It’s been a long time since we’ve spoken. Deciding to write to my teenage self is vague so I’ve decided to write to you at 18. This time, 20 years ago, I was 18. I turned 19 in September.
I’ve been thinking about you at that age anyway. I just got all the invitations ready to mail out to all the participants in Katimavik to meet up for our 20 year reunion. That’s where you were 20 years ago. You were travelling across Canada with 11 other people. I think you were in Quebec at that time. Or you were heading there soon.
I feel like you and I have been connected a lot lately (other than the fact that we are the same person) because I just wrote about you in a Katimavik story. It was harder to do than I thought. It’s hard to disconnect yourself from yourself, but it was also hard for me to write about such a lost and sad teenage me.
You went on a grand adventure after graduating high school. You never would have called it a grand adventure, but it was. I don’t think you realised it at the time.
I think your main goal was to go somewhere new. Try something new. Be brave. Leave your small town. High school wasn’t easy. I know that. I was considering writing this to 15 year old me for that reason, but maybe that will come later.
Remembering back, I think your biggest secret going anywhere new was that in high school you were a loser. I hate that word still today, but that’s what you thought. You were not one of the cool ones. You didn’t want anybody to know that in case they started to see you that way. The problem in high school was that you only let some people know you. You were scared to be you. I wish you were more comfortable doing that, but it takes time and years for us.
Also, I just need to remind you of one thing: if you had been a cool kid in high school, you probably wouldn’t have left for Katimavik. You are who you are because of who you were in high school. You just need to embrace the nerd because she’s a pretty awesome person.
I read the Katimavik journal. You wrote about fears, concerns, and why you were upset about things, but when you were talking about something fun, you usually just followed up with the word ‘cool.’ I wish that you could have written about what you saw with gratitude. In fact, I wish you had seen these things as something that makes you incredibly lucky. Not everybody gets to travel. Especially out of high school. You didn’t know this, but your experience would give you the travel bug. It wasn’t always easy to travel because it costs money, but years later, you will embark on more adventures. This time, with the ability to look at places with wonder.
Don’t get me wrong. I know you appreciated things. I know this because years after going, we both still think Newfoundland was one of the most beautiful places in the world. I’ve been there a second time, and I still think this.
What you didn’t know back then, and I didn’t know until reading back in my journal was that you suffered from anxiety even then. You had no idea, but there was a reason you felt like you did. There was a reason you burst into tears when you could no longer hold in your emotions. There was a reason you didn’t confront anything you were feeling. You didn’t know how, and the anxiety moved in more than once. I’m sorry for that. I’m sorry you were dealing with somebody you didn’t yet know how to deal with. It’s huge and scary, and you knew nothing about it. I’m just learning about it now, but have definitely gotten better through the years at dealing with the anxiety.
You have also fallen in love for the first time. You may feel at times like your heart is getting stomped on. Your first love may feel overwhelming. It is overwhelming. I am not quite sure how to tell you this, but first of all, I’m proud that you were able to love with all your heart, even if you sometimes weren’t able to say it out loud. In the journal, you kept saying, “I think I love him. Maybe I don’t.” “I can handle this.” “I can handle saying goodbye.” “I don’t know if he likes me.” You couldn’t handle any of it, but I know this, you did love him. The second thing I want to tell you is even though you did jump in, you need to know that you don’t have to settle for your first love. Someday you will love somebody for you. You should never have to question whether the person you like likes you back. You will find somebody who loves you as much as you love them. You will realise, that for most of your big relationship, you were infatuated with the idea of being in love. I hold no hard feelings for your first love. He was an adventure. He liked you, but I don’t think he loved you, and I think he knew that it wasn’t going to last. How could it? You lived in different provinces.
I know that right now you are searching for a place in your group. You want so hard to belong and mean something to everyone. You don’t think you do. At times, you think they wouldn’t miss you if you went home. You don’t trust that you are important.
Unfortunately, you have to stop worrying about what you mean to others, and where you think you should be in their lives. It’s not up to you to make others like you. They will or they won’t. If they don’t like you, that’s on them. Not you. You are caring, funny, smart, and sincere. You don’t need to change for others. Own who you are. Please.
As for any anger, unhappiness, or sadness you feel, that will come and go as you live. Life isn’t perfect. But if you look up, take a breath, and be grateful for what you have, it’ll make things a lot better for you. You are travelling with people that for the most part will be in your life for the next 20 years. Some in person, some through phone calls, texts, emails, or Facebook. (Keep in mind, you don’t know about texting or Facebook yet, but you will.) Appreciate what you have because they will be happy to see you in 20 years.
Erin, you’re going to be okay. It will take a while, but you will learn to love all that you have. You can feel sad. It’s important to let yourself feel your emotions, but then stop. Smile. Make a joke. Laugh. Look around. Enjoy the beauty around you. Because there is.
All my best,
PS: I know you feel like at this age, you know everything important there is to know. You don’t. Unfortunately, you’ll probably go on feeling this through most of your 20s as well. It’s not until you hit your 30s that you will realise it’s okay not to know everything. Please don’t assume you know it all. You don’t. You never will. That’s good.
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