An open letter to myself at 14 ...



I recently came across this photo of me from the summer before high school. I had just turned 14. I saw it and got a little teary-eyed knowing what this girl would go through over the next few years.

When I look at this photo, I want to hug and counsel myself. If I could go back the 14-year-old a few things, I would do so in a heartbeat. Not to stop her from going through the things I did -- after all, it made me who I am. But I would like to let her know just a few things, to protect her just a little. If I had that chance, here is what I would say ...


Dear 14-year-old me,

-You're beautiful. I know you think that's just about the opposite of the truth, but it's true. You aren't going to believe it for a very long time. You won't at 15, 16, 17 or 18. But eventually, you'll start to recognize that you are made in the image of the Creator, and no matter what the boys are telling you now, you are still beautiful. In your twenties, you won't believe it every day. The most important lesson you will learn is that it's not about the exterior and that your true beauty comes from being at peace with yourself. And one day, you will believe it enough to put your foot down and go after what you deserve in this life, no matter how scary it seems.


-You're going to gain a very significant amount of weight very soon. You're going to cry yourself to sleep most nights. You're going to not understand what's happening to your body. You're going to give up sports and things that made you happy because you will internalize all the mean things people say about you in school. You'll replay in your mind when he asked you "how's the flab, fatass?" in front of the whole schoolbus. You'll remember when someone writes "Fat Bitch" about you in the bathroom. You'll cry when the boys you like make jokes about your size. About your hair. About your mother. About your race. About things you have no control over. You won't understand why people can't see you for the person and not the outward appearance. And all of that is going to make you seek out ways to numb your pain.

-While it's happening, you're going to go through drastic measures to try and stop it. You'll make yourself throw up for some time. But after a while, for some unexplained physical reason you can't understand, and what I say with certainty is divine intervention, your body won't let you anymore. You'll spend time in front of the toilet crying when you can't do it. So you'll try laxatives. And then diet pills. But none of it is going to make you lose weight. You'll stop using those things eventually, and keep gaining, and keep hating yourself in the process. But God is going to carry you through it to the other side.

-It will peak at 18, and then, as your teen years wind down, your body will balance itself out. You'll begin to hear God's voice in your heart. You'll start to know yourself. You'll discover your love for writing and music and theater. And all of those things will help you.  Eventually, you will be able to take care of yourself. You'll go up and down in numbers over the years (something I'm trying to stop doing once and for all), but you'll start to be happy about who you are on the inside. Happiness is possible.

-The boys aren't going to pay much attention to you. You'll feel invisible. The ones you have a crush on will be jerks. And in their 20s, most of them will be the complete opposite of what you want in a man (trust me). A very small few will have an impact on your life and one will break your heart. You'll get over it. The one man that truly matters will be what you didn't even know was missing from your life until he is there. And he will be there ... without you chasing him or needing to convince him of your worth. He will love you at your best and your worst.

-The girls who bully you and make you cry and tease you about being fat, being mixed and not having money aren't all bad people. They are going through their own darkness as well. Being a bully and being the one bullied aren't that different. Both hate things about themselves, both are concerned with the silliness of being popular, being liked by the boys ... being cool. You'll meet some of them later in your adulthood. You'll even become friends with them. They'll apologize to you with tears in their eyes and sorrow in their heart. You'll forgive them and one day you both will laugh about it. As for the others --- well, let's just say they won't do much with themselves. It won't be ok to take a little bit of pride in that in your 20s, but you will anyway.

-You're going to seriously regret the electric blue eyeshadow phase. You won't die because you can't afford skater clothes and then oversize everything and all the other various, questionable style phases you'll go through. Your mom was right about most of those clothes being ugly. One day, you'll want to dress like her.

-Girls like yourself with curly hair shouldn't cut bangs. Ever.

-Wear sunblock. Your Irish side is going to be more dominant in that respect, and you will up your skin cancer risk with some serious burns. Besides, you already have a tan -- your other side is black, kiddo.

-Mom doesn't mean anything when she keeps dragging you to Weight Watchers with her and demanding to see the scale results in the most deeply embarrassing displays you can fathom. Or even when she makes a few less-than-favorable comments about your weight gain. In her own way, she is trying to help. You can't change her. She loves you and only wants the best for you, even if her ideas are different than yours. Eventually, she will see that you can discern that for yourself.

