Gosh Shanna, on one hand, there are so many things I want to tell you, but on the other hand, I want to keep it all a secret so as not to spoil the adventure. I want you to make mistakes- nearly all the mistakes that I made. Without that, you’re not going to turn into the same person writing you this letter. So I guess I’ll be selective and encouraging.
As I write this to you, I’m imagining you at about 14 or 15 years old and so let me start by telling you that you’re really awesome. And you turn out to be really really awesome with incredible friends, incredible experiences, and a life to be envied. Being a teenager is very tough and it’s awkward and embarrassing. You will screw a lot of things up, but overall, you make it through with flying colors. And just so you know how bad it gets (so you can cope with your dad buying you maxi-pads next week), I’ll share with you the most embarrassing thing that happens in your teens. You poop your pants. In public. In white linen pants. And now you not only laugh about it, you post it on the internet for the world to read. You don’t have to believe me, but if you take this to heart, don’t worry too much about being embarrassed about all the things that seem life ending now. In the future, you’ll laugh at them all.
One piece of advice that I hope you do take to heart though is, always be truthful. There are so many cool things about you. You don’t think so now, but please believe me as your older and wiser self, you’re very neat. Don’t lie about the things you wish you had or were. Getting caught in a lie is the real embarrassing stuff. Way worse than pooping your pants. So be truthful. Don’t over-share and brag, but be truthful.
Also don’t be too proud. You’re going to struggle with this. I still struggle with this. But I expect that in another 30 years, I’ll wish I wasn’t so proud and I’ll wish much more often, I’d just said I was sorry rather than stood my ground. You won’t be a pushover, I promise. But it’s OK not to win every time. You’re not right every time, I assure you. So around the people that love you and you know you can trust, be vulnerable and not too proud. Step down. You will live more peacefully with those you love.
Wear sunscreen. As I write this to you, I have wrinkles on my chest (and I’m not a grandma). I have to live with your mistake, so fix it! I know that mom nags you (and I agree that she looks like a pasty ghost so it’s hard to listen to her), but please do listen to her and wear sunscreen. If you wear SPF 30, you’ll still get color and be sunkissed, but you wouldn’t have burned and wouldn’t have left me the skin I have today, with sun spots, and markings that I scowl at. So please, go to the store and get sunscreen. Wear it on your face everyday and the rest of your body if you’re outside for more than a half our. Seriously.
SPOLER ALERT. You end up meeting and marrying a really great guy. I’m not going to tell you when or how, but he rocks. You decide to marry him because he’s exciting and full of adventure, and gives you a more fulfilling life than you ever imagined you’d have. And he moves heaven and earth to be with you. I want to tell you this, because I don’t want you wasting so much time worrying about boys, worrying if they’ll like you, and worse, trying to get them to like you if they don’t. I know that you will worry about that, but if you can fight it, don’t waste so much time on it. Flirt. Date. Fall in love. Even get heartbroken and cry hard. But just don’t worry too much about them or miss out on your life because you’re obsessing over them. I look back today and really wish that I’d enjoyed me, enjoyed my friends, enjoyed my experiences more and let the chips fall in regards to relationships.
Enough about advice, let me end by reassuring you about the things you’re doing right. You have a kind and compassionate heart and that’s a beautiful quality. Always stay nice.
Continue to live with passion and be transparent with others. Sometimes your emotions will be over the top and dramatic, but I’m really proud to look back and say that I loved people deeply, experienced things thoroughly and completely, and rarely held back my feelings. You’ll go too far sometimes, but I’m glad that I went too far rather than not enough.
Keep up the great posture! I know that boys and mean girls say it looks like you’re trying to show off your breasts, and I know this sounds like a mother, but the girls are just jealous and the boys are intimidated and just want to touch them. You end up tall, thin, and your boobs get way better. Keep standing tall- you’re going to be happy with your body in 15 years and will be so happy that you don’t slouch.
And on that note, hold your head high and be proud of who you are- I am proud of you! You’re in for the ride of your life and the next 15 years will be a momentous journey. Be a consistent friend. Be very willing to love others. Be safe, but also don’t say ‘no’ too often- be open for the adventures. One day soon, you’ll be in Africa (I know, cool, right?) and the waves will be huge, and the water the perfect temperature. Make sure that you jump in and body surf even though you didn’t wear a bathing suit. Your hair and clothes will dry and it will be a great memory. Enjoy the trip!