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What you can expect:
The brutal truth of me, without all the sugary coating.
Here I am just me, UNCUT and UNEDITED.
I talk about my family, my divorce, and a lot about MAKEUP.
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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Example: What I Wish


A couple weeks ago I sent out an e-mail to all the women I know, asking for their help with a little book I'm putting together for my nieces as they enter junior high this fall. 

(I also put up a blog post about it, hoping for some other opinions.) 

I'm putting the submissions I have received together soon, so I just wanted to remind everyone who hasn't had time to throw something together yet that I'm going to put a final draft together in July, so the content needs to be sent to me (or even just a comment on a blog post) by June 30th. 

I can't tell you how much I appreciate everyone's help with this! (If you're looking for some inspiration on why we need to help the younger girls get through this stage in their life, read Reviving Ophelia, Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls, by Mary Pipher, PhD. It's really good and will even help you understand yourself better. I seriously recommend it.) 

Sometimes it's hard to figure out exactly what I'm looking for, but it's not specific at all! Just whatever comes to mind when you think of junior high and high school, and how you could have been helped to get through it a little smoother yourself, so I'm including an example.

Thank you for your help! E-mail or leave a comment if you have any questions! 



This was sent to me from one of my best friends, written for the little book I'm putting together, What I Wish. I'm posting it early because I love it so much and several people have asked for an example of what I'm looking for as far as input. I have received several great lists, a few short thoughts, and a wonderful comment on the blog post... this is just one example to get you started if you're thinking of contributing! 



A Letter to Teen Me
by Jenn Ingram

Dear Teen Me,

I wish there was a way I could hop in a time machine so that I could deliver this letter to you. Or just sit down and talk to you in person – although you probably wouldn’t recognize me. But, even though that’s no possible, I figured I would write to you anyway. Call it catharsis, call it wishful thinking, but I feel like if I write this letter to you, it will help you in some way, down the road. Are you ready? Ok, here we go.

First off, I want to let you know that you’re going to be ok. Everything ends up working out. I know that school is scary and home isn’t much better, but you end up doing just fine. But, I’ll also tell you that there were many things that you could have done or handled better during your teen years. This isn’t a judgment. I still love you tons, because let’s face it, you’re pretty awesome. But I’m going to give it to you straight. Ok?

Ok.

Let’s talk about school. In junior high you did pretty well. You studied and did your homework and got good grades. But then you started getting a little…lazy. Letting things slide so you could hang out with friends or watch TV or (as still happens now) finish that book you’re reading. And then you started copying people’s homework. It seemed like no big deal because it only happened now and then. And it was only junior high. But then you moved on to high school. Friends became more important, dating and having a job were introduced, and you got involved in a time demanding extracurricular activity. But, even then, for that first year you still managed to do really well. And then you started skipping school. Many different things contributed to this, but it all led to the same thing – falling behind in school. And then you started cheating more, so that you at least pass your classes. But you weren’t passing tests and teachers and parents were getting suspicious. So you just gave up, because you were so far behind that there was no hope of catching up. And before you even knew how you had gotten there, you missed almost three full months of school because you just couldn’t face how you’d let yourself fail. You did manage to pull yourself together, and with help from kind teachers and your step-mom, you were able to graduate. Barely. In what felt like a blink of an eye, you – bright and determined young woman that you are – went from a great student to almost a high school drop-out. And in your relief at just graduating, you didn’t even attempt college – something you’ve come to regret because it was an experience you deprived yourself of.

Now let’s talk about boys. Yes. Boys. Love. Romance. Crushes and first loves, jerks and nice guys – oh, my dear, you met them all. Junior high was easy, although it felt important at the time. You had crushes on several boys through those three years – some worthy, some not quite so worthy – and all the while you dreamed of the days when crushes could turn into boyfriends, because, as you and I both know, you’re a romantic at heart. Some of these boys played on the knowledge of your infatuation, leading to sad and humiliating moments that you wish you could forget. Others were much sweeter, and whether or not they returned your feelings, they were nice to you and you could continue being friends. The boys that were this way surprised you in the beginning, until you started to learn better, and then it didn’t surprise you so much that the cute but not quite so popular boys were always so much nicer than the boys who thought they ruled the school. By the time you entered high school, you knew to leave the pretty and popular boys alone because they were almost always jerks, and stuck to the cute boys who valued being a good friend over being popular. And you found some good ones. One, in particular, that made your heart blossom with the beautiful innocence of first love. But then that ended, as almost all first loves do. But the following heartbreak sent you in a tailspin that took you much too long to recover from. You lost yourself wishing for someone – anyone – to love you, and therefore forgot to love yourself. For the next two years, you dated a couple nice guys and a couple bad guys, and even allowed yourself to cross some sexual lines with a boy you barely knew. No, you didn’t have sex with him, but it crossed your mind. All because you were convinced that if that one boy didn’t love you, then no one could ever love you. And so you stopped loving yourself. But you leapt at any chance possible to be proven wrong – that some boy would find you pretty and worth his time. Even if you knew deep down that that boy wasn’t worth yours. Which leads us to our final topic.

