A letter to my sixteen-year-old self,
You small little fool. Looking back I feel a mixture of sympathy, pride and sometimes even a twinge of anger for you. After discovering so many different things, you also began to realize your capacity to learn and understand things that you could not have comprehended even a couple years before.
But you were still sixteen and still an absolute fool who had a bad habit of taking on too much.
You worked so hard. You always had to be busy and you sometimes forgot to act like a teenager. I can’t hate you for that because I still reap the benefits. But I want to tell you to let yourself make mistakes and act messy and act sixteen. Life only gets harder.
I love thinking about your most aggressively teenage moments and all chaos that ensued. Even just a few years later, most of your teenage angst feels long gone. Your limbic system surpassed your frontal lobe’s abilities at some points. You dated a questionable boy (questionable for several reasons). I want to tell you now that he had problems that you couldn’t fix, and you cannot blame yourself. Your definition of love changes as you do, and it has a much healthier definition now. I also want to tell you to acknowledge the fact that you are sixteen and life changes. So many adventures lie ahead. You go to California and do a coding internship and see seals and meet incredible people. You write a book. Living in Massachusetts for a year teaches you how to drive in the snow. But also, really makes you hate snow.
I want to tell you that you pretty accurately predict your academic future surprisingly. You make it to an out-of-state college like you always wanted and work on pre-med requirements. I will apply to medical school in a year and hopefully make our dream a reality. Also, please do all the things you thought were impossible. You work in computer science lab and then a biophysics lab and learn about motor proteins and the command line. You grow bacteria in biology. Heck, you even learn how to code. Then you use your ability to code to impress boys.
You naively assumed that your Floridan ass would love Massachusetts, so you went to college in Massachusetts for one year, which led you to taking classes you never saw yourself taking and accomplishing things you never planned on doing. Since you didn’t get into the physics class you wanted, you ended up taking clinical neuroscience because you thought it sounded interesting. Then it became your favorite class and you took another neuroscience class the following semester. You loved it. In Massachusetts, you toted around in the snow for months and joined the equestrian team. Then you toted around in the snow at god awful times for your lessons and shows and learned about horse girl culture and realized that some people really do prefer horses to people (and it shows).
I want to say thank you for taking that risk for us (even though I hated you for it at moments). That year forced me to grow up and expand my perspective on the world.
Looking back, the things you went through hurt me. You had to make some choices that you should not have had to make, and you did the very best you could. Even when you knew it could hurt you, you still chose to help everyone around you. You also clung to your beliefs too strongly at points when you just needed to listen. You consistently chose school and work over yourself. But I wouldn’t change anything because all the bumps got me to Virginia today, molded my self-identity, led me to my current friends and life trajectory. I really do want to go back in time and warn you that things will get really hard but then get so much better. I want to tell you that all these problems you face only prepare you for the ones to come. You grow and do so many things in the next few years that you never imagined. I am so excited for you because you have no idea just how good it’s about to get.
Your almost 20-year-old self