Reflections: “Dear 16-year-old Lauren”

With New Year’s Eve and the end of 2010 quickly approaching, many bloggers, Twitter personalities, news outlets, etc. are taking this time to reflect upon the year that has passed.

I do not yet feel like reflecting upon the year that has passed. It was a long year (365 days!). A lot happened. ‘Nuff said.

However, in the spirit of remembering days gone by, and in the spirit of the nostalgia that visiting my childhood home in Saskatchewan for the first time in two and a half years has given me, I decided to dig up my oldest box of journals (I started keeping a diary when I was in grade 3) and read some of them. Most of my entries are painfully embarrassing. I had a lot of crushes (esp. for an 8-year-old). I deluded myself into thinking these boys had crushes on me when probably they just wanted to play with their pogs. Pretty appalling stuff, and for the most part too humiliating to share with the internet.

My trip down Embarrassing Memory Lane revealed a treasure I had completely forgotten about: a letter I wrote when I was 12, to myself at 16 (I’ve changed all actual names but the spelling mistakes are real):

October 5, 1998

Dear 16-year-old Lauren,

I wrote a letter to you when I was in, like, grade two, but I lost it, and besides, nothing interesting was happening.

I hope you haven’t dropped out of school. I want to be a teacher right now. And if I have girls, I want to name them Katrina, Fiona, and, maybe, Meredith. I’m not really sure about the other two names, but I like Katrina for sure.

Right now I have totally fallen for Russell McDonald. My friends are Amanda, Tiffany, Jane (my best friend), and Cassie. My enimies are Kathleen, Jennifer, and Louise. Angela is OK to hang out with, but she flirts and acts stupid all the time. I like to get hyper with my friends, my favourite band is the Cranberries, I like Swing Music, I’m on the X-country running team, the volleyball team, the music group, the SRC, I will probably be doing French by correspondence, and I will be doing drama. My favourite colour is blue, my favourite number is ten.

I hope you’ve made good decisions: not to smoke, not to drink, not to do drugs, …and so one.

Love, Lauren (at 12 years old)

Yikes. I suppose it never occurred to 12-year-old Lauren that dropping out of school isn’t just something that might happen without you noticing when you turn 16, especially when your parents are teachers. And yes, when I said I liked to “get hyper” with my friends, I really meant being hyper and energetic…no sinister euphemisms here.

I was super cool 'cause I'd grown out my bangs.

A couple of things surprised me about this letter. Firstly, it seems to say absolutely nothing at all. Wouldn’t someone writing to their future selves have a lot to say? Wouldn’t they want to fill their letter with important information?

The second thing that surprised me was the realization that these silly details actually were REALLY important to me, and probably to many 12-year-old girls. Who my friends were, who my “enimies” were, what band I liked, all the extra-curricular activities I was involved in in Junior High… It’s strange to think about how small my world was then, how little I knew of what my life was going to be like, and how old I actually thought 16 would be, when I know now that 16 isn’t old at all. And that even with 12 more years under my belt (a whole other lifetime for the author of the letter), my world is still smaller than I want it to be, I still know very little about what my life will be like, and I’m still not really very old at all.

I’m actually impressed that I was involved in so many activities. Good for you, 12-year-old Lauren. (Full disclosure: I was terrible at volleyball. I made it to the end of the season and never signed up for it again. I like to play “casual” volleyball now though, when I get the chance.)

I’m happy to report that I’ve come far enough since grade 7 that I don’t have any “enimies” anymore. And that I don’t need to worry about people who “act stupid all the time” because I’ve been lucky enough in my adult life to be surrounded by kind, smart, fun people most of the time. I still like swing and big band music. My favourite colour is still blue. I like the number 10 but I think the number 2 is better. As for “making good decisions…and so one”…well….I never took up smoking. So good for me.

I hope that if I ever do have a 12-year-old girl of my own (Katrina is a family name so that one’s still on the table), I’ll remember to think of this letter and try to understand a time when my crush and my social circle and my little activities were everything and I wasn’t worried about the world or whether or not my dreams and the dreams of those I love would be possible against the backdrop of the hundred million things that could happen before I grew up.

And what did 16-year-old Lauren think of her 12-year-old self? Well, in 2002, when I was 16, I wrote on the envelope, “Ha ha. Poor little 12-year-old Lauren. She doesn’t know me, but I think she’d be proud of what I’ve become.” As if I was really anything at the ripe old age of 16 for a 12-year-old Cranberries fan to be proud of. But maybe I was.

Ha ha. Poor little 16-year-old Lauren.

And soon enough it will be…Ha ha. Poor little 24-year-old Lauren.

I guess the moral of the story is that I’m going keep embarrassing myself, and writing stupid things, no matter what my age.

Happy New Year, everybody. Remember that no matter what you do or think in 2011, you’ll likely think you were stupid later, so don’t worry about it. 🙂