-You shouldn't stop singing or playing the clarinet. But you will. The good news is that there is a silver lining, and it is that it will lead you to writing. Eventually, that will become one of your main sources of income. Hold on to the poems, essays and short stories you write now. Some of them will one day become the premise for your first novel.

-It's ok to keep watching cartoons.

-You don't have a lot of friends now, but you will. You will be ridiculously rich in your relationships. I wish I could say the same for your bank account in your twenties, but there's always hope for the letter you'll write in your thirties.

-Don't apply for that credit card at 18. You won't just use it for books and emergencies.

-You're not always right.

-Your limit is 4 beers. You should never drink Vodka. You'll hate cigarettes. They won't make you look cool.

-Spend time with your siblings. You may argue now, but one day you will realize that they are your greatest gift from God.

-Hug your grandmother as much as you can. Your time with her won't be as long as you'd like.

-I'm sorry for the pain of adolescence, but it's not all bad. There will be lots of laughs and memories and beautiful moments. As an adult, you'll long for those days at the skating rink. For what felt like simpler times with bike rides with your brother, Nintendo and episodes of Saved By the Bell. You'll remember a lot of great moments along with the bad.

They will make you me.

I love you.

CONVERSATION

26 comments:

Emma Folk said...

I have almost 14 years,I'm crying a lot! great text!

Allison McGevna said...

Aww Emma, I'm so glad you enjoyed reading it. 14 is tough, but fun too! Keep your head up.. xo

Kelly Monroe said...

wow i loved it! *tear*

Kellie B. said...

love

Maddy said...

WOW! That was an amazing read Alli, very deep. xoxo

Jasmine E. said...

I couldn't stop reading Allison! You are just so beautiful both inside and out. If only we COULD go back and say these things to our younger selves in order to get through those rough times of adolescence, it would be too perfect. Thanks for sharing!!

Allison McGevna said...

Thank you guys so much for the feedback! I appreciate it more than you know.

Stephanie said...

Allison this is beautiful!! I think there's something in it that all girls can relate to. Half way through I started tearing up and thinking, "that's me". Thank you for sharing.

Jenna said...

What a stong, insightful piece of writing. Thank you for the vulnerability in every word you write. You will change lives with you gift. Make sure to include that in your next letter :)

Brittany Clark said...

Absolutely Beautiful!

Team Hiett said...

I loved reading this, Allie and our lives are so parallel in so many ways. It felt like you were talking to the 14 year old me.

You're beautiful.

ZadryG said...

Absolutely beautiful Allie. And even though 14 year old Allie might not have heard it, the fact that you can reach a young girl feeling the same thing most of us felt growing up, well that is just incredible. I wish we could go back and tell ourselves it will be okay and all the wonderful things that are yet to come. But that just made us who we are I suppose. But hopefully our knowledge can be passed on to all those beautiful curvy divas in the making- to let them know that it will be okay and that they are BEAUTIFUL regardless of what society and people might dictate at times.

Madame Surge said...

That was simply beautiful. Thanks so much for sharing.

www.madamesurge.blogspot.com

Falala Mele said...

awww so beautiful....I wish you could really send it back to 14 year old you. I think she would cherish it.

Nadia said...

That was so beautiful, it was like you wrote about me, the line about being fat, mixed and poor nearly killed me. It's so true, curly haired people should never, ever have bangs. Congratulations on being fashion bomb of the day, your looks are amazing, keep it up!!

Dion said...

This was amazing. I get scared of thinking about looking at old photos of myself. Because I wish I can tell that little girl along the same lines as you have. I wish I can tell her that her confidence will be high, she will be smart, strong, independent and everything she is feeling at that moment will no longer be. But as I type this, all I feel is that little girl. I'm almost 30 and I am STILL that little girl. Even before reading this, I was looking up ways to "eat less", ways to even starve myself. How do you do it? How does a woman, who once HATED herself, finally learn to love herself. I've googled it (sad), I've asked woman and I can't get an answer that really, well helps! I've been single all my life (double sad), and people have told me I am beautiful, even "beautiful" enough to be a plus size model! but all I see is a fat, sad, pathetic woman who will never find love because of her "love" handles. How Allie? How did you do it? I am so tired of not loving me. I want to see myself like GOD sees me. I just don't know anymore :( I'm sorry to burden you with all of this..

Allison McGevna said...

First of all, you're never bothering me or burdening me! I'm glad that my words sparked a reaction for you enough for you to express yourself so bravely and beautifully here. I think every one of us still struggles with accepting ourselves -- myself included. I have not yet found the perfect happy weight for myself and still go up and down, which is a big part of my blogging efforts actually -- to hold myself accountable reach a healthy balance in my life and healthy weight for myself.

