Dear me at 13:
Your headphones have been plastered to your ears for the last several hours.
You’ve got “High and Dry” on repeat. For whatever reason, Thom Yorke and the gang have been able to coax you through this morning. Something about the first few drum beats of that song- they’ve got some kind of a magical quality. They instantly calm you and allow your mind to float away.
You’ve just crossed over another state line. Farmer’s fields are blurring into one another outside your window. Each mile that you drive brings you further away from home and shrinks any possibility of escape. You can’t turn around now. You’re stuck on that bus.
It’s the big Grade 8 class trip and you’re on your way to Boston. While all the other girls are cozied up in the rear, gossiping and subtly stabbing each other in the back, you are sitting in the front. By yourself. You’ve got your legs stretched out on the empty seat next to you.
You didn’t really want to go on this trip in the first place. You didn’t really care about Boston. You didn’t really like any of the other kids in your class. And you’ve never really done well being away from home. You like your own bed. Your room. Your routine. You debated for many weeks about whether or not to attend. But you ultimately knew that skipping the trip would exclude you from the experience that everyone would be talking about. You couldn’t risk further alienating yourself. You had to go.
Initially, your childhood “Best Friend” promised to room with you. At least you’d get to giggle away with a familiar face. But days before the trip, you found out that she had signed on to be in a room with the popular girls instead. Everyone else had already booked their rooms. You were plunked in with the other girls who had been left without a chair during the latest round of musical cliques.
Your being stuck in the “runt” room gave the popular girls lots of ammunition. They wanted to make sure you knew how much fun they were going to have and just how boring and geeky your room was going to be.
Under normal circumstances, you spend your days being taunted, but ultimately have the ability to go home and escape each evening. To recharge before having to march back into the salt mines again. An overnight trip would be like an endurance test. With no respite from the battle.
Understandably, you have been dreading this trip.
I want to tell you something. Plain and simple. It’s the essence, really, of all these Letters I’ve been writing to you:
Your life won’t be like this forever. I promise you.
I know. It’s really hard to believe. You’re so young. You’ve only been on this earth for 13 years. The first 10 of which were relatively unblemished. Happy. Worry free. Then this whole puberty deal started. You entered Junior High. You met the mean girls. It felt like life would never be the same again.
Here is the thing: Life is essentially a series of peaks and valleys. There will always be valleys, and you have just entered your very first one. But I can guarantee you that if you just hang in there for long enough, you will always be met by the next peak.
There is something about Junior High that is so, so hard. So dramatic. So emotional. For whatever reason, people go really far out of their way to make each other miserable. Nasty rumours. Entrapment three-way phone calls. Stealing friends. Stealing boyfriends. You’re forced to spend every day with a group of people whom you have not chosen. You’ve been clumped together and told to get along.
No matter how old you get, being at the bottom of one of life’s valleys is daunting. It’s hard to see how you’re going to get out. And it’s easy to start believing that it might never happen.
I know you’re feeling a little sad. I know you’re feeling lonely. I know you’re feeling homesick. But you won’t feel this way forever. When you do hike your way out of your very first valley, you will turn around and look back at the distance you’ve climbed. You will be proud of your strength. And the next time you see a little dip up ahead, you will know for certain that no matter how deep this road might lead you, you will always manage to find your way back up again.