I love to read. I love to talk about my reads. I love to share my reads. This is one of those ‘shares’. There have been some books make me laugh, some that make me cry and some that make me wonder. Isn’t it wonderful that books can do that to a person? I read today, while wearing my HR professional hat, that 2 out of 5 Millenials (those born between 1981 and 1995) have not bought a single book in the last two years, besides school text books (2011 Cicso Connected World Technology Report 2011). So sad. Anyhoo, besides the books that make me laugh, cry and wonder, there are also those books that make me tremble andd shudder – more so because it is NOT a textbook – here’s one of them:
Dear Me is a book, an anthology of letters, written by famous present-day people to their 16-year-old selves. Compiled and edited by Joseph Galliano, the UK-based book contains the letters of such notables as Elton John, Yoko Ono, Jackie Collins, to name a few, to their younger selves.
If they could travel back in time to meet themselves when they were 16 years old, what would these Oscar winners, pop stars, best-selling authors, comedians, musicians and one Archbishop say to themselves? What advice would they give themselves? What would they warn them about and against? Well, some are short and sweet, while others are honest and heartfelt anthropological essays. Just a few excerpts:
Liz Smith (actress): ‘never mind if they laugh at you – hold on to your dreams to the very end’
Anne Reid (actress): And stop thinking you’re an ugly duckling You look great! I wish I looked like you.
Debbie Harry (singer-songwriter): That the most obvious is often the best choice and can lead to something wonderful and satisfying.
Alison Moyet (singer-songwriter): You marry and have clever children and mess up just like your parents did. Forgive them. You will soon need forgiveness.
Elton John (singer-songwriter): Never chase love – it will find you when you least expect it
Archbishop Demond Tutu: Don’t be infected by the cynicism of the ancients in your midst.
Roseanne Cash (singer songwwriter): You deserve a lot better than the guy you are going to meet next year.
Adriana Trigiani (author): 16 is the new … toddler.
My oldest is about to turn 16. If he were him 32 years from now, what would want to say to himself? What would his 16-year old self want to hear? No, of course, he wouldn’t listen, anyway.
What would I say to myself, with now some 32 more years of experience on this earth? Somehow reading this book (and it’s a short, quick read), I thought this might be an incredibly inspirational exercise. Then again, why would anyone subject themselves to reliving the torture of teenagehood?
If I thought for a moment that my 16 year-old(s) will take this letter to heart, I’m as delusional at age 48 as I was at age 16. But if for no other reason than it allowed me to remember and perhaps be a little more compassionate as they live through their teenage years.
Dear 16-year old me,
So you’re Sweet 16. What a birthday party you’ve had having a dinner party you planned and prepared all by yourself around the theme “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” from Billy Joel’s album which I know is your favourite album of all time, right now.
I know you like to cook. While many of your friends were drinking beer under the bleachers and ruining their parents’ knives heating them on the toaster, you put together some amazing dinner parties . Newsflash: you will never be a chef. Sorry, I had to break it to you. But fear not, you’ll continue making messes in the kitchen for years to come and your kitchen will be the happiest place in your adult home.
Is there a reason you work so hard to be perfect? Stop now! It’s annoying to others and bad for your self-esteem. No matter how much pressure is put on you and how much more you put on yourself, you will never measure up to every person’s version of “perfect”. At the same time, you’re no better than the rest of them. Stop try to be so high and mighty. It only serves to highlight your insecurity, which people will mistake for snobbiness.
YES! FINALLY! Contact lenses!! Not wearing those coke-bottle-glasses WILL make a difference in your life!
You’re about to take your very first airplane ride to New York City and vow that one day you’ll live there. You will.
Later on this year, you’re going to quit ballet. You shouldn’t do that. It’s your only form of exercise. Who cares that you’re not going to end up in Les Grands Ballets Canadiens. It’s fun and you like it. Why do you want to give it up?
On that note, it wouldn’t hurt for you to put those textbooks away and get out and get some exercise. Those “Freshman 10” (oh – you might as well know now – it was more like the Freshman 20) might never happen if you embrace fitness sooner than later.
The diary you’ve been keeping? Your daughter’s going to find it. You should find a better hiding place or practice poor penmanship sooner than later.
It’s a few years off but don’t bother rushing sororities in university. You know it’s not “you”. The sooner you stop sucking up to people you already know are full of it, the better. On the other hand, being a “little sister” in a fraternity? Good one. Free beer.
In a few years, your parents are going to tell you you’re making a big mistake by quitting a perfectly good job and high-tailing off to Europe for 5 months with your loser boyfriend. You’ll second-guess yourself, but don’t worry about. They’re wrong. That trip will turn out to be the best ‘mistake’ you’ve ever made. And that loser boyfriend has provided over twenty years of love and laughter, not to mention a lifelong security net. But your wanderlust, however, will never settle down.
Friends really do come and go. Sometimes you don’t take care of them, and this is a big mistake. You’re going to regret falling out of touch with some of those with whom you shared Life’s richest moments. Some of your friends will love you more unconditionally than even your family.
Love, Me (You)
There. I did it. And now that I’ve done it, I think I could easily edit it another dozen or more times.
I can’t say that this was a life-altering exercise nor can I say that I relived all my life’s so-called regrets, either. But for a moment, however brief, I do remember what “16” felt like…and I pray that sentiment helps me parent my own 16-year olds with a little more empathy. Not ‘understanding’. No. There is no way they’ll believe you understand them. No. Way.
What would you say to your 16 year-old self?