big but), you will also look at them and recognize yourself in them. You’ll realize that the reason that they all look familiar is because you will start to see bits and pieces of yourself in their faces, and in their laughs, and in their movements. Sorry to break it to you, but you are not, as you sometimes thought and hoped, adopted. You were not switched at birth. You’ll realize five years from now, after you shave off your goatee for the first time, that you have your mother’s nose. As you get a little older, you’ll start to recognize your father’s eyes in your own. And you’ll notice that, once you get us going, all of us do that same weird wheezy sort of laugh. You know the one I mean. You will start to treasure these similarities and, believe it or not, you’ll actually start to mostly like your family. They really do mean well and they really do want the best for you–even Mom. It’s hard to see that now, I know. You’ll just have to take my word on it.

You’ve only just started high school and it’s impossible for me to make you see just how young and innocent you still are. You’ll feel like you’re ready to take on the world and that you don’t need to deal with the bullshit of living in a suburban purgatory. Except that you do. Because that’s what living in a purgatory is all about: this purgatory is going to make you into me, at least in part. It’s going to set you on a path that you least expect right now. And it’s going to suck a lot. You’ll quickly come to realize that anyone who says that high school was the best years of their lives peaked too early in life. There’s so much more to do and to look forward to once you get out. And you will get out, it does get better, and you’re not alone on this journey. You just haven’t met your fellow travelers yet.

Hang in there, young explorer, and know that it all adds up to something.

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