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The One Voice Worth Listening To

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 Faith McClaren, author of Horror Hotel, which came out today.


Dear 17-year-old Faith,

I know you won’t listen to me no matter what I say — that’s one of the things I still love about you (me) — but if you were ever going to take advice from someone in your life, it should really be Future You. I literally know the future (unlike you, who only thinks you’re psychic.) So even though I know you’ve already decided I’m wrong, hear me out, just this once, and then you can turn Jimmy Eat World back up in the jeep, and drink your Sonic Slurpee, and go ahead and get that speeding ticket because you haven’t learned how to tap the brakes yet.

You’re about to start struggling. Hard. Every single thing you think you have figured out is going to turn out wrong. If I can be honest with you, you’ve been struggling for a while. You just don’t see it yet.

Or you don’t care.

The boy you’re dating will sweep you off your feet. He’s the lead singer of a band. He was your first real teenage crush. You really do love him. But he’s not the answer to your restlessness, he’s not the reason you’re here, and soon he’s going to break your heart. It will happen slowly, then all at once, and you’ll hold on to the daydream of him even when Dad offers you a car if you’ll “just break up.” You will lose yourself, little by little, until the pressure to keep going will make you finally want to give everything up.

You won’t go to a good college. You won’t even finish college. And even though right now you want to be Rory Gilmore, you’re frankly a whole lot more like Lorelai. When you take the SAT, you’ll do okay, but you’ll be exhausted from fighting all night with your boyfriend, and you won’t see how pointless it all was until way later. It will haunt you for years, and if you believed in regret, you’d probably feel it (but we both know you don’t).

You aren’t going to become a famous actress. You hate taking direction, as we now have established, and vulnerability of any kind scares you more than bungee jumping (which you will do, and you’ll brag about it for years). It’s hard at first to let go of that dream but hang tight because there’s a better one coming.

And this is going to piss you off the most (please don’t kick another windshield or break any more cell phones when you hear it):

Faith as a teen

It will take you a long time to figure out any of this because for most of your life, you haven’t only been ignoring everyone else’s sound and good advice, you’ve turned the volume down on your own inner voice. At first, you did it because that voice got you in trouble. A lot. Then it was because no one wanted to listen when their own version fit the narrative much better. Then you were the problem. Then you were emotional. And always you were way, way too much.

You are struggling right now, and it’s all going to suck for a lot longer, but the reason I’m sitting here writing you this letter today, is because one day you finally start to listen.

To you.

You dump that guy on your own terms, when you’re ready, and because you do it your way, you begin to realize the power in trusting your gut.

You fall in love with someone who loves to listen to you. It starts with conversations on your parents’ couch when you aren’t even looking for romance. You write emails, you talk for hours on the phone, and when you tell him all your big, impossible-shaped dreams, he wants to see them happen. He doesn’t think you’re too much, or unrealistic, and you never have to make yourself small to stand beside him.

You find friends who love you wild, and who say things to you like “If anyone can do it, you can,” when you’re telling them about some outlandish idea or a ridiculous goal or a far-fetched desire. You learn that being vulnerable is awesome because it’s actually the bravest thing you can be, and that vulnerability is all you really need to make good art.

Each time you fall apart, you get up stronger. Even when you lie there for a while screaming into a pillow for longer than you will ever publicly admit.

One day, a long time from now, you will be sitting on a porch overlooking Los Angeles while your son plays guitar and your husband bakes bread, the sky will be on fire with a sunset that feels made by God just for you, and you’ll cry because you have a book coming out in the world, and you bought this house, and even though none of it happened the way you thought it would, every dream you had when you were a little girl did come true.

So, you know what, actually don’t listen to me. Listen to you. You were right all along.




About The Author: Faith McClaren is the pen name of Rebekah Faubion. Originally from Texas, Faith now lives in Los Angeles, where she writes YA and women's fiction. She also eats home baked goods made by her husband, raises a wolf-loving son, and wrangles two scruffy dogs.


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