*GUEST SUBMISSION* Letter 64: Get Ready

22 Aug

Erin writes:

Dear me at 16,

The Author 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.

Much love,

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


*GUEST SUBMISSION* Letter 63: Just Breathe

8 Aug

Hayley writes:

Dear me at 16,

The Author (centre) at 16

First of all chica, breathe. Just breathe. I know how stressful things are right now with school, and at home. But your life is amazing and will only continue to be so. I know right now you want to run away from everything, but you can’t. I promise you, it will get better, it always does.

Second of all, way to go with swimming and your social life! Your grades may be horrible right now, (will touch on that in a second…) but you are in the best shape of your life from swim team, and you’re becoming best friends with the girls who’ll become your soul sisters.

We all make mistakes, but yours are so fresh that you can fix them, and you should. Your boyfriend (#1) right now, he is fun. I’ll admit that, and he is hilarious, and creative, and you wont regret letting him into your life. You guys wont last much longer though, which is okay. You get to be friends with boy #1 later on in life. So I’m going to tell you to stop it while it’s still early.

I know you hear this all the time from Dad, Mom, Richard, and Kate. You don’t work to your potential.

Girlfriend, you are so smart, so fun, and so creative. You don’t do your homework, (for numerous reasons) but your test scores are high. You have awesome friends, and your teachers and parents are willing to help you. Let them help you. I know you wont believe this, but next year, you’ll get a 4.25 on your report card.  You’re thinking about Graphic Design and Advertising. I would tell you to pursue it, but it’s okay if you don’t. You can’t even image where I am right now writing this letter…better than any Ad agency.

Please be nice to Dad. If you take anything away from this, let that be it. You’re starting to not get along, and it’s only going to get worse, and your relationship is going to be different. You’re going to go through so much in the next 5 years and some of the things you do, anyone else would regret. But the only thing you regret, is hurting your relationship with Dad. Guess what, I know you wont believe this, but your parents…they’re always right. And they love you, even though you sometimes think they don’t. They love you so much, and you need to make sure that they know how much you love them. The guilt you feel when you guys fight doesn’t go away, ever.

You’re in a really dark place right now.  But just remember, you have Laycee, you have Courtney, and you have this one boy, who you are in love with. He’s Boy #2, but you don’t know it yet. Soon, your friendship will turn into flirting in art class, and your flirting in art class will turn into a relationship, and he is so good for you.  Just go for it already! I promise it will be worth it.

You’re probably reading this right now in your bedroom, while coloring, and listening to The Killers (which is still your favorite band, and yes, they still rock). You’re rolling your eyes at all of this, and I’m sorry I’m telling you what to do. We always have been a little bossy. So, stop crying, go eat some string cheese, finish up all of your late homework, and watch Mean Girls for the 58th time with Courtney. While you’re doing all of this,  text your Dad, and say sorry.

Hayley is a typical young twenty-something studying International Studies in California. She just returned from a year abroad in Germany and is figuring out  where her next move in life will take her. You can check out her blog at: www.seehayfly.blogspot.com

Letter 62: On Emergencies and Playing It Safe

3 Aug

Dear me at 18,

You’ve always had a recurring nightmare in which some dangerous villain is pursuing you and you are trying desperately to dial 9-1-1, but your fingers keep slipping.

You keep having to hang up and start over, only to fudge the order again, as the bad guy approaches and doom is imminent. You know in your heart that if you could just reach the 9-1-1 operator, you would be safe. But your fingers just won’t work.

Tonight, you made a mistake.

You took a chance that you’ve taken many times before. A simple walk. A stretch of residential street lined with beautiful Victorian homes, tall Oak trees and hip old-fashioned bicycles tied to front porches.

Having recently scored your first fake ID, there is nothing more fun and exciting than heading downtown to your favourite lounge, waxing poetic with the University crowd and pretending to be totally grown up.

Your best friend and you have repeated this ritual for several weeks now. You drive your Mother’s car to the Annex and park in a local School parking lot. Since it’s after school hours, the lot is empty, and also completely free of charge. From there, the two of you make the 10 minute walk to the back alley where the entrance to the bar is hidden away.