You. That’s right, you. Your mind, your body, and your spirit. I’ll be honest with you, for most of your teen years you take yourself for granted. Constantly thinking that you needed to lose a few pounds and wishing to be shorter like your friends so you wouldn’t stick out so much. And, because you’re a teen girl and that’s what we do, you were always comparing yourself to others, thinking that this girl’s hair was better than yours, or that you’d be so much prettier with green eyes instead of brown. And then you always knew you were smart, but the harder school got, the more you convinced yourself that you weren’t as smart as you thought, and now everyone will think that too. As for your personality, there had been people who got you and embraced you but as they disappeared from your life, you convinced yourself that they were just being nice and that you weren’t good enough anymore. So you started to stifle your personality, hoping that would help, when really it just made you miserable. Really, your love and appreciation for yourself was pretty much non-existent.

Now, like I said, everything turned out ok.  You married a great man and you have a great family. But, you live your life with regrets that didn’t need to exist and the habits you created in your teen years have led to struggles as an adult. So, if I could hop into that time machine, I would tell you how you could have done things differently.

With school, you would have continued studying and doing your work yourself, so that cheating wasn’t even something you needed to think of. By making that a habit in junior high, then high school wouldn’t have been so hard. Also, while your friends would have remained important to you, you wouldn’t have allowed yourself to become so involved in their problems and dramas, when they didn’t concern you at all, so that you could go to school without feeling so much stress. And without that stress, skipping every now and again would have been fine (it’s just a part of high school) you wouldn’t have made a habit out of it. You would have gone to class and paid attention, so that you understood your classwork and could pass your tests. While you would have gotten praise from teachers and parents about your good grades, the most important thing is that you would have graduated feeling PROUD of all the hard work you put in and the doors that opened for you. You would have applied for scholarships and colleges, feeling anticipation and excitement to start a new chapter. And you would have gone to college with confidence; not because it was expected, but because it was an experience you didn’t want to miss. It would have been something you had chosen and made happen for yourself, and because you did well in junior high and high school, you knew you had the capability of doing well in college.

You would have left boys alone for the most part. Yes, you would have dated, maybe even dated a little seriously, but you wouldn’t have let yourself drown in the wake of relationships gone bad. You would have had fun seeing what was out there, and because your opinion of yourself didn’t depend on the interest of a guy, you would have loved yourself more as well. And that love and confidence in yourself would have reflected to others, attracting the good guys to you, rather than the guys who were on the lookout for someone who was broken inside. Dating would have been fun instead of desperate and you would have gone through high school with more positive memories of the opposite sex than negative.

And lastly, you would understand the awesomeness that is you. You would love your curves, knowing that even though your body type was different from your friends, it was still beautiful. You were healthy and capable of doing all the physical things you enjoyed; those few pounds didn’t matter. And when your friends told you they thought you were beautiful too, you would know that they were telling the truth. Because you played in smart in school, you would know how intelligent you were, and that you could take on anything, even if you had no idea what you were doing in the beginning. You’d be a little braver because you would know how you could do anything you put your mind to. And that crazy, nerdy, dreamer personality of yours would be something you were proud of. You know how fabulous you are, and if other people don’t understand then you don’t need them in your life anyway. And the people who love and embrace you for your personality will be the ones who will stick with you through everything; they are the ones that matter.
So, that’s it. I’m sure there are other random things we could talk about, but those are the big three that I wish I could come back and talk to you about.  And who knows, maybe I can still learn from you, even though neither of us can change the past. It’s you and me, baby. Till the very end.

I love your freaking guts. Always.

-Me


Where to find more of Jenn's work: 
Twitter: @jenn_ingram

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