You are beautiful, brilliant, and infinitely interesting. I’m telling you these things before anything else because I know you’ve never heard them before. I know your parents never praise you so you see yourself as flat, unworthy, as simply a shy, academic bookworm. But you are so much more than that. That’s why you should not be afraid to be seen, to be heard, despite your parents’ belief that children are somehow less-than beings. Your mother laughs at you whenever you are upset as if your feelings don’t matter. Your father is dismissive and sarcastic in his put-downs. I know you think they are perfect because they present themselves that way, because they’re all you know. But they’re flawed human beings. You’ll come to see that one day but the sooner the better because then you can let go of their limitations on you, and be your own person.
High school is only temporary. It seems like it’s forever but in truth it will be only one brief period of your life, and relatively meaningless. Cliques and popularity and who you sit with at lunch won’t matter in the end. You are on the right track of taking the classes that will get you into college, participating in clubs and activities, getting a part-time job. You are highly motivated and a self starter, and you are to be admired. But you need to aim higher (including with your college applications) because you have the talent and ability. Cut through your self-consciousness and make yourself known. Ask for what you want. Ask for the features editor position on the school newspaper. Write more for the school literary magazine. Take what you’ve achieved and push it further instead of thinking it’s enough, that more is for other people, not for you.
Don’t wait for others to see you. Make yourself seen. It is worth the risk. While you won’t always get what you want, most of the times you will be rewarded because you are far more
worthy than you think. I know at home you hide in books and shyness because you don’t want your head snapped off by Dad, but outside the house, it’s different. Don’t be afraid to stand out because you will shine, and opportunities will come to you when people know who you are, when people know what you want. Don’t be afraid to speak up in class, of making mistakes, of forming opinions, and never automatically think that what others say matters more than what you have to say, yes, even adults. You are worthy.
Your introversion makes you a natural loner, but you can’t do everything by yourself. Connect with others. Ask for help and advice when you need it. Connections will help advance your career and many other facets of your life. I know you have suffered a lot of broken friendships due to all the moving, but don’t let that stop you from seeking more, and seek people on your level, not those who are not your equal. That goes doubly for romantic relationships. Guys who have nothing to offer you will be a waste of time. Remember, you are far more than you think. You have a lot to offer, and deserve the same.
I would also like to tell you to not worry so much about fitting in. Celebrate your difference, your unique background of having moved from Australia to New Jersey and having lived in five other countries. It is tough, I know. Your accent, the other kids’ ignorance about Australia, the feeling of being dropped in the open ocean without a buoy. But this experience will make you resilient, able to weather any challenge that will come your way. Accept the way you grew up. Learn to use it, not deny it in the effort to belong. As an adult, your unique childhood will turn into an asset. You will be able to accomplish things that most people will never even think of trying such as moving to foreign countries by yourself. Yes, people will see you as different and that can be lonely, but it is you. And in the end, being an outlier will make others want to hear about your experience and what you have learned from it. It will make you valuable but first, you must value it.
Remember, it doesn’t matter what people think of you, only what you think of yourself. That’s where self-esteem truly comes from. You won’t find it from Mum and Dad, in attention from boys, in doing well at school. You’ll find it in appreciating and loving yourself for the quirky, unique individual you are. You will go far, but believe in yourself and your dreams from the get-go, and you’ll go even farther. Make yourself seen and heard and never be afraid to be you.
The letter above is part of an ongoing weekly 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.
About The Author: Christina Hoag won a prize for writing interesting stories when she was six years old and that’s what she’s been doing ever since. She is the author of Girl On The Brink, a novel about teen dating violence inspired by her own experience and named 2016 Best of YA by Suspense Magazine, and Skin Of Tattoos, a 2017 Silver Falchion Award finalist about a gang member trying to go straight. Born in New Zealand, Christina grew up as an expat around the world. She now makes her home in Southern California. For more information, visit her website.