Dear Teen Me from author Elise Moser (LILY AND TAYLOR)

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Dear Teen Me,

I know you think your life hasn’t begun yet, but I’m here to tell you: you’re living it now.

This life you are living is the rich, sometimes bitter soil in which your future will grow. The experiences you live now will always be embedded in the multiplying neurons of your brain, the muscles of your heart, the nerves of your eyes, the skin of your fingers. You will use all these senses every day – including, one day, when you begin to create other lives on the page --

This life you are living that feels so painful and almost impossible, like pushing a stalled truck down an endless highway all alone with your muscles screaming, the gravel and the rusty metal etching a thousand scratches into your flesh (suspecting that your skirt is tucked into the waistband of your pantyhose at the back and everyone can see your butt in the white cotton underwear your mother buys you, which is deeply embarrassing, and this, even more than the pain, makes you want to die) –

This life you are living that is layering your brain with observations and knowledge about people and about the world (and yes, about yourself) that you will use forever after. To help you make choices (not always good ones, but the toughness that feels like weakness at the time will allow you to push through every new kind of suffering and come out the other side). To feed your creativity, your activism, your love, and – when you finally let yourself do it – your writing –

You think you are not you yet, but I’m here to tell you: you will never be more yourself than now. When you are struggling to get through school and your parents don’t feel like driving you there so they tell you to hitchhike and you do it even though you are afraid; when a boy in your class spits in your face while you are at your part-time job in the school canteen and you don’t know why except that you are unathletic, badly dressed, Jewish, working-class, smart -- an outcast in general; when your grades are crap but you are reading everything you can find and you can tell that your English teacher sees something shining in you and you hold onto the reflection of that light –

You are more yourself every day. You are building yourself the way an athlete builds muscle – by making a thousand little tears, and it hurts, but as each one heals it becomes bigger and stronger than it was before.

Dear Teen Me, hang on. In only a year or two you will realize that you can choose never to talk to your father again. Your mother, your grandparents, your aunt and uncle will all try everything to convince you, trick you, force you into seeing him. After years of this, your grandparents will finally ask you why, and when you tell them they will just nod. After that they will never try to make you see him again. Your mother will tell you that after your father dies you’ll regret your decision. Guillermo, who cuts your hair really short like you like it, will tell you he stopped talking to his father and he didn’t regret it for a minute. Your father will die, and you will feel fine.

A few years after that you will stop talking to your mother too, and it’s like putting down something heavy and being able to stand up straight. Your sister, your cousins will become your allies, and you will begin to feel – unexpectedly -- like you have a family again. A good one, this time.

Dear Teen Me, you will hold onto the good friends who will take care of you by challenging you to care for yourself the way you care for them, and they will become part of your good family. And you will find out that the more your own heart heals, the stronger it gets, and it will become a marvelous engine of love, and it will carry you into the arms of people who love you (and one in particular, who loves you the most) because they recognize that beautiful engine pumping inside you. And you will come to understand that it was always there.

It’s in you now.

Elise Moser was born in Brooklyn and grew up in small-town New Jersey. She attended McGill University in order to be in Montreal, and stayed. She worked in a bookstore for a long time and as a publishers' sales rep for even longer. Her short stories have been published in Canada and the US, and her adult novel BECAUSE I HAVE LOVED AND HIDDEN IT came out in 2009. She was president of the Quebec Writers' Federation and currently divides her time between Montreal and Sauk City, Wisconsin, where her sweetheart lives. LILY AND TAYLOR, her first YA novel, came out from Groundwood Books in 2013.

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