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 Victoria Ying, author of Hungry Ghost, which comes out next week.
I know you like to be called that now, but someday you’ll appreciate your weird old lady name, Victoria.
And I guess that’s a lesson in itself. There are things about you that you struggle to accept or acknowledge because they make you feel uncomfortable. That’s okay, you’re going through a lot and trying to figure out who you are. Trying on new identities is part of that, and what the hell, it’s kind of fun when it doesn’t suck so much.
Victoria as a teen
What does it mean to “be yourself?” I know that advice never made any sense to you, but if I can share one thing from the future it’s this: never be embarrassed about what you like. You don’t need to fit anyone else’s idea of what a smart girl is, or a cool girl, or a perfect daughter. There’s no amount of reading “the right” books or watching “the right” movies that will make you acceptable to everyone, so just do the shit you like, wear your hair how you want, experiment with makeup styles, and do whatever makes you happiest. Everything else will fit into place once you can learn how to embrace the stuff that makes you unique.
It’s going to feel like there are so many gatekeepers to happiness, but the only person you need to please is yourself. One day, your deeply personal work will be what resonates the most with people, but you can’t make it until you allow yourself to be sad and angry. Pushing those feelings down and pretending they don’t exist will seem like it works for a while — until it doesn’t.
Victoria as a teen