Twelve and a half years ago, I was twelve and a half.
Dear Kate from early 1998,
I have some advice for you. I hope you don’t mind. I doubt you’ll ever read this, but I’m thinking it could be helpful. Just in case.
First of all, Kate-from-early-1998 – lighten up. Really. It’s not all so bad, now is it? I know that your dad is an insufferable dork, and spending time with your mom is mortifying. I know that Grandma doesn’t get it at *all*, and your teachers are all completely clueless. I get it. I really, truly do. And I know you won’t believe me when I say this, but you may realize – someday in the vague, distant, grey future – that all is not as it seems. Once that mantle of Adulthood is pressed upon your shoulders, all will be clear.
Speaking of that mantle? I lied. There isn’t one. There’s no “whoa I’m a grownup” moment. It didn’t happen when I got married. It didn’t happen when I moved to a strange city. It didn’t happen the first time I bought furniture in my own name, or the first time I had Hershey’s Kisses and Diet Coke for dinner, or when I assumed all responsibility for the survival and well-being of an (admittedly non-human) entity. Maybe it’ll happen when I take on a mortgage, or have a kid. But I’m not counting on it, and neither should you.
Growing up happens in these tiny, incremental steps, you see. Getting your period or a driver’s license or college acceptance letter isn’t any more significant than the first time you get to walk home from the bus unaccompanied or make that conscious decision to watch reruns of Friends rather than doing your homework. They’re all the same, and they’re all marching you towards that shining beacon of Adulthood which, like the furry mantle of Adulthood, may not exist.
I know you think you know everything. Heck, I’ll be the first one to admit that you do know a lot more than almost all of your peers, and a good number of adults. But you don’t have to constantly remind them. Stupid people are stupid. They’re out there in droves. Some of them are even intelligent enough to tell that you’re much smarter than they are. And they really don’t want you shoving it in their faces. Including teachers. Especially teachers.
And while we’re at it? You’ll never be able to tan. May as well slather on the SPF and enjoy your pasty porcelain skin. Freckles are cute. Skin cancer isn’t.
Wide-leg jeans look stupid on everybody. Bell bottoms don’t look much better. Do yourself a favor and skip straight to a nice pair of low-rise bootcuts.
You’re a vegetarian already. Good for you! Remember, Mom will sneak meat into the casseroles and stock into the soups. Dad won’t. We call that “precedent.” Keep it in mind.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. In life or in school. OK, just in life. There are lessons in mistakes, even if you don’t see them now.
In a few years, you’ll be sure that you’re “in love” and your contrarian nature will compel you to prove all those naysayers wrong. Listen to the naysayers. But go to Truman State anyway – you’ll meet a nice boy there, and make some great friends, and even learn a bit. Don’t forget to sit at that corner table in the MO Hall cafeteria!
Don’t wash your hair every day – 3x a week is enough. Condition frequently, but don’t overdo it. Layers are your friend. Long bangs will hide your fivehead.
Don’t lock yourself into a persona. But don’t be afraid to try on different identities. Black lipstick looks like shit, but it tastes so good. Put on a base layer of ChapStick to keep it looking nice and glossy, at least. If you’re gonna look like shit, do it right.
Go ahead with whatever stupid piercings you want. They can come out when you get bored, and leave almost no mark. But hold off on the tattoos. WAIT. You’ll know when it’s right.
Listen to Mom when she says you can’t burn candles unattended.
The more quickly you can memorize Monty Python and the Holy Grail in its entirety, the more quickly you’ll make friends in high school. Start studying now.
Don’t listen to your brother when he says your betta – which you’ve had for what? 4 years now? – is “cold.” Don’t shine your desklamp on it. Ryan is not a fish veterinarian.
Make as many faces as you want. It won’t stick that way.
The trick to success is learning what you *can* be good at, even if you’re not yet, and pursuing it wholeheartedly. Don’t bother with Theater, and you might as well give up on drawing. Throw yourself into orchestra (erm…not literally).
Embrace your inner – and outer – dorkiness. Who cares if Ashley J. laughs? Well, you’ll care. But try not to let it show.
Everything (no, really – everything) you thought was “forever” can change in a nanosecond. Roll with it. Try and enjoy it. Let up on the whole “control freak” thing. Just a bit.
Finally, your diary is neither as fascinating and profound, nor as secret, as you think it is.
PS>Taylor Hanson *did* look like a girl. And would you believe he’s not even the cute one now?