Your Mother has been repeatedly reminding you to keep your wits about you while walking to and from your car. She’s concerned about the area you’re walking. She doesn’t like the idea of two young girls walking alone to an empty parking lot, late at night, in an area known for housing some less than savoury characters.

You thought she was being over-the-top. Until tonight.

Walking back to your car, your girlfriend and you were chattering away about some guy you met, or about some song that was playing, or about a joke the waiter made before you left. You were totally engrossed in conversation. So engrossed, in fact, that you were unaware of the man who was following you to your car. At first, he kept his distance so as not to alert you to his presence. But as you walked further down the residential street, and as you became increasingly isolated from the Bloor Street pedestrian traffic, he started to get closer.

At some point, both you and your girlfriend began to hear the sound of approaching footsteps. They were getting faster. You looked at each other, assessing one another’s panic levels, both trying to remain cool. As you turned your head backwards, the man stopped. He dropped his pants. He was looking at the both of you in a way you’ve never experienced before.

Suddenly the street seemed significantly more remote. The street lights seemed distant and marred by the trees. The only sound you could hear was your racing heartbeat. There was a very long moment in which the man and you locked gazes. You will never forget the look in his eyes. A voice from within you yelled so loudly you had no choice but to listen.


Your girlfriend and you were panting by the time you reached the next major intersection. You were now standing amidst romantic eateries, couples sharing plates of spaghetti and bottles of red wine. Sparkly Christmas lights adorned the trees. You’d never been more confused in your life. Sheer terror still had its grip firmly on your chest and you were now surrounded by people enjoying lovely meals in fancy outfits. Your exposed pursuer was nowhere to be found and life as usual had continued for the rest of the planet.

“Oh my God,” said your friend, “What the hell do we do?” You reached into your purse and took out your cell phone. Fingers shaking, you dialed 9-1-1. You hit the buttons in the right sequence first try. But it rang and rang. So many rings. It seemed like an eternity until a voice answered-

“9-1-1, what is your emergency?”

“I’m standing on Harbord street right near Central Tech High School and we need police immediately!”

“What is your emergency?” It felt as if hours had transpired since you first dialed the number.

“My friend and I were walking down the street and a man followed us to our car and pulled down his pants and we ran as fast as we could. We need police here right away!”

“Is the man still following you?”

“What? Uh, no. I mean, I don’t know. I mean, I still have to walk back to my car, but I don’t feel safe because he could still be waiting for us-”

“Maam, do you know how many calls we get like this in a night?”

Your heart dropped.

In an instant, you realized that the people on whom you had always relied to keep you safe, wouldn’t always be able to do so. The police weren’t coming. No cars would be dispatched regarding your emergency. On the Toronto 9-1-1’s scale of urgency, you were on a level of minus 13. They could not have cared less.

You’re alive. You’re safe. Though shaken, you’re unharmed. You should be very grateful.

Because, make no mistake: the margin between what you experienced, and something much, much, worse is so small that it’s nearly imperceptible. A different man, a different night, a different time, and all the tiny variances in between and you might not have survived. You might have wound up with a stalker who wanted much more than to simply flash you his junk (and unimpressive junk at that, by the way. Loser.)

Tonight you will safely return to your car. You will walk through the doors of your parents’ house in suburbia and climb into your bed and onto the crisp cotton sheets that your Mother just cleaned for you. You’ll be a little jumpy, but you will fall asleep and wake up to a new day.

Your Mother knows what she’s talking about. I know that living in your teenaged world can make you feel like you’re invincible right now, but the sad fact is that you’re not. Quit taking chances that could lead you to consequences much more real, and much more terrifying than any recurring nightmare. Start treating your life and your safety like the gift that they are. Protect them even when it seems like you’re being over-the-top.

Because believe me, my friend. When you do finally return home safe, I can promise you, you’ll never be sorry.


If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

*GUEST SUBMISSION* Letter 61: You Will Get Through Everything

25 Jul

Lisa Marie writes:

Dear me at 15,

The Author at 15

Although you may not think so now, you are going to get through the obstacles in your life. As you are, sitting all alone late at night in the children’s ward at Oldham Hospital. Sure, you’re in a lot of pain now. But what do you expect? You’ve had surgery on your hip today.

