Wow … it seems so strange to call you that. Just as you left the moniker of “Angie” behind you in the sixth-grade, you’ll abandon your identity as “Ang” the moment you enter college. You’ll try to anyway. People will still call you that sometimes and really … it’s O.K. when they do.
First things first … I’m not going to reveal too much of your distant future in this letter. Instead, I want to focus on who you are right now in 1990-something. But, I will humor you and answer the one question that you’re dying to know — because if I don’t you won’t pay attention to anything else I write, I know you.
Yes, you will get married someday. And yes, he’s a good man. You’ll meet him when you’re 24.
Yep, that does mean that the kind boy with the arresting blue eyes and awkward smile you met in Denver will not carry you over a threshold. In fact, that boy — the one who wrapped his arms around you in front of a waterfall beneath a starry sky — will break your heart.
Oh sweet girl … pay attention to this: When he writes you to explain that there’s someone else he cares more about and that you shouldn’t feel bad about “being second-place,” exercise self control.
By that, I mean ignore your inner drama queen. I know that’s easier said than done, because the chick is loud. However … please, please — I beg you – please do not stalk him with letters or phone calls. There’s nothing you can do to change his heart and releasing your inner psycho (I’m not being mean, I promise, I just know what lurks deep inside every hormonally-charged teen) will only make the situation worse. He’ll hate you. His friends will hate you. You’ll hate you. Just don’t. K?
So, here’s what you should do instead of channeling a Glenn Close character. When you get that letter, allow yourself to cry an ugly cry. Go ahead, get it allllll out. Then, gracefully loosen your grip on that dream, gently kiss it good-bye, and let. it. go. It’s going to be difficult to do, but you can do it … you’ll feel like you can’t, but you can and you will. I promise. Just try to get it out of the way early on so you can have more fun.
Oh, by the way, be sure to spend time getting to know the boy’s older sister. In twenty years, she’ll be one of your most treasured friends.
Now, let’s talk about high school.
I know you hate that place. And you should. It’s a brutal corridor lodged in the belly of an unfair world. You survive it — and you’re a better person after you do — but here are a few things to help you navigate your way through the four-year nightmare.
You don’t need me to tell you that many of your classmates are cruel. I know how many times you locked yourself in a bathroom stall and cried. I know you’re feeling as confused as you are hurt. I get that you don’t understand why they taunt you relentlessly … why they despise you.
Twenty-years later, I still cannot make sense of it all, but here’s what I know.
I know that truth runs deep through the following cliche: Hurting people, HURT people.
I know that everyone — even those pretty cheerleaders — sitting in those plastic blue chairs carries the fear of insignificance. It’s high school. Angst invades, pulls and lingers.
I’m not making excuses for them. The class clown that put a target on your back … well, he’s a big jerk right now and there’s just no other way to say it. But don’t fight him with fancy words. It will only make matters worse, because, you see, he already feels insecure. That’s why he picks apart others.
So yeah, don’t you even waste your time trying to get the best of him or other emotional bullies, but Ang … don’t believe them either. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that you’re ugly, stupid or worthless. Don’t believe them now. Don’t believe them ever.
You see, when you view the shy girl in your mirror as someone with little worth, you aren’t just falling for lies spewed by some of your classmates. You’re perpetuating a lie straight from the pit of hell (yes, I use that word sometimes — it’s a real place – it’s O.K.). Ang, You are loved. You are valued … treasured even. And girl, your life has purpose. You’re gonna make a difference in this world. I promise.
One day, these years will feel like a distant memory. You’ll forgive every single person who hurt you during grades nine through twelve. You’ll remember the drama without even wincing. It’s beautiful when you get to that place, because it means you’ve healed. But until then, please follow these instructions:
Don’t ever mold your pain into a weapon. Instead, use it to help you identify the hidden anguish in others. When the bullies target another victim, wipe the relief from your heart and encourage the oppressed.
Tell the tormented that they just heard a bunch of lies. Tell them that what they wear, how they style their hair and what their parents do for a living does not affect their intrinsic value as human beings (just don’t use the word intrinsic … trust me on that). Tell them about Jesus and how He changed your life. Instead of fighting to alter your status in a flawed system, fight for the truth.
Scary stuff, I know. But you are not alone. And you’re not weak either. You are Jesus-made strong, you just need to tap into that strength. Devote some time each and every day to reading your Bible. Start with the letters from Paul and read them again and again. Let that truth be your motivation … let it set you free.
I wrote a version of this post several years ago and updated it today for my (in)Courage sister, Emily Freeman. Dear Me is a writing exercise she came up with to introduce her new book, Graceful, which is written for teen girls.