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From Confidence To Doubt & Back Again

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 Nancy McCabe, author of Vaulting Through Time, which comes out tomorrow.


Dear Teenage Me,

Do you remember when you were eleven, how confident you were, how sure of who you were and what you wanted? You loved to dance and write and read and sing and perform in plays.

And then, at twelve, you started to doubt yourself. You dropped out of ballet class because you were so much taller than the other girls, and you were sure they were more graceful than you.

Nancy at 13

When you were thirteen you tried out for a play at your new, larger school, and you felt inadequate because all the other kids were louder and more animated than you.

You joined a choir when you were fourteen, but other kids had more powerful voices.

You’ve gone on writing, but secretly, convinced that all of your classmates are better, more effortless writers than you.

And suddenly it’s like you’ve become possessed by this shy, self-conscious person who is terrified of the future: of learning to drive, public speaking, moving away from home, finding love, figuring out how to support yourself.

I want to reassure you: you don’t have to be the best to do what you enjoy, and all the things you worry about will be okay.

Sometimes it will be hard. You will face unrequited loves and breakups and losses. Some friendships will end. You will run out of gas in the middle of rush hour traffic in downtown Wichita. You will get distracted on the way to a town in South Carolina and end up in Georgia. You will discover that it’s okay to take unexpected detours.

Your mouth will go so dry during one of your first public presentations that your lips will stick to your teeth. You will work some jobs you hate but gradually find your ways to others that will be challenging and stimulating and allow you to share your creative passions with others.

You’ll be brave enough to travel halfway across the world to adopt a daughter and raise her by yourself. You’ll regularly speak to audiences, and you’ll mostly enjoy it. You’ll find a supportive community of friends who love to read and talk about books and sing, and eventually a life partner who is steady and kind. But by then you’ll also know how to embrace your love for solitude, too.

And you’ll also dance again. It won’t matter whether you’re the best. It won’t even matter if you’re the worst. You’ll do it because it makes you happy. You’ll realize that you’re not that uncoordinated after all. You’ll join a clogging group and perform regularly.

Sometimes you’ll get involved in community theater. All the things you loved as a child, all of the things you’re too self-conscious to do now, you’ll come back to. They will enrich your life.

And best of all, you’ll write books, and eventually you’ll write one about a time traveling teenage gymnast who is struggling with identify and self-doubt, a character who’s a combination of your own teenage self and that of your future daughter. You’ll get to go on that journey with her as she discovers that you don’t have to be the best at something to be fulfilled by it. As she discovers who she is and what she wants.

Right now you feel awkward and full of terror and turmoil. Be assured that someday you’ll come into your own and many of your fears right now will feel like mere blips in the grand scheme of things. You’ll rediscover your younger self, but you’ll also find your life even more joyful not despite but because of today’s fears and struggles and mistakes. Be patient.

Also, if you’d quit eating potato chips for breakfast and candy bars for lunch, your future body would really appreciate it.




About The Author: Nancy McCabe is an author, an adoptive parent, and former longtime gymnastics mom. She directs the writing program at the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford and teaches in the graduate program at the Naslund-Mann School of Writing at Spalding University. Her newest book, Vaulting Through Time, comes out tomorrow.


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