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That Boy's Going To Ruin Your Life

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 Kosoko Jackson, author of The Forest Demands Its Due, which comes out this Tuesday.


Dear Sixteen-Year-old Kosoko,


I’m imagining, if you’re getting this email, you’re probably staying up a bit too late, talking to a boy. I know, right? Someone knows you’re gay and you didn’t tell them yet. Trust me, kid, you’re not as good at hiding your sexuality as you think you are. It’s okay, don’t worry, it’s not going to be an issue when you’re older.

But that’s a long way away. Let’s focus on the now, shall we?

Kosoko at 16

Stop me if I’m wrong. You’re probably tired. Exhausted, even. Those college dual enrollment classes, mixed with stress of all the clubs you’re managing and trying to get good grades is killing you. Not literally killing you, but I get it. I’m here to say it doesn’t get any better. You’re always going to be tired. But good news? You’re going to be tired for better reasons.

Sorry I can’t tell you why. Every good and bad thing you’re going through right now is going to be necessary to get through the next few years, and, in turn, make you who I am today.

But I’m not here to talk about your schooling, or your friends, or anything like that. I’m here to talk about something else. Let’s call him, BD for now.

BD is probably talking to you right now. BD is probably, if my timing is right, giving you his cool and calm bravado about how he can’t be changed and how he’s broken on the inside and he doesn’t believe in love. You’re probably promising BD you won’t fall for him, and you’ll just be his friend. I’m sure you know that’s a lie.

But what you don’t know, because how could you know, is that BD is going to ruin your life. BD is going to isolate you from your friends. He’s going to make you lose roughly 20 pounds and develop a sleeping disorder. He’s going to make you think about cutting yourself for the first time. He’s going to make you question what love is and screw up our self-worth for years to come.

I know, I know, you don’t believe me. I don’t think I’d expect you to. BD is everything you wanted. He’s older–probably too old for you at 16, if I’m being honest. He likes your writing. He is into anime like you. He is a loner, and he has a broken past. He’s charming and romantic and talks to you all day long. He likes what you enjoy and vice versa. But it's not love, Kosoko. And I know you know better than that. I know, the boy who stared wide eyed at Degrassi when Marco came out, and saw himself in that character, knows what love is. The boy who stays up late, writing anime fan fiction, self inserts that give you a happy ending and remind you, someday that’ll be me. You know love. And this isn’t it.

And you can’t tell anyone. No one will listen because you’re not out yet to your parents. Your friends aren’t really your friends. And you think BD is the only one who really gets you. And maybe he does. Maybe he really does care. But his version of caring will quiet your shine. It’ll dampen your light and make you feel small for years to come.

And I’m sorry, but that’s going to be your future for the next few years. But. Let me tell you a secret. BD’s pain he gives you? It’s going to be all worth it when you write your first book. You’re going to remember, when you’re healed and older, what love should be, and you’re going to write those stories. You’re going to make someone who makes you laugh and cares about you and helps you, not hurts you.

I don’t want to give too much away, but our life is pretty sweet. It is nothing like we’d expect, and when you get to the point I am, you’re going to see what I mean. Picture the least likely outcome? Yeah, not even close. But, your mom is right about one thing. Life has a way of just…working out how it should. It's really beautiful, younger self. You’ll see how beautiful it is when you get here.

But I can tell you one thing, and you’re going to hate it. Sorry in advance. The bad news first? You’re going to move to New York City—I know, I know. But the good news? The reason you move there…well, I’m not going to spoil that. It's worth the surprise. He’s worth the surprise.

Life isn’t always going to be easy. And it’s not going to turn out how you plan. You’re going to have a lot of pain in the next 10 years. But I promise, every bit of it, is going to help you find where your proper destination. Just hold on, Kid. It’ll be okay. I promise.


Your older self

PS: You hate biology. You really really do.


About The Author: Kosoko Jackson is the author of YA novels championing holistic representation of Black queer youth across genres, including Yesterday Is History and Survive the Dome. He also writes adult romance and works as a digital media specialist focusing on digital storytelling and email, social, and SMS marketing. His newest book, The Forest Demands Its Due, comes out Tuesday.


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