Thursday, September 20, 2012

Letters To My Teenage Self

This blog was inspired by my nephew's wife, who also blogs. Her friend asked her blogging friends to write letters to themselves as teenagers. I was so impressed by what Stacie wrote; although she took a completely different approach to this, from another generation, that I wanted to attempt this also.

Dear 13-year-old Denise,

You are in the 8th grade. It is 1966. Last year you were a good student and were in the highest academic homeroom. You decided you did not want to be a nerd, and you let your grades slip. This year you are in a good class with a good teacher, but not in the group you were in last year. However, you are learning to get along with those who are not in the highest academic group, and gaining skills that you will need later in life.

You had a boyfriend in the 7th grade, and he broke up with you at the end of 7th grade. He will become a good man and you will be friendly with him all of your life, especially when the two of you are sitting in a car he is trying to sell you, and you are 8 ½ months pregnant, you feel like you need a crane to get in the car, and you can laugh about it!

But for now, you grieve this loss of relationship and the status it brought. You take up with his best friend (who also became a good man until his untimely death at age 25.) What do ya think you are doin’? It makes no sense, it isn’t right, but you want a boyfriend at any cost; and there is a part of you that wants to make someone “jealous,” as if that ever worked.

Your home life is stable and you make decent grades. You have good girlfriends and you babysit for extra money. You sew your own clothes. Your needs are met.

I wish I could tell you that you really have it made; that you have good friends and are well thought of, and you don't need a boyfriend all the time.

Dear 14-year-old Denise,

You make freshman cheerleading! Woohoo! There is status involved with that! You like it, you are with friends and you have an amazing football AND basketball team to cheer for. The football team you cheer for will be unbeaten and un-scored upon! The basketball team will win a regional tournament.

As a freshman, I didn't
smile much with these
braces. They were
awful at first!
You have a boyfriend who is an amazing running back for the football team. It is the perfect situation and you are thrilled. Then, you get braces; and he has the gall to tell you that you aren’t pretty anymore and he is not interested in this plethora of metal! No one thinks to tell you that he is acting immature and to move on. It hurt so badly. You don’t have another boyfriend until the end of the school year.

I did enjoy cheerleading.
This is my freshman uniform.
You get your ONLY D from the Algebra teacher, who in today’s world, would not be teaching because of his profanity and the way he treated students. But you earn that D, and you don’t know what the heck is going on in Algebra! You sit out several weeks of basketball cheerleading until you can actually prove to the cheerleading advisor that your grades are improving. She is very lenient with you. You don’t have to sit out the entire 6 weeks.

At the end of the year, you make JV basketball cheerleading and the Concert choir for high school; so you are set for the new school year.

Dear 15-year-old Denise,

This is the most challenging year of your life. You are able to date this year and you have several boyfriends who are meaningful to you, in different ways. You expand your world to include new people, as the two junior high schools combined to become one of the largest schools in the area.

In January, you meet a young man that changes your world. He is older and your relationship lasts only two and ½ months, but it is pivotal. He gets into trouble and in many peoples’ minds, you are guilty by association. He has the good sense not to drag you into his mess and he breaks up, but you are devastated. Several friends rally around you; but this is not easy. He leaves for the US Army and in the fall would ship out to Viet Nam.
The summer between sophomore
and junior years. Sitting on the porch.

You will never know why, really, but you do NOT make cheerleading for the following year. You know it is not about your ability, but you never know whether it was because you have that “guilt by association” thing, or there were other political-type things happening behind the scenes. This also devastated you.

But, you make the A Cappella choir and you have that to look forward to for the following year, as you always loved to sing!

At the end of this challenging year, I wish I could tell you that it will be alright. The pain will subside and you will move on to other relationships. Time will pass and people grow up and they have regrets too, but it all works out.

Dear 16-year-old Denise,

You are forever grateful for those friends, male and female, that gather around you and help to keep your mind off a certain person who is in boot camp this summer. This does not go away quickly. It is a fun summer and the school year starts out well, minus the cheerleading activities that you had the year before. Actually, you don’t miss making the banners for the hallways at all; but you miss cheering.

Christmas of my junior year
The teacher that I would
eventually marry
In November, you meet a young man that you thought you would marry. This hit you fast, and your relationship is so embraced by your families that it just melds. Actually, there is more drama than there should have been; but you both are immature.