Just remember who was there for you. Yes, you know who I’m talking about. Your best friend. The best friend who you say now will be your best friend forever. I know you think nothing will ever come between you both. You have all these thoughts in your head. That you will always be as close as you are at this very moment. Like sisters. I wish I could tell you that you will always be this close.

But I can’t. I can’t lie to you. That temper you hate about your Dad? Well I’m sorry to tell you, but you’ve inherited it too. That temper will get you into so much bother as you get older. Not only with friends, but men as well. Please don’t bottle things up. Don’t only see the black and white in life.

I will give you some hope. At 27 years old (as I write this letter to you) you will have a better understanding of the person you want to be. It’s not going to be an easy  ride, let me tell you. But everything that happens in your life after today will shape you into the women you want to be. I hate that I can’t warn you about certain places to avoid. I truly do. You will probably hate me for it.  Just trust me. Trust that I know you will get through everything life throws at you.

Here is my last piece of advice: In the time you are recovering from this operation you will get some great enjoyment out of writing your stories. Trust me when I tell you to keep writing. It will help you so much over the years.

Now, put this letter down and get some sleep. You have physio in the morning. It’s gonna hurt like hell, but you need to do it. Go to sleep.

Lisa Marie has a blog ‘Inside My Head’ (www.insidelisamarieblog.blogspot.com) You can also follow her on twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/lisa_m_miller) She values her close friends like an extension to her family.


If you liked this post, you’ll surely love this one and this one!

*GUEST SUBMISSION* “Dear Adult Me” Letter 60: These Are The Things That Make Us Me

19 Jul

Throughout the summer, I’ll be sharing Letters written by some of THL’s (very talented) teenaged readers. The Letters for this series will be addressed to the writers’ Adult Self, written from the perspective of a current teenager. If you are between the ages of 12 and 19 and would like to submit a Letter, please visit the Submit A Letter page to learn more!

Bay writes:

Dear Adult Me,

I have so many questions for you! Did I end up as a doctor? Am I married? Did I keep any of the friends I have right now? What mistakes can I avoid?

Unfortunately, there’s no way for ‘me-at-18’ to benefit from the experience of ‘me-at-35’. However, if I somehow remember I did this, it’s entirely possible that you could come back and read this letter. So maybe it’s possible for YOU to benefit from some of the things I know!

First of all, please don’t ever let us be estranged from our family. No matter what happens, or how things end up, they love us. We are so blessed in our relatives, and I won’t be very happy if you let pride screw that up!

Second, I have some really great friends right now who I know will care about you too. I know you won’t stay close to all of them or talk to them all the time like I do now. But they truly love you and will always be honest with you, so if you need someone to cry with or someone who’ll shoot straight with you, look them up.

Finally, stay strong. Don’t lose faith in God. Don’t compromise on your convictions. I know you’ll grow and mature from where I am now, (thank goodness!) but do me a favor, try to stay essentially the same person! Love clothes and shoes, read as much as you can, be addicted to music, find the fun in everything! Care about people, feel things deeply, stay loyal to friends, keep that eternal optimism, and never give up your adoration of chocolate. These are the things that make us me.

Well, see you in 17 years!

P.S. If you could avoid getting really extremely fat, I’d appreciate it.

The Author Today

Bay is a cynical romantic who spends her time reading, writing, and dazzling the world with her sparkling wit. You can find her rambling’s at Bay285.blogspot.com, where she continues to write even though no-one is reading. She loves comments!


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Don’t Forget to Check out THL on CBC’s “Being Jann”!

15 Jul

The lovely Jann Arden and I

Hi everyone!

Don’t forget to check out my interview with the lovely and talented Jann Arden on CBC Radio One’s “Being Jann” this Saturday, July 16th at 10 a.m. Take a peek at the “Being Jann” website for more information on air times on CBC Radio One and Sirius Satellite 159.

