dear me . . .


Dear me at age 16,

So you finally got your braces off and you really do look great. That retainer you picked is going to last you forever, though, so you might want to re-think the purple.

emily freeman toe touch

I see you there as you drive to the baseball field, Peter Gabriel loud on the radio. Slow down, for the love of pedestrians. Don’t rush through these days.

That shortstop is cute and he likes you back. He will end up asking you to the prom. I know it seems like he’s so much older than you, but he’s only 17 and he’s nervous.

You will go together with Chris and Heather and you will have fun and you won’t get into trouble. But in two months, that shortstop will move to Utah and you will never see him again. It will crush you. You won’t remember anything about this summer because your heart will be so broken.

I beg you not to let that happen. Let your girlfriends in. Ask them to the movies. Laugh until your sides hurt. Even though you’ll never see the boy again, there are a couple of girls in that mess of people you hang out with who are true friends.

emily freeman

Talk to Mom. Go shopping with her. She loves that. Ask her to show you how to make her chicken and noodles. She prays for you and for the man you’ll marry in a short 8 years from now. He’s worth the wait. Thank her.

You know all that advice people wrote in your yearbook last year? “Never change!”

Don’t take it.

Change will be one of your greatest teachers. You’ve already thrived through two big moves. There will be two more. So when Dad tells you next year that you’re moving to Detroit, face your last year of high school as a grand adventure. You’ll only live there a year anyway.

Go to a U of M game. Learn how to say “car” like a Michigander just because that’s funny. Take a book to that coffee shop in Birmingham. Learn how to be alone. Laugh at yourself. Breathe in the smell of the hardwoods in your bedroom.

Write down the name of the color you paint your walls because when you get married, you’ll search for the perfect coral-orange and won’t be able to find it.

You know that pull you feel to be by yourself sometimes? That scatteredness that comes when you don’t have time to stare out the window? Listen to that space. That isn’t a character flaw and there isn’t something wrong with you.

I know you’re torn sometimes between going out on the weekends with your friends and hiding at home in the closet. You will choose your friends nearly every time. Might I encourage you to test out the closet?

You hate your feet and your ears that stick out, but begin now to embrace both the things you like and the things you don’t as God’s unique making of you.

I’m not going to tell you to love every part of your body, but one day when you meet your first daughter, you will see your feet differently. And when you have your son, you will smile at those ears because they aren’t just his – they are a heritage gift passed down from Dad, Grandma Morland, and Great-Grandma Dorothy. You are a person who has people.

That’s me in … prison? No. Cheerleading camp.

You just made the varsity cheerleading squad and I know you worked hard for it. And even though people think you are confident and accepted because of that, I know the truth.

You feel somewhat invisible and slightly unimportant. Even though you’re on the squad, you don’t really feel like you belong.

Mrs. Smith told you your English paper was strong and well-written. Listen to her. Ask her questions. Practice writing. You won’t remember for a long time how much you love it. But it will come.

You see things about God as being black and white. Soon, you will begin to see varying shadows of gray. That’s okay, it really is. Even though Dad has only been a believer for five years, sit down with him. Ask him your questions.

The way you choose to deal with your pain and questions may be different from some of your peers. But we are all wounded. Be kind, to them and to yourself.

You think being a good girl is the goal of your young life. You are secretly exhausted and in a few years, you will begin to wonder if it is all worth it. You will think you don’t have a story to tell. But you do, and it’s beautiful.

You have a great reputation, but that isn’t the most important thing. The goal is love. The older you get, you’ll realize that there isn’t a “right” way to pray, there isn’t one “right” way to do Church, and no one really knows what they’re doing.

I don’t know if it will be overwhelming or a relief to tell you this, but mostly I still struggle with some of the same things you struggle with. I’m learning to bring those things to God more quickly and without shame. That’s a big part of growing up.

You cry easily and you’ve been made to think you are too sensitive. You will spend a lot of time trying to change that about yourself. I hope you will learn to embrace your tears as kind companions, tiny hints to where your heart beats strong.

Spend time with your sister. She’s in her first year of college and she finally doesn’t think you’re a dork. Use that. Drive to her dorm, spend the night, ask her questions. You won’t live in the same town forever but one day she will be your best friend. It starts now. Live it up.

