Dear Teen Me,
Hey, I like your Princess Leah buns. I’m still proud of you for wearing them to school when you were thirteen. Why? Well, that moment starts a trend for you: never following the crowd. But don’t think I’ve forgotten your blatant attempt at popularity the summer before 8th grade. You work all summer on your cartwheels and splits for your varsity cheerleading tryout. Yeah, you don’t make it. But you know what you do, you cheeky little monkey? You become the head coach of the JV cheerleading team – at that same school – when you’re only 15 years old.
You hold no tryouts. Instead you accept every 5th and 6th grade girl who signs up; which results in a 64 member cheerleading squad. It feels so right. You and your best friend Carol Q. roll up your teenage sleeves and get to work. There are only fifteen cheerleading uniforms in the bag you’re handed. You have some organizing and fundraising to do. Right then you know in your bones that kindness and acceptance are ev-er-y-thing to you. It becomes your lifelong passion.
More good news. You follow in our brilliant mother’s footsteps and become a teacher. And you’ll teach for twelve glorious years, with the same primary focus of teaching about kindness, tolerance and acceptance. You’ll boldly ruffle feathers along the way, especially when you get kids talking and thinking about bullying, homophobia and racism.
Something else becomes quite a theme for you. Writing. You’ll get kids to write and write and write. About their feelings, their parent’s divorce, cutting, attempted suicide, the death of their grandparent. They’ll write about the important stuff. Stuff that matters. Stuff that opens hearts and minds. You’ll write alongside of your students: free verse poems, letters to the government, articles, picture books, essays, short stories and 28 page papers. Most crucial thing is that you will write. A lot.
You keep writing and eventually you leave teaching (reluctantly) to follow your dream of becoming a real writer. And after putting every ounce of who you are into your efforts, you do it. You really do it.
So, you goody-goody rule breaker (I know those two things don’t go together, but in your case it’s what you are. The rules you care about breaking have nothing to do with boys or drinking or drugs or any of that inconsequential crap. The rules you want to break are the ones involving injustice.) keep standing up for what you believe in and for those who can’t/won’t speak up for themselves. It works for you and it feels really good. Even now.
The 43 year old you
P.S. Getting half of your head shaved off the summer before senior year is the coolest haircut you’ll ever have, you punk rock, non-conforming chick.
P.P.S. Freshman year of college you meet this wickedly hot, ice hockey playing, skateboarding guy in the dorm when you’re 19. Let me emphasize the wickedly hot part. You marry him and have two awesome sons. And he’s still hot after 24 years of being together. Good choice, girl.
K.M. Walton is the author of the contemporary young adult novels, CRACKED (2012) and EMPTY (2013). Her next novel, titled LIES WE TELL releases January 2015. She is represented by Jim McCarthy from Dystel & Goderich Literary Management.
K. M. had a gazillion dreams when she was a little girl. Her biggest dream was to be a teacher. Teaching became a reality for K. M. and she taught for twelve glorious years – some of it in Osteen, Florida and most of it in Springfield, Pennsylvania. But, it turns out writing is her favorite thing to do. Even the hard parts – and there are a lot of hard parts.
K.M. Walton also co-authored a book on the teaching of mathematics called TEACHING NUMERACY: 9 Critical Habits to Ignite Mathematical Thinking published by Corwin Press.
K.M. blogs at: http://skateorbate.blogspot.com
YOU ARE READING
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...