Tag Archives: education

*GUEST SUBMISSION* Letter 66: There Is Nothing Wrong With You

19 Sep

Allison writes:

Dear Me at 16,

The Author at 16

I have very few photos of you from this time period. You were always so camera shy. You felt the same way about a mirror. Even now, I still can’t quite understand why you were always so self-deprecating, self-sabotaging, and so very unforgiving. How I wish you could have realized this, then.

Right now, at 16, you’re headstrong and cocksure. You’re flippant and naive. You’re young, and you aren’t yet able to foresee the rocky road ahead. You are about to make some crucial decisions that will change your life forever — and, much later, you’ll feel as though you’ve lost your way, that you’ve both compromised your potential and jeopardized your future.

And I am so thankful that you were wrong…

I remember the last day that you were in high school. You hadn’t attended class in weeks. Your arch nemesis, your English teacher, will refuse to accept a late assignment. She’ll say that there’s no way you’ll pass the course. And then she’ll remind you that, at 16, you are no longer legally obligated to attend high school… and, at the time, it was the best advice you could have received, but you won’t know that, then. Blind to the learning curve ahead, you’ll curse at her under your breath and storm from the room. You’ll leave without emptying your locker. And you’ll have three and a half credits, after failing grade nine twice. But you’ll think that you can beat the system, and that education is a waste of time. At this point, you’ve been told that you’re stupid so many times, that you now accept it as the truth.

You’re going to believe this for five more years, and many, many dead-end jobs are going to crush your spirit. But you’re going to encounter many rich learning experiences that will help you to lift that heavy veil of ignorance. You’re going to slowly start opening up to the world and begin to find your place in it. You won’t believe this now, of course, but you will also learn how to love yourself, and, after a very traumatic hospital stay, you’re going to stop injuring yourself. You’ll always have scars, but, in time, they will serve as a reminder of not only your rocky past, but also of just how far you’ve come since those darker times. By 20, you will have grown to a point where you are capable of perceiving the beauty in this world, and the reality that you truly deserve to be happy. And finally, you will allow yourself to be.

You will let your father and mama back into your life, and you will learn to forgive others — yourself included — for past transgressions, hurtful words and moments.

And you’ll finally discover that you really aren’t stupid; you’re different, you’re definitely one of a kind, but this is a wonderful quality. And that, above all, you are resilient. And at 21, you’re going to go through a rather addling emotional experience that will lead you to the realization that you need a formal education.

At first, you’ll be terrified, but you’ll find yourself in a community college. This experience will not only redeem your sense of self, but your (amazing) instructors will also help you realize your potential… This will be the most positive learning experience that you have ever had at this point. You’ll do well in college, but you won’t write the GED that you planned on… Instead, your instructors will bend over backwards for you, and you’ll be permitted to complete an English course to fulfill the requirements for university. One university. And — which still astounds me — you’ll be accepted by that university as a mature, part-time student… The first year, you’ll discover that the ground beneath you is solid.

That first year has just ended… and, although you are still technically a “drop-out,” you’ve been officially accepted as a full-time Honours student. You’ve never been more stressed out, sleep deprived, or caffeine dependent in your life… but you’ve also never been happier…

You’re a straight-“A”-student, by the way.

More than anything, I want you to know this: There is nothing wrong with you. The people that have made you feel negatively about yourself only did those hurtful things because they, too, were unhappy in life. And they deserve your pity. And I know that, right now, you feel that life’s not fair, and that the world is a cruel place, full of cruel people, but the rest of the world is nothing like high school, and you will be able to overcome all your obstacles, trials, and errors. You won’t become stronger in spite of them — you will become stronger because of them.

I forgive you; I accept you; I love you.

And it was so worth the wait.

Carpe diem…

Allison Mackay is a fledgling writer, a born-again optimist, and a starving-second-year-English-student at the University of Western Ontario, who believes whole-heartedly that the search for beauty is the scavenger hunt of the soul.

*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

*GUEST SUBMISSION* Letter 58: It’s Not Always Awful

11 Jul

The Author at 17

Katie writes:

Dear me at 17,

I know how miserable you are right now. You’ve just dropped out of high school. All of your friends deserted you after a slew of rumors were passed around the school. Your heart was broken by so many boys you’ve lost count.

You’re feeling useless, unwanted and forgotten.

I remember that feeling. Not understanding why you’re feeling so depressed. Confused about how people could treat you so cruelly. Trying to find some reason why these injustices were done to you. Wondering what you did wrong.

