Dear me at 16,
Ah, the Erin of 1996. I’m writing because this is the last year of life as you know it. I don’t say that to scare you. Most of the changes are for the better, actually. I hate to post spoilers (you’ll figure out what that means later, when the Internet is far more prevalent in your life), but you know how you always wanted a baby brother or sister? Well, get ready. I know that you feel like a mature adult at this age, but while you’re not as silly as a lot of kids in your class, you’ve still got a lot of growing up ahead of you, and it’s going to come at you fast and seemingly from out of nowhere. Never fear, though, because thirty year-old future Erin is here to help.
First of all, stop worrying about your figure. You’re gorgeous. Trust me, in a few years you’d kill to have abs and thighs like you do now. Right now, you hear the term “late bloomer” and want to throw something heavy and breakable across the room, but unfortunately, sweetie, that’s exactly what you are. You will have boobs one day, I promise. They’ll show up around your twenty-eighth birthday, along with hips and a few gray hairs. Until then, suck it up, buy a padded bra and enjoy that jack-rabbit metabolism God gave you.
In a few weeks, you’re going to start taking voice lessons. You had to work really hard to prove to Mom and Dad that this wasn’t just a fleeting whim (like ballet, baton, colorguard, I could go on…), and you’re going to have to maintain a good record of rehearsing to get to keep taking lessons. You don’t know it, but they’re sacrificing a lot for you to have this opportunity. Rest assured, though, that all the effort and dedication are going to be worth it. Singing isn’t just your latest phase; it’s what will come to define you as an adult, and will afford you experiences you can’t even dream of at this point in your life. In other words, stop rolling your eyes at Dad when he asks if you’ve practiced for a whole hour.
Speaking of parents, you don’t realize it now, but you have two of the most amazing people raising you. You take for granted the fact that Mom and Dad will always support you in whatever you choose to do, even if they don’t necessarily approve of it. They treat you like an adult, and the house (and fridge) is always open to your friends. You don’t have the slightest clue how uncommon that is, or how lucky you are. Maybe you could thank them on occasion? Frozen pizzas don’t grow on trees, you know.
Friday night, look around at the friends sitting beside you on the couch. Most of these kids will grow into the adults who will be there for you for the rest of your life. You’ll forget most of your classmates’ names, but that hippie-chick, cynical braniac, and the slightly neurotic fellow that brings his own snacks will stick around. Right now, the most you are concerned about is which movie to make fun of, but together, you’ll help each other through anything life can throw at you. The many miles between you make visits rare, but you’ll always pick up where you left off, and you’ll always have each others’ backs. Treasure these kids. The bond you share as a group is both unusual and completely wonderful. There’s also one girl not on the couch. Her house is a little too far away, but she’s been at every birthday party since you were four. Your parents actually had it down to the minute how long you could play together before a fight broke out. She will not only be your best friend, but your surrogate sister. The Robin to your Lily (you’ll totally get that when you’re older). Don’t take her for granted, either. She’s better than that.
Lastly, and I really hate to throw this in because it’s a downer and you’ll totally freak out: dance with your daddy. He always asks, and you always say no. You’re embarrassed. You’ll dance with him on your wedding day. Well, I hate to break it to you, but no, you won’t, and you’ll really want to. Do it now while you still can. Life is way too damn short for regret.
I do want to congratulate you, sweetheart. You have learned at sixteen what many adults I know haven’t figured out: your self worth. You’ve already noticed that there are a lot of small-minded people who, for whatever reason, won’t like you. You’ve also come to the realization that their dislike is not personal. There’s not a problem with you. There’s a problem with them. This is one of the single-most important lessons you can learn, and I am so proud of you for understanding this at an age where many kids would fall apart at the idea of someone disliking them. Life is full of rejection, especially with the career path you’re going to choose. Of course, the understanding doesn’t make the rejection any less painful, but it will make it easier to overcome. This realization will also make you a stronger, more determined person, because you will have to work doggedly for every accomplishment. Nothing will be handed to you, and you’ll be better for it. Love your family, cherish your friends, but above all, to thine own self be true.
P.S. Buffy, the television series. Watch it. The first episode is horrible and nothing like the movie, and you’ll want to turn it off, but it really does get a lot better.
Erin is a singer/actor/filmmaker living in Mobile, AL with her husband, Thomas, and two ill-tempered parakeets. This photo, taken during a friend’s “art photo” phase, was found in the bottom of her closet, beneath a very cute skeleton named Herbie. When she’s not performing, she runs a pop culture-beauty blog, www.adorablenapalm.blogspot.com.