I'd say loving yourself isn't one end point or an arrival, it's a constant journey. I myself do it through prayer, through pushing myself to do things outside of my comfort zone, and by taking care of myself and surrounding myself with loving people -- friends and family. Avoid ppl who you know make you feel bad about yourself, and every time that voice in your head says you can't do something or your worthless, take a moment to think about where it's coming from and why it keeps coming back.

As for losing weight, well, I dont think this is about your weight. I have literally been to hell and back with eating/body issues, even more than people know. And what I learned about that is it's NEVER ever about your size or your body itself. It's about a deeper pain in your heart that you probably don't even really know the extent of. It's amazing how fears and hurts and pains can touch different aspects of our life. Journal, talk to friends or a counselor or pastor or therapist to help you figure out WHAT that pain is. Sometimes losing weight feels like proof to ourselves that we are worth it, but it doesn't solve anything unless you fix whats going on inside of you. A lot of times, we are afraid of letting go of something or letting ourselves really feel the pain, so we do something to keep ourselves from thinking about it. But we almost always make it bigger than it actually is by fearing and anticipating it. But that anticipation and energy spent keeping it down is almost always worse than the pain.

As for beauty -- of course you are beautiful, you are made in the image of God. I know you are and other people know you are -- they see what you cant right now.

Relationships happen when you're open to them and when you've healed your soul enough to move forward them. Work on your relationship with yourself -- work on your relationship with God and he will send a man to you when you're ready. You would never want to meet someone and be with someone when you're not emotionally ready. Trust me, it's never worh it.

Remember love, God isn't moved by beauty or money or success or all the things we feel we need to define us in the natural. He is moved by love and by faith. Believe he can get you through this and he will. Ask him for help and put your trust in him one hundred percent. All you have to do is make it through, one day at a time.

I hope that helps and sorry it was so long.

Allison McGevna said...

Thank you honey! LOL, you know about the bangs. I learned that one the VERY hard way ;)

Allison McGevna said...

So much great feedback from my lovely readers. Thank you guys so much for it. I would reply individually to each comment but im sure that would drive u guys crazy w emails, lol. Love you all though!

jay said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dion said...

Thanks Allie for answering back..I've been struggling with myself for so many years...I think I will have to talk to someone. You might be right about it not being about the weight. When I was skinner back in my high school days, I still thought I was fat! So this pain IS coming from a deeper place. Raised without a dad, I felt I wasnt worthy for a man to love me. A girls first great love is her father and when he wasnt there it made me think, I wasnt pretty enough, good enough for ANY man. And as of late I've been having this yearning to go back to church..I was raised there afer all but, you know, you what to do your own thing, and live your own life..but now that I'm 28 I think I just want more...for me. I admire you so much and am thankful that you are the type of woman to reach out and help others who arent happy with themselves. I know you must be very busy and for you to take the time to write back..thank you so much for that. I have to remember that I am made in GODS image and he sees my heart not my shell. I guess I have some work to do :) Thanks again Allie xoxo

Jazz said...

Ok I know i'm very late on this but just re-reading this being 14 and going through some of the same things you went through just inspires me so much. I've been overweight since I was 9 and have had very low self-esteem since. I never thought I was pretty of beautiful but after I first saw your blog and discovered the plus size world my life has been getting a little better. I started blogging and and writing more, I also went out for my school volleyball team and made varsity! My friends tell me all the time now that I am one of the best dressed girls they know. I just want to thank you for inspiring me to do greater things with my life! You are my role model and I hope someday I could meet you. My greatest dream would be to become a plus size model.
Thank you
Jamie

Girls Rural said...

This was really beautiful. By the way, my 13 year old looks a lot like you in this picture. :)

Shade' Morrison said...

Very beautiful! I can relate.

Angelita said...

I know this post is old. But it made me cry. I relate to it in so many ways. The weight gain. The bullying. The curly hair no bang thing. Throwing up my food. Losing my Grandma way to early. I relate so much. I'm just learning to not only accept but love myself for who i am today. I appreciate the honesty of this post and just knowing I'm not alone and other people have felt exactly what I've felt. Thanks

Sharifa said...

Glad I happened upon this. Beautiful post. You seemed poised and sophisticated when I met you in college, always friendly and kind...the journey to that point may not have been easy, but well worth it.

Shar W. (now Bar)

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