Find your brave yes. Fight for your strong no. When it’s time to move in a way that will affect change, honor the courage it takes to start.

Sometimes it will look like simply showing up, and that will be hard for you because you will feel useless. Speeches and banners aren’t the only ways to inspire change and movement. Sometimes simply opening your hands and releasing outcomes to God is the bravest thing you can do.

Your words have powerful potential. Learn to use them with conviction.

You are loved and you are safe.

emily

P.S. You will wear heels at your wedding. This is a bad idea. I strongly encourage you to find some flats.

graceful for young women

If you would like to write a letter to yourself as a teenager, we would love to read it. Here are the details.

Basically, write it on your own blog and come here Friday, September 14 to link up. Choose a graphic to include in your post. Here are some of my favorite writers who are writing letters today:

Stacey from 29 Linoln Avenue - We grew up in the same town in Indiana, which is bizarre. I love thinking of her doing life just like me, except not.

Allison Vesterfelt - She tells herself 3 stories and they are beautiful and powerful.

The Nester – My sister. Y’all. This is just too much. I’m dying.

The winner of the small group gift pack is Elizabeth Maxon! Congratulations. I sent you an email.


Comments

  1. says

    That? was so much fun.

    And I cannot believe you could get your legs up for that whatever you call it.

    Also, writing a Dear Me letter was the most fun I’ve ever had writing, I think I’ll just write letters to myself from now on. Just like Future Dwight.
    emily’s sister´s last blog post ..Dear Me,

  2. Amy Carroll says

    Emily, you just minister to the deepest parts of my soul. I was thrilled to recommend Graceful to my youth leader today!

  3. Deanna says

    “Sometimes it will look like simply showing up, and that will be hard for you because you will feel useless. Speeches and banners aren’t the only ways to inspire change and movement. Sometimes simply opening your hands and releasing outcomes to God is the bravest thing you can do.”

    I needed to read this today! Thank you!

  4. says

    What do they say about hindsight being 20/20? What a beautifully written letter to your teenage self. I think this just might be a really cathartic/therapeutic exercise for me/anybody. I’m worried though what might come up if I sit and think about my teenage past for too long – all the ridiculous and embarrassing things I thought and did. I might need to go to counseling afterwards, but the good news is: I’m a counselor and totally endorse it!

    By the by, your sister’s reference to Future Dwight has me in stitches. But I’m sure she keeps you laughing all along the merry road:)

  5. amanda says

    oh how I love this.

    and that Russian – {well, that’s what we called them on our cheerleading squad} – is glorious! oh my!

  6. Dawn Martin says

    Beautiful letter. My favorite part: “Might I encourage you to test out the closet?” Brilliant and laugh out loud funny! I love this whole “Dear Me” concept. Enjoyed your dad’s letter and Stephen’s too! Ordered your book yesterday! :)

  7. says

    Hi Emily. I came across this post from Jeff Goins site and I felt the need to comment and say thank you for an extraordinary post!! We don’t know each other and will most likely never meet, but I am sitting here in a small diner near my home in Montreal, Canada and wiping away tears of what, I do not know (joy?, sadness?), as a result of reading your words. You have obviously touched a chord within me that has laid dormant for a long time and I thank you for that. I think this day will pass with more self-reflection than most of my days. Thank you again and I will now look over the rest of your site to get to you know you better :)

    Lyle
    Lyle Robinson´s last blog post ..Mimi Fox – Live At Silo’s!

    • says

      Thank you, Lyle! I’m glad you found your way here and I hope you’ll be back again. These letters people are writing are ripping me apart and like you, I can’t quite figure out why. But it’s a good ripping (if there is a such thing).

  8. says

    Oh, these posts are wrecking me. I love this project, this letter, I think I need this book as much as the teenagers I’m going to ask to read it with me. It’s moved me so much that I’ve posted blissfully awkward Barbara Moss ridden pictures of sixteen year old self on my blog! So much grace to you in all the unfurling here, Emily.
    Annie´s last blog post ..Dear Me {a Graceful post}

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