But I’m here to tell you that you did nothing wrong. The boys are just immature jerks who don’t know the extent of the harm they have done. Your friends don’t realize yet how much you need them or how much they in turn need you.

And most of all, you are not a failure for dropping out. I know it feels that way. And it will for a very long time. But I don’t think it was a mistake.

You are a very smart young woman. Never doubt that. You have enough imagination and creativity to accomplish anything you set your mind to. You are talented in so many ways and you can use those gifts to the benefit of so many people, including yourself.

I don’t want to ruin the future for you. But I will give you a few helpful and hopeful tips.

Don’t be afraid to work. It is the most rewarding thing you can do for yourself. Be dedicated to the things you try, work hard and you will be astonished at the things you will accomplish.

Not all men are jerks. There are so many that are, so be wary. Remember your experiences so far and they will serve you well. However, do not lock your heart away or be afraid to love. There are quite a few good men as well, and you’ll want to be able to give them your heart when the opportunity presents itself.

Take chances. Don’t be afraid to do something because you are afraid you will fail. Setbacks are a part of life. But if you hide yourself away you will never experience anything.

Don’t be afraid to be yourself. Don’t strive to be anyone else. The sooner you learn this, the quicker you realize how wonderful you are when you are just being you; the easier life will be. Don’t live for anyone else. Don’t strive to be what others want you to be. Just be you. You’re wonderful.

And most of all, remember that you are loved. You are so lucky to have people in your life that will never leave you. Your family is your greatest support, and they will always be there for you.

Life won’t always be easy and there is a lot that I don’t know yet. But I’ll tell you that it’s not all hard. It’s not all mean. It’s not all scary. There are so many good times ahead of you.

Don’t let yourself get lost in this hard time.

But then, I already know that you are stronger than you think you are. Trust me.

And one peek at the future: You’re very happy.

The Author Today

Katie is the writer of Simply Kate. She is exploring her life in Las Vegas, is currently editing her first novel, has a wonderful boyfriend and is very happy.


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

Letter 53: You’re Not Knocked Up

6 Jun

Dear me at 15:

Believe me. You’re not pregnant.

No, really. I can tell you with 100% certainty that you are not with child.

You see, the funny thing about getting pregnant is that you need to have sex for it to happen. And, given the fact that you’re still a virgin, I’d say you’re in the clear.

Now, if only we could convince your Mom.

You’ve been with your first love for a couple of months now. Things have started to get kind of hot and heavy. Hot and heavy in a 15-year-old, no-time-alone, grinding-on-the-couch-in-the-moments-when-your-parents-leave-the-room kind of way. And apparently, love must be in the air because your Mother (bless her heart) has picked up on the scent and is hot on your trail. She is convinced that you are pregnant and has even staged an intervention in the hopes of convincing you to confess your sins.

The trouble being, of course, that you really don’t have any.

Sure, there’s been some making out. You’ve been inching towards second base. But your plan was to stay there for a while. Hang out. Get comfortable. Practice a little. Wait for a while until maybe you might feel confident enough to slide into third. We’re a long way from a home run here.

But something funny has happened. Amidst all this pregnancy speculation, your period- normally arriving like clockwork- is nowhere to be found. You noticed at 3 days late. You got a little spooked by 5. Right now, you’re sitting at about a week and a half and you are officially convinced that your uterus is the vehicle for the world’s second only immaculate conception. You have images in your mind of teensy little spermies jumping through layers of clothing, crawling around folds of skin and creating an unwanted teen mom type baby situation inside your womb. You are Freaking Out.

You are freaking out so much that you have convinced your friend (who will go on to become a contributor to this blog!) to accompany you to the teen crisis centre to do a pregnancy test. You cry your way there. You cry your way through a very awkward appointment (right out of “Mermaids”) in which you confess to the counsellor that, although you are not sexually active, you are nearly certain that you are pregnant. God bless her for humouring you. You pee on the stick and wait.

Your life is flashing before your eyes right now. You’re trying to picture yourself pushing a stroller into biology class and nursing in the middle of the library. You’re telling yourself how stupid you are for having done anything sexual with your boyfriend. You’re telling yourself how wrong that was. What a terrible person you are for letting that happen. And for (sin of all sins!) wanting it to happen.

Honey! Let me take a moment to say here: There is nothing wrong with wanting to experiment. It’s totally and completely natural. It’s not wrong or gross. Wanting that doesn’t make you a bad girl, a sinner, a slut, and it doesn’t mean that you’ve got a one-way ticket to hell like you think.