{At the same time, your future husband, at the ripe old age of twenty-two, begins teaching in your high school. You have a yearbook, but that’s all you know about this guy. Meanwhile, he is teaching some of your classmates.}

Overall, this year goes well—there was a breakup and a reuniting and by the end of the year, he is graduating high school and you become “pre-engaged.”  In May your Grandpa dies and you are sad, but he had lived until 79. The summer is filled with dreams as you turn 17.

Dear 17-year-old Denise,

My high school graduation.
Your senior year is a challenge. Starting out “normal” as you plan for marriage in a couple of years; things change rapidly as the boyfriend breaks up with you immediately after homecoming. You are devastated again! (Although you are angry at first, you have had a wonderful relationship with him for most of your life.) While he moves on, you don’t know what to do next! You date some guys and have good relationships, but there was no one else for a long time. You don’t let anyone get close to you.

While you have activities, church youth group, choir and editing the school newspaper, you sink into a depression. After the New Year, your parents get professional help for you, and that seems to be helping; when your counselor is killed in a terrible traffic accident.  You decide not to pursue another counseling relationship. Your parents are the only ones who understand what is going on in your life. You have friends, but you keep them at a distance.  When everyone else parties on the night of graduation, you are home alone.

The summer between high school and college is fun. There is a crowd who runs around together, realizing that all too soon it will break up and everyone will go their own ways. You work, and you enroll in four classes of the college you plan to attend. This helps the transition to college.

I wish I could tell you to enjoy life more and not be in such a hurry to finish college, but you would not listen. You wanted this part of life to be over so you could move on to another chapter.

Dear 18-year-old Denise,

You attend the local university and life pretty much goes on as before. Although you meet some new people, you gravitate toward those that went to high school with you—at first. During the spring of your freshman year, you pledge a sorority, which opens up new opportunities to meet people that would become a part of your life—your sorority sisters, their friends and families, and others of the Greek organizations on campus. You date casually, but there is never a serious relationship.

At the end of your first year of college, you lose your grandmother. She was younger than her husband had been, and this is more of a loss for you.

I wish I could tell you that it's OK to miss your Grandma. 

Dear 19-year-old Denise,

Your second and middle year of college (because you finished in three years) you become a person that is less what you had been, and more of what you are becoming. This is a mental, emotional and philanthropic transformation. You serve—whether it is with the sorority, or in your academic involvement as a social worker. You attend your church, although there wasn’t a “college group” at church, you help with Bible school and church functions.

This is the first time it is more about others and less about you. It is a time of realization that you knew what you wanted to do, and might be doing it alone. You eventually earned your BA, but not your Mrs.

I wish I could tell you that you could have been more patient, listened to God more, and found His will for your life instead of just plugging away until the next thing.

You never felt complete; and indeed, you were not. That did not happen until you were twenty five years old and you accepted Jesus as your Savior. But you were developing strength for the things that would happen to you in the next few years, and for the rest of your life.


  1. I have received private emails and Facebook messages about this blog. Thank you for your support. I don't mind comments here though. Perhapse you felt something similar, or maybe your issue was something else. I welcome comments, it is not a problem for me.

  2. Denise, this is an interesting topic. I enjoyed it. Personally, I don't think I could remember all the details about High School! Maybe if I sat down with my scrapbooks it would come back to me. I'll have to give it a try one of these days! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Kristi, it started out as an exercise. I thought "where could I go with this?" and this is what came out. Obviously, and you know this, these are but the highlights; but it was very obvious to me that there was a theme running through this. As you help with raising your granddaughters, MAKE SURE they understand that they don't need a date all the time to feel "ok" about themselves.

  3. This is certainly not how I envisioned your life when we were in high school. Popularity. Cheerleading. Boys. Choir. Did not see that you were struggling inside just like a lot of the rest of us. This was a time that I felt I had no friends related to school. Boyfriend was out of town. Involved in youth group at a local church. All my friends were older than me. Felt invisible. I guess thinking someone is popular doesn't mean they are not like yourself. Thanks for sharing. Bonnie Hill

    1. I don't think that I knew how to see how much I had. To be blunt, I wish I had been in your youth group. I may have made better decisions later (in my 20's). Yes, there were boys, but only one that was deep. We are still friends. He lives in FL so that inhibits things, but I love his wife and we share grandparenting stories.

      I remember you when we were in junior high, perhaps even 6th grade when I moved in. I thought you were very nice, but you were quiet.