Dear Teenage Me,
It gets better…trust me! Life may seem intense and emotional and overwhelming, but it gets better.
By this point you have had to go through things that aren’t meant for anyone to go through, and yet you will survive. You will learn to let go of things that you cannot control, and you will realize that in order to really and fully be whole again, you must first learn to forgive not only the one person you thought was going to love you unconditionally and wholly, but also to forgive yourself. Through this, you will learn that forgiveness isn’t for the person that did you wrong, it is for you. And once you learn that, life will never be the same. You will go from an angry, sarcastic, and cynical teen to a happy, and still sarcastic, adult – but that’s okay, because that is what makes you you.
You will have many relationships, many of them will fail, and you will be told that something is wrong with you and that you are “damaged goods.” You will wonder if you deserved to be treated like you were treated. You will question yourself and wonder if you keep attracting partners who treat you poorly because of the fractured relationship that sent your whole teenage world spinning out of control in the first place and learn that it was never your fault. You were the victim, but now you are a survivor.
But you will learn to demand respect, honor, and integrity from a partner and, if that is not given to you, to be okay with being alone. For it is when you are alone you will learn that you are powerful, intelligent, and wise. You will understand that you are “fearfully and wonderfully made.” You will come in contact with partners who will shape the way you look at life. Most will be good, some you’d like to forget, and even after you have cried for them, listened to all your favorite Girl Power anthems, and watched your favorite rom-coms to get over your heartbreak, you will grow to appreciate all of the things they taught you whether it was a different genre of music, or teaching you how you should and should not be treated.
You will learn one of the greatest lessons that will continue to guide you through life. You will begin to understand that if you pour and pour and pour yourself into others, and never replenish, then there won’t be anything else left for yourself. This lesson will inform how you work, treat your friends and your future relationships. Of course you will still be the same girl who will stop her car to help a turtle cross the street, or make sure that her “human” friends have even when she doesn’t, but you will be guarded about who you share not only your life with, but your body with as well. You will think critically about who you open up to about your life. This will make you feel guarded – and some will even say jaded – but, for you, this is a survival technique and it will work for you.
And lastly, you won’t let your past define your future. You will take all that you have learned about love and life, you will go through life full steam ahead, and you will succeed. You will be okay with making mistakes because you know you will grow from them. You will come into your own and be proud of the woman you have become.
You are powerful, intelligent, and wise…and your Toni Braxton karaoke only improves with age.
Rachel Gibson is a Technology Safety Specialist at the National Network to End Domestic Violence. She has worked to end Violence Against Women for 4 years.