For those more devoted Hindsight Letters readers (or those of you who particularly enjoy listening to me ramble awkwardly) you can also download the podcast on the show’s website. The whole show is amazing, with lots of great tunes and awesome guests, and the THL segment begins around 28 minutes into the podcast.

Again, thanks so much to the CBC, Jann Arden, Sara Tate, and all our amazing readers and contributors for supporting this project. You guys are awesome!


Letter 59: Get Off The Elevator

14 Jul

Dear me at 13,

You’re pressing the “close elevator” button as quickly as your little fingers can manage.

“1,2,3,4,5,1,2,3,4,5,1,2,3,4,5…” you count the pushes in your head as you plead with the doors to shut already. People are taking their seats. The ceremony is about to begin. You’re not quite sure where you plan to ride this elevator, but if it doesn’t take you there soon, you’re considering scaling the shaft yourself through the emergency exit. Anything to get you out of here.

Me at 13

As the doors begin to close you can feel the hot sting of tears in your eyes. You’re trying to keep them in there so they don’t smear the makeup that you don’t know how to fix.

You’re standing in the elevator of the Beth Tikvah Synagogue in North York, Ontario. Today is David L.’s Bar Mitzvah, and somewhere between the coat check room in the basement and the main floor you were dumped by your boyfriend of a week and a half.

He said his friends thought you were too controlling and that he needed some time to be single. How you could possibly be controlling through the course of a week and a half in which you only saw each other at school and talked on the phone twice is beyond me (and you). But the ridiculous nature of his logic doesn’t take away from the hurt you’re feeling right now.

Tonight was supposed to be a really big deal. Everyone cool was coming to this Bar Mitzvah. Everyone cool was coming with a date. In fact, coming here with a date was the single largest factor in being considered cool in the first place. For the last week and a half, your life has been consumed with planning for this evening. The dress. The hair. The makeup. Standing in front of the mirror twirling and smiling. Practicing your “Mazel Tov”s so as to sound as authentic as a nerdy suburban shiksa can.

When he first asked you out, you were nearly too shocked to accept. I mean, he was one of the popular boys. One of the boys all the other girls liked. One of the boys who generally didn’t give you the time of day unless they were publicly ridiculing your clothing or your straight A grades. How or why he would come to the conclusion that he wanted to date you was a complete and total mystery. You somehow managed to get your words together and accept.

Instantly, your social standing changed. People who had intentionally avoided you but moments before were now clamouring for your attention. Heads turned as you walked through the hallways. And not in the “Now’s the perfect time to stick the ‘Kick Me’ sign on her back” kind of way you had typically experienced. You could sense your peers re-evaluating your worth.

It was wonderful. You felt as if, for the first time, your classmates were actually understanding who you were. Like they were finally catching onto what you had known about yourself all along. You started to imagine what the remainder of your Junior High career might be like if you could just keep this up. And it felt as though a gigantic weight had been lifted from your shoulders.

And now, travelling in that rickety elevator to goodness-knows-where, that weight is resting firmly once again, although now in the pit of your stomach. You are terrified to face your classmates. To face the popular girls. To face him. You don’t want to leave that elevator, but you know you can’t ride it forever. Your parents might worry. You’ll need to eat eventually.

Here is the thing: This situation is a perfect example of how fickle the popular 13-year-old crowd can be. Kids go from A List to D List and back again in a span of days. And they even do it to themselves! Amanda S. might be popular today, but believe it or not, in a few months, one of her fellow clique members will start a rumour about a naughty dream and her stocks will plummet too.

If I were you, I wouldn’t put so much weight on being accepted by people incapable of acceptance. They are 13. They’re hormonal. They’re insecure. You are an old soul. And deep down inside, you know you’re way beyond this. You will grow up into a successful person who loves her life, who has amazing friends and an incredible family (including a super hot husband, by the way! Yipee!).

The bad news is: You have to exit the elevator. The good news is: This Bar Mitzvah only lasts one night. And you’re already part way through. As your Dad always said, “By this time tomorrow, it will be what it was”. So wipe your eyes, straighten your hair, march on into the sanctuary and watch your classmate become a Man.

And if the popular girls ask any questions, just tell them you’re glad to be single again. After all, he was pretty controlling anyway.


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