Happy seventeenth birthday. Now that you’ve blown out the candles and made a wish, put down this letter, walk five steps to your left and hug Anthony. Breathe him in until your lungs can’t hold anymore. Because no matter how many times you smell Polo Sport, it will never smell as good as it does on him. Also, look into his dark puppy dog eyes and tell him how much you love him.
Seriously, do it right now. Then come back and read the rest of this letter. I will wait.
Man, he smells amazing doesn’t he? You’re a lucky girl to be loved by such a great guy. Savor him.
I debated whether or not to write this letter. I’m scared that telling you about the future will negatively alter the space-time continuum in some cataclysmic way. Warning you about what will happen in two weeks might change your entire life. I hope and pray that it does. But what if I do more harm than good?
You believe that everything happens for a reason (at least I think you already believed that at your age) so I will leave you with this advice: Say what you mean. Follow your heart. Love like there is no tomorrow.
Please, follow those rules like life depends on it, and we’ll see if it changes your/my/our future.
Your 32-year-old self
FIFTEEN DAYS LATER
I’m so sorry that my warning didn’t change anything. I’m sorry you are living a nightmare. I wish I could be there to hold you while you sob, kick, punch things and scream. I’m so, so, so sorry that Anthony is gone.
I wish I could say that in time you will forget, but that would be a lie. Even at 32 years old I can still see his mustang skidding off the road and flipping through the air. I can still feel his bleeding head cradled in my/your lap. I can still hear him whispering his last words over the wailing sirens. My heart and soul is shattering into pieces like it all happened yesterday, and for you, it happened tonight.
Walk out of that shock trauma room. No matter how many times you beg, plead, shake him, or kiss his lifeless face, he’s not coming back. Go home, wash the blood from your hands, crawl into bed, pull the covers over your head, and stay there as long as you need to. It’s hard to believe, but I promise, you will survive this. When you’re ready, another letter from me will be waiting for you.
Words can’t express,
Your 32-year-old self
I know how wretched, unfair, and not-worth-living life seems right now. The nightmare repeats every time you close your eyes. You keep asking why, but no one is answering. You’re trying to bargain with a God who you now doubt exists. I’ll save you some time—God is not going to take you too. At least not anytime soon.
You feel angry, guilty, empty, numb, lost and a dozen other emotions that you can’t control. But mostly you feel so alone. I assure you; you are not alone. As hard as it is to hear right now, your life is not over. Many people are worried about you, heartbroken for you, and want to be there for you. You can’t hear or see them because you’re living in a dreary cloud of solitude, but trust me; beyond your veil of grief, family and friends are waiting with open arms—and so is your future.
The rest of this summer doesn’t matter. It will be a sad blur of nothingness in your memory. However, this fall, you start your senior year, and thank goodness you already enrolled for Creative Writing 2, because you need Mrs. Geczy and her classes even more than last year. Writing won’t take away all of your pain (as I’m writing this letter you still aren’t entirely healed) but pouring your emotions onto paper helps more than anything else. Don’t hold back. Write like a mad woman. Don’t worry about the tears smudging the ink. Just let it out. Anthony will inspire some of the most beautiful and tragic parts of your writing (even when you’re 32). And when Mrs. Geczy tells you that someday you’re going to write a book, believe her.
Maybe that’s why I’m supposed to write to you, to tell you to value yourself more. Believe that you are capable of great things. Losing Anthony seems so impossibly hard right now, but you weren’t left behind as punishment, you’re here because your journey is not over. In the future, you’ll look back at this dreadful time in your life and remember that because you were strong enough to survive this, you can survive anything.
“Live and learn” will become the mantra of your existence. You’re going to make a lot of mistakes, and some terrible decisions, but you make some good ones too. You’ve just learned how ugly this world can be, but beauty still awaits you. You will travel to parts of the world that are breathtaking, you’ll meet lots of wonderful people, you will literally climb mountains, you’ll swim with wild dolphins and sea turtles, and you’ll jump from airplanes. You will learn that you are stronger and braver than you think.
Anthony was taken from this world much too early, but starving yourself, sitting at his grave every day for hours, and crying yourself to sleep in his bed just so you can smell him on his pillows, is not going to bring him back. Nothing will. But here’s a secret from your future: one of your prayers is answered. Anthony never truly leaves you.
Some people, and our experiences with them, are so powerful that they remain in our heart and soul forever. They change how we look at look at the world, ourselves, others, and this crazy roller coaster ride called life. The night Anthony died, you were eternally changed. Your innocence was ripped away, but your curiosity about the universe—and what might exist beyond our awareness—was sparked. That spark will grow into an imagination and creative fire that burns brighter than the stars.
The End is never easy to accept when you lose someone you loved so dearly. But be thankful for the time you had together. Be grateful that Anthony was such an amazing and influential character in your storybook called life. He always will be.
My original advice to you still applies: Say what you mean. Follow your heart. And most importantly, love like there is no tomorrow.
Karen Amanda Hooper was born and bred in Baltimore, frolicked and froze in Colorado for a couple of years and is currently sunning and splashing around Florida with her two beloved dogs. She's addicted to coffee, chocolate and complicated happily-ever-afters.
Someday, Karen will finish writing the novel inspired by the events mentioned in the above letter, and believe it or not, it will have a happy ending—sort of.
Karen is the author of TANGLED TIDES and its sequel Dangerous depths, as well as the KINDRIDLY series. To find out more about Karen and her books visit www.KarenAmandaHooper.com.
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Dear Teen Me: More Letters from Authors to their Teen SelvesTeen Fiction
We hope you'll be inspired, shocked, amused, and touched by this selection of letters from the DearTeenMe.com website. 'How awesome would it be if authors wrote letters to their teen selves?' A year and a half later, you can pick up DEAR TEEN ME fro...