Believe it or not, it’s time for my “Dear Teen Me” National Blog Tour post. My blog is participating in the National Tour promoting this fabulous book, which I’ve mentioned several times. I reviewed the book in mid September, and really loved the concept of authors discussing their teen selves with today’s teens and, hopefully, connecting with them.
Writing this letter to my teen self was very hard. The pain from 30-40 years ago came right back as I recalled struggles with loneliness and bullies. I cried tons of tears all over again, and know each of the authors in “Dear Teen Me” must have felt the same pain with their recollections. In retrospect I see there were things I couldn’t change, but there were some things I could’ve done differently. If you’re a teen and are reading my letter, this could be your chance to do what I never could, and to be braver. Below is my contribution to all of the teens of today. If you see yourself, take action.
In partnership with Zest Books, I will be giving away a copy of “Dear Teen Me” along with the swag pictured in the photo posted after my letter. Entries are open starting today (Saturday October 26th at 3 pm EST) and will continue for a week until next Saturday (November 3rd at 3 pm EST.) At that time, a name will be randomly drawn and announced here. Just make sure to post something either about my posted Dear Teen Me letter or about the actual book. Make sure to include your email address in your post, or I won’t be able to contact you. If you’re a follower of my blog, you’ll get an email whenever I write here, which will tell you who won the contest. To follow my blog, just enter your email in the section on the right that says “Follow blog via email.” It’s that simple.
Dear Teen Me:
I know it’s hard, always being the new girl. You start to get into a routine for a few months then you have to move to yet another apartment in the same type of tough, inner city neighborhoods. These moves made it hard to find friends, as you were always the new girl, which led to bullying that started in 3rd grade. Bullies were the reason you crept around hoping not to be noticed, but it never worked. It was pretty easy to spot the smart, new Hispanic kid who liked to read, had glasses, and was always carrying a book. Being the new kid is hard, but don’t creep around. Say hi. Talk to someone. Find something in common. Try to make a friend.
By the time you move to Pennsylvania in the middle of 9th grade, you’ve already been to 20 different schools. You’ve been bullied more times than you could count, and were hoping it would be different in this new state away from the problems you had in Brooklyn. So, when your Social Studies teacher calls you to the front of your new Junior High class to tell everyone how smart you are, that you’re from NYC, and that you’d already been in high school don’t let him do it. Tell him you’d rather stay seated. This will make a big difference in how you’re treated for the rest of Junior High and High School, and will really make things different for you. Stand up for yourself!
The only good thing about this town is there’s only one high school. Mom will keep moving, but you won’t have to change schools. In 10th grade you’re going to want to audition for the school musical but you’ll see all the popular kids and leave the room because you think no one will pick you. Don’t do it! Stay. Take a chance. You’ll love it! In about 10 years you’ll be singing, acting and dancing in N.Y.C. musicals, wishing you’d taken that first step in high school. You’ll even get to sing in a jazz club on Broadway, so go ahead and audition. It’ll be fun.
In 11th grade, you’ll join an afterschool club that will change your life. You’ll have friends and will eat lunch with them, so there will be no more lunchtimes spent watching TV in the lunchroom or reading in the school library. Now, instead of not going out in high school because you don’t want to be alone, go with your new friends. Going to your high school Prom and school dances, as well as basketball and football games, will be activities you can look back on fondly instead of wishing you’d gone to them, so do it! You’ll run track and cross-country in college, wishing you’d run in high school, so go ahead and join the teams. Try out for the play. Meet new people. Do it all! You’ll be so active in a few years, why not start now?
You are a self-motivated person. You’ll become the first person in your family to go to college, even though you have to work 3 jobs while doing so, but you’ll graduate and, eventually, go to graduate school for two different Masters degrees 13 years apart. There is life after high school. Reading took you to different places and let you see a new kind of life. You’ll get to live that life.
I’ll close by saying that even though your trials and tribulations with bullies felt awful while going through them, they molded and made you into the compassionate and caring person you became. When you become an elementary school teacher in Brooklyn, NY, you will befriend students who were just like you, letting them know they can have a future outside of the neighborhood. You will let your students know you will not stand for bullying and will be there for them like no one had been there for you. All those encounters with Librarians and books made you who you are today. In later years, you’ll become a high school librarian and will make your library an open place, welcoming those who have no place to go during lunch and making it a safe place.
Be strong, and remember where you came from because it gave you power to speak up for those who had no one to speak for them, and helped you empathize with those who think no one understands. You will understand because you’ve been there, so stay strong my Teen Self. There is light at the end of your tunnel. Trust me.