The letter below is part of an ongoing series featuring letters from authors to their teen selves. If you're a published author who'd like to participate in this series, we'd love to have you. Just click here and let us know you're interested. Today's guest is Molly E. Lee, author of Ember Of Night, out this Tuesday.
Dear Teen Molly,
Go ahead and turn down Blue October for a second, okay? You can crank it up in a minute, but for now, I really want to talk to you. You don’t know this yet—and before you shut me out because I sound like I’m about to put you in a box, just listen. What I’m about to tell you will save you years of weight-crushing anxiety. Oh, now I have your attention? Cool.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to be happy.
Let that sink in for a moment. You’re probably getting ready to roll your eyes and ask me what I mean by that. Let me elaborate.
You don’t need anyone’s permission to be happy, to chase your passions, to live for finding your own joy. You don’t need the approval of anyone for loving something or someone. You be you. You do what makes you happy and damn anyone else who tries to push you in a different direction.
All those kids giving you hell over the fact that you’d rather stay home and read than go to a party? All those kids saying you must be a witch because your favorite color is black and you listen to rock music? All those teachers advising you against going after your dream of being an author because it isn’t a “real” career? They don’t have a clue how wrong they are and they definitely don’t know you—they don’t know that you find joy between the pages of a book. They don’t know that the lyrics from your favorite rock albums set your blood on fire. They don’t know that writing makes you feel alive. They’re uncomfortable with you because you don’t fit into the box they want you to—the neat one with organized sports and parties and top-40 music blaring in the background.
And, just like you don’t need permission to find joy in the things you love that other’s may not, they don’t need your permission either.
Breathe. It’s okay if people don’t dig your vibe and vice versa—we’re all humans working on our own singular journey to be a better person. We can celebrate each other and our differences at the same time. You can high-five that girl who loves partying every weekend just as easily as she can high-five you for spending a few hours at Barnes & Noble. You can high-five the person who thinks math is way more fun than—gasp—reading. You can encourage people to love what they love, even if it’s not your thing. I mean, who doesn’t need a high-five now and then, right? Everyone has a tribe waiting for them, and trust me, your tribe is so awesome.
It will take you going through literal hell to find them—and I wish I could tell you to stay away from that boy who is so damn toxic for you, but you have to survive those years in order to become the woman you’ve always wanted to be. Deep breaths, babe, you will get there. You will realize that you’re enough, that you don’t have to be perfect. You’ll realize that people who genuinely care for you won’t passive aggressively compliment you, won’t manipulate you, won’t gaslight your world until you’re not sure what is up or down anymore. You will crawl through that dark hole and come out stronger on the other side. You’ll realize that you don’t need anyone else’s approval to be you. You’ll realize that no one has the power to rob you of your joy unless you allow them to. You’ll realize that there are no medals for being miserable. And it’s okay that you’ve let people rob you of happiness in the past. It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to want to please people. But when you focus on your own happiness? When you focus on living in what brings you joy? You become the best version of yourself. You become someone who has the strength and energy to care for others when they need you most.
Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t find joy in. Be you without apology. Those who truly understand you will love you all the more for it.
Oh, and those paychecks you’re dropping at Barnes & Noble? Those stacks of books you bring home every weekend? You will never regret that. Keep reading, keep writing, keep defining your own idea of happiness…because in the end? You’re the only one who can make that decision.
About The Author: The author of twelve romance novels, Molly E. Lee is perhaps best known for her popular series, Grad Night and Love on the Edge. Her novels feature strong, contemporary women who know how to take care of themselves and protect the people they love. Though Lee’s characters have tough exteriors, deep down inside, they are true romantics at heart. She is a military spouse and the mother of two children, plus one stubborn English Bulldog and a giant Irish Wolfhound. In her free time, Molly enjoys hiking the mountains near her home, and devouring books late into the night. Her newest book, Ember Of Night, comes out Tuesday.