I know, I know. It’s a (very) controversial thing to say. But really. You love your boyfriend. You both are monogamous. He’s a great guy. Sweet, considerate, gentle, respectful. You’ll be with him for the next three years (which might as well be eternity in teen time). It’s totally natural to want to fool around. And as long as you’re safe, cautious, and with someone you care deeply about, go for it at your own pace and don’t beat yourself up about it.

Now, I can’t stress here how important it is to be safe. STD’s and pregnancies are very real things that happen all the time. It’s not just stuff that happens to “that girl” or “in this type of situation”. You will eventually learn (though thankfully as an adult) that having a baby is an ENORMOUS responsibility that changes EVERYTHING in your life. Seriously. EVERYTHING. It’s not for the faint of heart. It’s not something you want to do any time soon. Believe me.

Having said that, I can now reassure you that everything is going to be totally fine. The lady will come back into the little room and tell you that the test came back negative. You will experience a rush of relief followed by an even larger rush of embarrassment and a strong desire to run out of said lady’s office screaming.

The good news is you’re not knocked up. The even better news is that you’re not a bad person. You’re just a normal person.

And so, the next time you find yourself grinding on the couch while your Mom is making cole slaw upstairs, just remember to be safe. Be cautious. Take everything at your own pace. Be thankful that you had this experience, because it taught you a very valuable lesson: Immaculate conceptions can really make a mess of things.


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

“Dear Adult Me” Summer Series Guest Submissions

25 May

Up to this point, The Hindsight Letters has brought readers weekly Letters of advice written by Adult writers to their Teenaged selves. This summer, I’ll be flipping that concept around for a limited run Summer Series that will share Letters of advice written by Teenaged writers to their Adult selves.

I’m currently welcoming Letters from writers between the ages of 11 and 20 addressed to their Adult selves. Share some of the things you dread about becoming an adult (Jobs, Marriage, Families, Bills). Share some of the things you’re excited about (Independence, First Apartments, Finishing School). Discuss lessons you hope you will have learned by then. Give advice about qualities you hope you won’t lose. This is really a no-rules/all-fun kind of project. Just let your creativity roll with it.

The Hindsight Letters has readers spanning many different age groups. My hope is that this Summer Series will highlight the talent of our adolescent readers and allow them to share their stories in a completely different light.

If you’re a teenaged HL reader, or if you know anyone that might be interested in contributing, please feel free to send me an email at kyra@thehindsightletters.com or just submit your Letter on the About The Site page, preferably before June 15th. No matter what your story, skill set or background, I would love to read your Letter!

Take care, and happy writing!


The Hindsight Notes: Detention!

13 May

The Hindsight Notes is a recurring section created for all you readers wanting to participate in THL, but lacking time to write a full letter. Each Note is composed of a question. All you need to do is answer it, in the form of a comment (below).

This week’s topic is: Detention!

Maybe you were mouthing off. Maybe you were passing notes. Maybe you were giving the teacher some major ‘tude. We’ve almost all been there. Detention. Being forced to stay in school longer than you have to. Torturous. And though “The Breakfast Club” might have made it look glamourous, the reality was anything but.

So, tell us all about it! What did you do to warrant a detention? Did you deserve it? Who was the teacher? How long was the detention? If you never had to stay for detention, how did you manage to avoid it? (Ahem. Goody Two Shoes. Ahem.)

As always, I’ll start us out:

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

Letter 48: The “I Don’t Know”

25 Apr

Dear me at 17:

Today would be just like any other day.

This morning, you pushed open the heavy steel doors and entered the lobby of A.Y. Jackson Secondary School just like any other morning, along with the rest of your peers. You were hit with the same rush of cool, stale air and the faint smell of cooking grease wafting from the cafeteria. You were talking with the same people, on your way to the same classrooms to learn about the same things. You’ve even managed to finagle your same locker from last year.

Everything you’ve experienced this morning is exactly the same as it’s always been. And yet, you can’t help but feel that everything is different. You have been saddled with the keen awareness that very soon, everything is about to change. Everything is about to get a heck of a lot more serious. Today is the first day of your last year of high school.

Your parents, teachers and guidance counsellors have impressed upon you the fact that within the next two months, you will be tasked with choosing not only a University, but a career path along with it. Your bedroom is jammed full of brochures from various post secondary institutions. You’ve shoved them all away into a box in your closet, trying to pretend that the whole thing might just disappear if you shut your eyes hard enough.

