As part of the Love YA May month with Headline, I am pleased to welcome Jennifer E. Smith back onto the blog with her letter to her sixteen year old self.
Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Me,
So, I know things are generally going okay for you at the moment. For better or worse, high school isn’t quite like it is in the films. You’re not getting stuffed into lockers or teased mercilessly, but you’re also not dating someone with movie star looks or reigning over some lunch table in the cafeteria. Instead, things are just...pretty good. I mean, you choice of jeans is unfortunate, and your lack of ability in math is proving to be frustrating, but overall, you’ve got it pretty good. You have some great friends, your grades are above average, your teachers are mostly nice, you play a couple of sports, and you have a wonderful (if slightly overbearing) family.
So, for the most part, everything is fine. You’re a pretty happy kid, but a lot of that is because you don’t know how much better things are going to get. You have no idea how great life can be, because your world is still so narrow. You live in a bubble. And while it’s a very nice bubble, this small town in the suburbs of Chicago, it’s still a bubble.
But here’s the thing: the minute you step out of it, everything is going to change.
Because life isn’t small. It’s huge, actually. And once you peel back the edges, you’re going to realize that you’ve been living on a map all this time, when really, the world is a globe: three dimensional and full of possibilities.
A lot of your friends will eventually go back, and that’s understandable, because it’s a very nice place to live, and you had a very nice time growing up there. But you don’t want life to be very nice: you want it to be an adventure.
And believe it or not, you’ll get that adventure. You’re going to travel and live abroad. You’re going to visit places you never could have imagined, and you’re going to learn way more in Argentina and New Zealand and South Africa than you ever did in Calculus. (You never really improve at math, by the way, though you do write a book with the phrase “statistical probability” in the title, which must count for something, right?)
But most exciting of all, you’re going to be an author. Yes, really. An author! Which is what you’ve been dreaming of since you were ten years old. And here’s the best part: people are going to read your books, and they’re going to mean something to them in the same way all those books you loved meant something to you. Which is the greatest gift of all.
You’re going to live in New York City, not far from the park, and you’re going to have your very own apartment with huge, sunny windows and a desk where you can write with a beagle curled up beside it. Plus you’ll still have great friends and a supportive family and a sister who you talk to every single day, and taken altogether, it’s going to be a very happy life. But even more than that, it’s going to be an interesting one, full of challenges and surprises and new experiences.
At sixteen, it can seem like a grade on a test is the most important thing in the world; it can crush you when the guy you like turns out to like someone else; it can feel like the walls of your town or your school or your home are constantly threatening to close in around you.
But now, sixteen years later, I can tell you the secret: that life is long, and most of its greatest adventures have nothing to do with high school. That bubble of a town or a school or a home will eventually pop, and on the other side of it, there’s a whole world full of possibilities. It’s just up to you to take that first step.
I’m so glad you did.
Thirty-Two-Year Old You
Love YA May has been set up by Headline. They have a brilliant new Facebook page set up just for YA lovers to suggest to other people excellent books that need to be shared and loved by all. They all have a new Pinterest boards showing all the amazing books too. Why don’t you click on the links below and check them out?