A Letter To My 13-year-old Self

It’s nighttime and you’re scrolling through YouTube. Your white MacBook feels heavy, and the light coming off the screen is reflecting onto your face making it hard to feel tired, even though you’ve been half-asleep all day. You feel small, and anxious, but you tell yourself you deserve to feel this way. You tell yourself that these are the right feelings to have. Alanis Morissette plays from your light blue headphones, but you don’t sing along. You were supposed to fall asleep hours ago, and you’d be punished if your mother knew you were awake. It’s 1am now, and you silently click, swipe, and scroll on the World Wide Web. There’s an overwhelming amount to absorb, and you are eager to devour all of it.

Outside of your pale rose-colored bedroom, the world feels like a shade of ebony. Bush terrifies you. 9/11 haunts you. Your parents are getting legally divorced. Your father has been gone for nearly a decade, and you’ve internalized it as entirely your fault. You will learn seven years later at a Chinese restaurant in Silverlake over sesame noodles that all of your parents’ unhappiness has nothing to do with you. Your mother will apologize to you about putting you in the middle and you will never be able to eat noodles again –– they will forever taste like loss.  

Inside your bedroom, you can’t understand why you don’t like Chad Michael Murray. He’s everything –– He has defined abs, blonde wavy hair, and is an ambitious basketball player. You start to hate yourself for not drooling over him. You want a companion, sleepovers, love, but can’t seem to find a boy to complete you. Instead, you write in your diary that they all smell like armpit sweat. You pin yourself as an outcast, an outsider. After all, why else would your father have left?  

It’s 3am now, and anger trickles down your spine as you continue to sift through the internet. You’ve watched sixteen coming out videos, a makeup tutorial, and now you’re engulfed in the news. You switch to Google and quietly research, “What is sex anyway?” You’re filled with uncertainty, then pull the cover over your entire body. You’re filled with rage at your parents for leaving, at yourself for not daydreaming about hot men in magazines, and then decide to watch a documentary on full volume to drown out your thoughts. You turn up your headphones until your ear drums hurt.  You want to hear nothing else.

You go to school the next day. You talk about boys on the lunch yard. You keep your parents’ divorce a secret. You try your best to fit in. But the more you hide, the less seen you feel. You have people around you wanting to get to know you, but you can absorb none of it because you are not you outside of your bedroom.

You kiss a girl after a dance competition in San Diego, then emotionally spiral. You’re queer, but do not know it yet. You look to the internet for what this kiss might mean, but feel excluded from what is accessible to you. Your anger turns into tears, then distracts you from your homework, then manifests into vicious and cruel fights with your divorced parents. You lock your bedroom door more often. You taste alcohol for the first time. You get in cars with high schoolers and drive to the top of Hollywood Hills to feel some sort of escape from it all.  You just want someone to listen, hold, and appreciate you for you, but who are you anyway? Your body becomes a vessel housing a dozen butterflies aimlessly flying inside your stomach.

You cut your hair, try to reinvent yourself: wear rainbows and backwards baseball caps. But you’re still you – and you feel trapped beneath a surface. You start to hate your body for the way it naturally takes up space. You are mad that you love ballet. You contemplate quitting dance altogether so that you can feel more queer, but the thought of looking “too gay” scares you too.

What you can’t possibly know yet, is that you’re you and that is enough. Your parents’ divorce, romantic interests, and passions might be woven into the way you move and stuck to the back of your knees, but that doesn’t mean you have to take up any less space. You may not have rainbows plastered across your body, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t worthy of queer love. You are a ballerina with purpose and ambition, but that doesn’t take away from other parts of yourself. You can’t yet see that the way you move through the world is unique and makes you, you.

You are about to fall in love for the first time. It won’t work out though, and you will be left heartbroken.  You will feel like you failed. You are about to cry on a bench in Hollywood Hills alone because you can’t imagine a day where you will comfortable with your sexuality.

You’re about to meet a step-dad, a step-mother, have two new half-sisters. You are on the brink of change, but you haven’t yet accepted that none of it is in your control. No matter how fast or slow the world around you changes around you, you are all you need to adapt.

You are you and that is enough.

You don’t know that one-day Trump will be the president. You don’t yet know that one day you will be in a healthy and loving relationship with a beautiful girl. You don’t know that one day you will discover Toni Morrison’s Beloved, and see the world differently. You don’t know that one day you will feel confident in yourself and the way you take up space.

You may never be able to control most of the darkness that surrounds your bedroom, but each evening as you type, scroll, and post, you are reminded that you are not alone. The internet isn’t always inclusive and empowering, but it’ll always be there for you. You will find pockets of friendship on Tumblr, LiveJournal, and MySpace and these spaces will provide you with information and genuine community that you can’t yet find in real life.  These online relationships will teach you how to type words into existence, and organize your thoughts in new ways.

You will eventually go to work in digital media, and use these skills for the rest of your life. You will make it your mission to make media more inclusive for youth globally. What you went through as a teenager, will propel you into finding your purpose in life. The challenges that hurt you most throughout your adolescence, will drive you to make the world a better place.

You may feel like you don’t matter right now, but I promise one day you will internalize that you do matter.

It’s 3am right now, and I am still scrolling through YouTube at the age of 23. I’m listening to my favorite Alanis Morissette song on my headphones, and I have work in the morning. I still feel confused sometimes, and I still get anxious often. But what I know now is that no one else in the world is me, and that is my power.

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