You are someone who likes things to be simple and predictable. You like to know exactly where you are headed in life. As a child, you would read the “Choose Your Own Adventure” books backwards, choosing a conclusion first and then working your way back to the beginning through the path of your choice. Though you might like the idea of a road trip, you much prefer the destination to the journey. Similarly, though you want so badly to be an adult, to grow up and move away and start your own life, it’s the “getting there” that seems to be getting you down.

For the first time in your life you have been faced with the reality of free will. Endless possibilities. Sure, it sounds great, but it’s also absolutely terrifying. Each University brochure, each program choice, each field on each application stares you in the face like your destiny begging to be chosen. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want to study? Which Universities will accept you? After all the hard work, will you ever even “make it”? It’s overwhelming. And the “I don’t know” of it all is sending you into a cold sweat.

Here is the thing: In this life, you NEVER know.

You might have the illusion of knowing every now and then. After Elementary School comes Junior High. After the commercial break, the show starts. After you breathe in you breathe out. There are some things in life that are very nearly sure things. But these are few and far between and even they can throw you for a loop sometimes. You harbour the belief that you are hurtling towards a point of no return- a point in your life at which you will need to have everything “all figured out”. But that point does not exist. Not now, not in ten years, not in fifty.

Stop being so serious, my dear! Choose a goal, sure. Choose a career path and choose the program of study that might take you there. If you get in and hate it, switch programs. Switch Universities. Switch cities, houses, hair colours, whatever. Allow yourself the space to move around according to your instincts. This is the first time in your life where you are able to listen to them. Stop letting this decision trick you into believing its magnitude.

This is your life, and you really can choose your own adventure. But no cheating this time. You’ll just have to turn the pages one by one and see where the story will take you.


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

The Hindsight Notes: To Be or Not To Be

18 Mar

The Hindsight Notes is a recurring section created for all you readers wanting to participate in THL, but lacking time to write a full letter. Each Note is composed of a question. All you need to do is answer it, in the form of a comment (below).

This week’s topic is: When you were a teenager, what did you want to be “when you grew up”?

Adolescence is like a 7 year long endurance test, laden with career related pressure. We’re told that every test, essay, and exam is leading us one step closer  to (or further away from) the University of our choice or our dream career.

So, given the fact that career choice and goals are such an important element in the adolescent experience, we want to know, what did you want to be? Have you become it? Why? Why not? Are you happy with your decision?

As always, I’ll start us out:


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


The Hindsight Notes: Teenaged Archetype

11 Mar

The Hindsight Notes is a recurring section created for all you readers wanting to participate in THL, but lacking time to write a full letter. Each Note is composed of a question. All you need to do is answer it, in the form of a comment (below).

This week’s topic is: Your Teenaged Archetype.

Every teen movie ever created plays off of the teenaged archetypes we’ve gathered in the collective unconscious. The popular girl (Alicia Silverstone as Cher Horowitz). The mean girl (Rachel McAdams as Regina George). The rich kid (James Spader as Steff). Though their personalities might seem specific to the stories, their character traits are broad enough to cover a spectrum of teenagers.

So this week, we want to know: If you had to pick one Teen Movie Character to represent yourself as you were during your adolescence, who would it be? Why? Are you still like him or her?

As always, I’ll start us out:


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


*GUEST SUBMISSION* Letter 41: Just Relax and Enjoy Yourself

7 Mar

Pravin writes:

Dear me at 16:

Your life does not belong to anyone else.

It does not belong to your dad who thinks arts subjects such as English and Classical Studies are paving stones on the road to nowhere.

It does not belong to your teacher who thinks that his subject is perhaps not quite right for you, despite your own interests and your exam results to the contrary.

It does not even belong to your future self, who is thinking about the best way to get a decent job.

The truth is, your life only belongs to you as you are right now. Sure, your dad and your teacher may have a certain degree of wisdom based on their own age and experience, and it’s right to make use of that, but you also have some experience. And let’s be honest, it’s a long time since they were 16.

And as for your future self, i.e. me: Despite all my planning, I certainly didn’t expect things to turn out like they have. And as far as you’re concerned, I don’t exist.

Only you know what it’s truly like to be you at this moment in time. Whatever decision you make about your education will have a significant impact for years to come. But no one knows how significant. So, just relax and enjoy yourself.

Pravin is a writer and academic. His blog, greenphd.wordpress.com, was meant to be an account of researching for a PhD but, as this letter highlights, things never quite turn out as one would expect.


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