Tag Archives: Sixteen

Advice to My Sixteen-Year-Old Self/Sister

I’m happy to say my sister probably needs this advice far less than I did at her age, but because she is my closest link to my sixteen-year-old self, and I love her so, she will have to humor me through this…

I started this post earlier this week, inspired by Cheryl Strayed’s advice to her younger self at the end of Dear Sugar and my own desire to say something meaningful to my younger sister about surviving high school. It was intended to be my way of traveling back in time to fix all the perceived wrongs I witnessed and/or participated in as a sixteen-year-old girl.

However, after the list sat unpublished overnight, I decided it was more angry than inspiring, an outdated wish for more confidence and regret over things that could not be changed. See, as much as I wish I would have stood up for myself and others more, maybe it was the not standing up that needed to happen first. To be on the victimized side of rumors, to watch mentally challenged and effeminate students be taunted, to forego relationships because my friends did not approve, to ignore chauvinist boys who pushed too much or called me horrible names, was all part of my becoming.

Sure it would have been nice if I became confident and outspoken sooner, but maybe I needed to know what it felt like to not be those things first so that I could relate to my quiet students and collect more pieces of life and knowledge of myself. Going back and standing up would have felt good, but it was not realistic to who I was at sixteen. That was me and it’s alright. Forgiving myself for not being stronger is actually the bigger piece of advice than any list of all the things I wish I did. It’s okay to be sixteen, quiet, not sure, and sometimes disillusioned.

An afternoon coffee visit with an old friend from middle school made me realize that it was not just my high school experience that felt a little angry– it was hers too, at the very school I thought would make me happier. While this should come as no surprise, because half the people I know felt this way about their own high school experiences, it was somehow humbling to realize I might have been pretty much the same girl under any circumstances. Just part of the territory of growing up.

So, dear sister and sixteen year-old me, that’s my message. Instead of a long list of sixteen different pieces of advice, I leave you with one idea. It’s okay to be imperfect, emotional, sometimes angry, sometimes disillusioned, and not always possessing the confidence we know is inside us. That will come, just keep being you and hold on to all the happy moments, because there will be plenty.

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Through 16-year-old Eyes

Sixteen was magic, that first year where everything started to come together.  Tastes of freedom, independence.  A momentary eternity, I once wrote.

My little sister is now there, or almost.  Only a couple weeks to go.  Thirteen years apart, the gap between us is slowly closing.  She was the baby, the reason I could not watch R-rated movies.  Now, she is a source of depth, wisdom, and laughter.  Although, I guess she was always a source of laughter, possessing humor beyond her years.  My little sister is the glue that bound us all together.  She makes us one gloriously happy, rambunctious family.

The other night I caught a glimpse into her soul, listening to her recite poetry.  She is an artist, not only with words, but with pastels, watercolors, you name it.

I picked this one to share because it reminds me of me, thirteen years ago.  Life at sixteen is full of angst and wonder.

These are her words, not mine:

We used to dance through the field like feral butterflies.
Our wings grew and our cat feet lifted off the grass,
wind blew us side to side and kissed our bare cheeks.
Our mouths opened wide and we could see everything
as we let our laughter fill the dry air, making music with the birds.
The sky tasted strong and sweet,
like being held in Grandma Jo’s soft arms and under her warm gaze
in the frigid air conditioning of our Mckinney house.
You and I strutted through those halls,
because we were the coolest people we knew.
But we weren’t really cool at all.
But, still, we grew up
to do a new kind of dance
in the poorly lit, poorly ventilated hall
full of unknowns and familiars
all pulsing and numbing to the elegant drops of Dubstep.
Because they were lost, they knew exactly what to do.
Because they were blind, now they could see
the red hot sweat of rage and passion
filling their lungs and coating their eardrums.
We were the abstract hand prints painted on young, wet skin,
lit up only when the lights went out.
And with daylight we walk, undead,
with crusty eyes through walls and over buildings
and drown in coffee just to get by.

Kat knew, she had seen it all
and what she hadn’t seen would soon be her reality.
She was led down paths and to her fate
on candy leashes and with designer treats.
She had to lose herself to know who she never was.
Todo va a estar bien.
Porque eventually the skies would go back to business as usual
and the sun would lean down and brush tears from her eyes.
And lay us both back down in the neon grasses
in a bed of feral butterflies.

Looking at the world through her eyes…

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