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Do The Things That Scare You

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 Erika Lewis, author of Kelcie Murphy And The Academy For The Unbreakable Arts, which comes out Tuesday.


You can do anything if you put your mind to it.

Follow your heart, always.

Dear Teenage Me,

Do me a favor, put down the controller, turn away from the television and focus. You’ve been granted an incredible gift, an audience with your future self, and I have something very important things to tell you.

Erika as a teen

You’re what everyone calls a tomboy. They have a lot of different names for it now, but what it boils down to is things like, you never feel comfortable in dresses (truth be told, you never will.) You’re more comfortable coxswaining a men’s crew boat than putting on makeup and trying to talk to them at parties. And you’d pick going to a karate tournament over a dance every time. I’m here to tell you that all of that is okay. You’re also a nerd, which you know, and right now that feels like another strike against you, but I’m here to tell you it’s not. You’re not cool, and that’s okay. The one thing you have always had going for you is you don’t care about being cool because that would mean people pay attention to you, and you’re just fine with everyone else being the center of attention.

Some of that will change. Public speaking will still make you sweat through your clothes, but you eventually overcome that shy awkwardness. Not easily though, and that leads me to what we’re here to really talk about.

Erika as a teen

Look, you’ve spent most of your young life trying to be what everyone wants you to be, and by everyone, I’m talking about the adults in your life. Everyone has an opinion about what career to choose and where to go to college. There will come a time that you finally realize it isn’t your dreams that you’re pursuing, but if you listen to me now, you can save yourself a whole lot of time.

1. Embrace what you’re passionate about with both hands and don’t let go. Don’t let worries about making a living drive every decision. You work hard, and no matter what you try, you will succeed. It just takes time and dedication. And hey, you can always keep working at AMC movie theaters to pay the bills until you get there, and bonus, you get to see movies for FREE.

2. Be courageous. Do things that scare you. And no, I don’t mean illegal things. Harness the power of that ten seconds of adrenaline that comes from the fear of the unknown and go for it. You’ll find yourself in the most incredible places, and those places will be the beginnings of all your ideas for your stories.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You had a hard time learning to read. You’re still working on the “what’s wrong with me” at this point in your life. You won’t ever tell anyone, but you should. It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. You will eventually figure

it out on your own because that’s the way you always roll in life, but it doesn’t have to be that way. There are people around you who could help. All you have to do is ask.

4. Make every day count. You have stories to tell, and a limited amount to time to tell. Life is short. Don’t waste it sleeping. You can sleep when you’re dead.

Remember, you can do anything when you put your mind to it. Just make sure you’re following your dreams, always.

Yours always,


P.S. Yes, you go by the nickname Riki right now, but one day soon you’ll get tired of the Ricki Lake jokes.


About The Author: Erika Lewis grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, spent summers with her grandparents in Worcester, Massachusetts, and currently lives in Los Angeles, California. With a passion for storytelling set in magical places, she spends as much time as she can traveling. When she’s not writing, she can generally be found scribbling notes in a blank book while wandering through abandoned buildings, all kinds of museums, and graveyards. Her newest book, Kelcie Murphy and The Academy for the Unbreakable Arts, comes out on March 1st.


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