In honour of It Gets Better Week, The Hindsight Letters is excited to share a Letter from talented Canadian Writer, Editor and Producer Sarah Liss! Thanks Sarah!
Dear me at 14:
So far, 1995 seems like the Year Of Miserable Thinking. You walk around in a big ol’ gloom-cloud, an unshakeable fog that never lifts. In your lighter moments, you imagine yourself as Pigpen in a Peanuts comic, stalked by a tumbleweed-sized ball of depression that follows you from frame to frame to frame. You wear a boxy grey man-sized coat like a shell, and you’re still freezing cold all the time. You listen to a lot of sad, sad music – Mazzy Star and Smog and Cowboy Junkies’ Trinity Session – and you make a lot of lists.
You also made the very unfortunate mistake of dyeing your hair a weird cherryish auburn, after choosing the L’Oreal Castings colour that featured a model on the box who kinda-sorta resembled Angela Chase. Don’t worry – it’ll fade soon enough, and you’ll stop looking like Strawberry Shortcake. And besides: all your friends tried their own My So-Called Life Castings experiments, and all of them look equally dumb.
You already realize this on some level, but you’ve shoved it way down to the subterranean caverns of your subconscious, underneath the lists and angst and plans to get shitfaced wasted in the parking lot during school dances. You like the idea of being bisexual, but as a political statement – the same way you embraced veganism after watching a heartbreaking video of chickens on an assembly line.
You will still obsess over crafting the absolute perfect mixtape (Filter, Velvet Underground, Sebadoh) for the boy two grades above you with the lank Kurt Cobain hair and the Peruvian poncho. You will also obsess over crafting the absolute perfect mixtape for his girlfriend (Belly, Liz Phair, Luscious Jackson), who is fearless and beautiful and played Alice in your school’s avant-garde production of Alice In Wonderland. And when they both look at you with a combination of fear and fascination because you really did make each of them the absolute perfect mixtape, even though you’ve barely spoken three words to either of them, you’ll feel strangely validated. And you’ll watch them holding hands in the back of the school auditorium, clad in matching Value Village cardigans and saggy corduroys, and you’ll be overcome with this primal sense of…. wanting.
Teenage me, I want to wrap you up in a big plaid flannel hug and tell you that your overwhelming sense of wanting is real and true and utterly misplaced. Because, see, you let yourself get caught up in a neverending whirlwind of hopeless infatuation and dead-end narratives so that you don’t have to pay attention to the great big love story that’s staring you in the face.
You’re in love with your best friend. She came out to you while the two of you were hiding under a big oak dining room table at a drunken house party that you weren’t even invited to. When she told you she was gay, your internal organs felt like they were liquefying and your lungs filled with fiberglass and your heart started to beat in quadruple time. For a moment, in the haze of four Durango coolers, things fell into place.
In that moment, you understood why just making eye contact with this girl could make or break your day. The notes in each other’s lockers, the intense phone conversations till the wee small hours of the morning, the long walks through dark parks after midnight, the all-Sarah McLachlan mixtapes: they all made sense. You’re in capital L-O-V-E love, with a girl who’s trying to talk around how much she loves you back.
But just as quickly, you swallowed that realization. You pushed it back down under the lists and angst and parking lot drunk plans. Because jeez Louise, to face that thought head-on is as scary as staring into your best friend’s eyes for too long. You’re not ready to read the next chapter in that story. So under the table that night, you hugged her like a proud, supportive ally and told her it was cool, and that your friendship wouldn’t change one bit.
Soon enough, she’ll head to university and the two of you will lose touch in the wake of a magnificent fight. You’ll spend the next two years confused and distraught, idly considering boy-crushes while pining for your best friend in the hollow of your heart. And finally, the year you graduate, you’ll announce at long last that yes, you’ve been in love with this girl since you met her. Nobody will be surprised. And it will be too late. She will have moved on, and you’ll drift into a chronic state of low-grade heartbreak.
So, 14-year-old me, what I want to tell now is: Don’t be scared. Jump into your teenage love story; don’t hover on the sidelines because you don’t know what to call it. Don’t worry about what people will think or say. Don’t worry that it will fall apart – it will, eventually, but you’ll regret having missed out on it more than you’d ever regret having to let it go. Be brave.
And for heaven’s sake, don’t ever dye your hair bright red ever again.
P.S. The rave scene? You’ll discover it next year. You’ll think fun-fur pants with 40-inch leg-holes are cool. You’ll be wrong.