Dear 11-Year-Old Elizabeth,
Shortly after this picture is taken, you’re going to have a comb thrown at your head by a boy named Taylor, who will tell you to “learn how to use it, Ugly.” In all fairness, he isn’t entirely wrong—learning to actually brush and wash your hair is an invaluable skill that will help you out a lot over the years, especially since (as many people so kindly point out) it’s probably your only really nice feature.
Still, I think we can both agree that’s a really mean, uncool way to offer constructive criticism. Don’t worry though, 11-year-old me. You’ll get your chance to take your revenge in the future by writing down the story in a blog read by up to four people. And Taylor will RUE the day that he messed with you. RUE the day!
There are a lot of things going on in this stage of life that are awkward or confusing or mortifying beyond all reason. Believe it or not, in a lot of ways it’s actually going to get worse before it gets any better. Do the words “pizza face” mean anything to you now? They will. So will “chubby” and “weirdo” and “professional stalker.” But I also have some good news for you.
It’s going to be okay.
Truly. Seriously. I promise. Middle school is going to be as bad as it gets. Things only go up from there. Because someday, you’re going to look like this.
And you’re going to marry this:
But until then, here are a few tips to get you through those rough pre-teen years.
Someday, the boys will be taller than you. I know you had your growth spurt unusually early, but it’s true. They will catch up. And you will stop growing. In fact, you’re not even a particularly tall adult—cross my heart, hope to die. You’ll even wear heels sometimes. Heels!
Don’t wear socks with sandals. Trust me on this one. It’s a bad idea. Especially burkenstocks. Which are probably just a bad idea in and of themselves.
Two words: Hugh Jackman. Keep your eye out for this fellow roughly around the year 2000. He’s going to rock your tiny little world.
Embrace your weirdness. I know it gets a little bit tiring to always be the one with the “good personality,” but someday all of the things about you that make you feel like Queen of the Dorks will be the things you like best about yourself. I know that sounds like something that should be written on a motivational poster (and probably is), but it’s true.
Also, spoiler alert: nerds are cool in the 21st Century. You’re going to fit in just fine.
Don’t change yourself to make someone like you. There will be boys who like you when you’re chubby and when you’re thin and when you wear a lot of makeup and when you don’t wear any and when your hair is red (yeah, that happens—probably not your best idea) and when your hair is brown and when your hair is blonde and every shade in between.
(And yes, someday boys will actually like you. Promise).
The point being? Change those things if you want to, but don’t do it for some guy. “Some guy” comes and goes an awful lot, but you’re going to have to hang out with yourself for the rest of your life. So you better make sure you like whoever’s looking back at you in the mirror.
Buy a sports bra. This is going to save you a lot of trouble when you have to run the mile every week in P.E. A LOT of trouble.
Don’t wear white shorts the first day of school in 7th Grade. I can’t really tell you why, but just…trust me on this one. Please.
There’s this show called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I know the title sounds really lame but give it a try. I think you’ll enjoy it. It may or may not be the defining show of your teenage-hood. Whatever. No big deal.
You’re going to get really obsessed with cow paraphernalia. I doubt I can talk you out of it because you’re pretty hardcore. But maybe don’t wear the socks and the vest and the shorts all at the same time. Space them out a little bit.
Write down all the stupid things your siblings do. This is going to be fantastic ammo for years to come. But more importantly…
Spend time with your siblings. I know it seems impossible that you might someday get along with them (Steven in particular), but they’re some of the best friends you’re going to have. Even if they are still the biggest losers you know.
There’s this weirdly enthusiastic girl who’s going to tap you on the shoulder in student prep and ask you to an ice skating party. Talk to her. Go to her party. Embrace the fact that she bursts into The Sound of Music in the middle of the grocery store and draws badly proportioned stick figures with giant heads. She will still be one of the best friends you’ve ever had 18 years later.
Dream big. You’re going to get to travel Europe. And live in New York City. And London. It may not happen in the order you think it’s going to, or in the way that you think it should, but it will happen. And you are going to be super-pretentious about it and bring it up all time even when it has nothing to do with the conversation. And it’s going to be awesome.
Keep writing. It’s not just a hobby, no matter how many people tell you it is, or how many times you claim the same thing to keep people from laughing at your dreams. It is the thing you’re going to do when you’re giddy beyond all reason and when everything hurts and there isn’t enough ice cream in the world to make things better. It will save your sanity and open up your horizons and take you places you couldn’t have imagined. Keep writing.
Get into trouble. Not too much. But a little bit. Because later on in life as you slowly start to de-mature, Benjamin-Button-style, you’re going to wish you could have gotten away with some things back when you still had the chance. And by the time you figure that out, you’ll probably be too grownup to still do them.
Do them anyway. Why not? Life is too short to fill up with regrets. Plus, it will make your diary a little more interesting to read (goodness knows, we need that).
People will let you down sometimes. Not because they don’t love you. Not because they’re mean or cruel. But because they’re people. And chances are, you’re going to let some of them down, too. Give others the chances that you hope they would give to you in the same circumstances. Allow yourself the opportunity to love imperfect people, because that’s all you’re going to meet.
You will let yourself down sometimes, too. And that’s okay. Just do better the next time.
And if all else fails, just remember…
Trust me, I’m a doctor (well, someday). It’s going to be okay. Truly. Sincerely. It’ll be okay.
Go get ‘em, Tiger.