Letter to Self — Wait, wait, pick this letter back up, please.
Dear 17-year-old smart-ass,
I have been staring at this computer screen for days trying to figure out why it is so difficult to write to you, and I just realized something. I know you. I know you, and I know what you’re thinking right now, and you’re already rolling your eyes at this letter because you don’t need advice from anyone. So listen, I am going to ask you to do something for me. Trust me. I know it is completely against your instincts right now to believe anything I have to say, but I promise you if you can just trust me with this, you’ll be happier with yourself a lot sooner.
First of all, I have some bad news. Mom is right about everything. I am serious, everything you are so absolutely sure she is wrong about, she isn’t. So do yourself a favor and stop trying to prove that you know more than her. You’ll end up being best friends with her, so why don’t you just expedite that process by shutting up and listening to her a little. She loves you and she is trying to keep you from making a lot of mistakes in the future.
Oh yeah, you end up making those mistakes anyways. Don’t look at me; you’re the stubborn one that has to be right all the time. The good news is these mistakes take you in a new direction that you end up fitting into perfectly.
Now, I know you hate knowing the future and feeling like your life is completely planned out for you, which is probably why you are so afraid of psychics, so I won’t tell you what happens. I will tell you, though, that you’re very happy with the way things are turning out, and everything is okay.
Here is some advice I can give you.
College isn’t scary, STOP WORRYING.
You are a smart girl, and the decisions you are making this year ARE important, but they are not permanent. Stop stressing out about choosing the right one because you are allowed to change your mind. And you will, many times. Some people might frame this constant change as indecision, but I need you to know that it isn’t. You have always believed in changing the things that make you unhappy. Just because others don’t normally react with that same mindset doesn’t mean that your way of handling things is wrong OR negative, and neither is theirs. Learn this now.
Trust yourself. You’ve always loved writing, volunteering and helping people. Keep that in mind when you are choosing a major. I will give you a hint: Choose the career that you want to have instead of that other one you think you are supposed to have. This applies to everything else in your life too.
Don’t treat friendships like they’re temporary. Many of the friends you have right now are still your friends six years later. I know you think they’ll end when high school does, but the good ones last. Friends are also more important than your job. Please realize this as soon as possible because it isn’t worth losing anyone amazing over.
The last thing I have to say is important, extremely important. I know you’re having a rough year with your dad. This is probably the scariest thing you have ever experienced. I understand, trust me, I understand. You can’t keep this a secret. Keeping his illness a secret for awhile will cause you to resent all of your friends for not making it better. How are they supposed to support you if you don’t tell them what is going on? It isn’t fair to them or you, so just don’t do it. I made this mistake, but you have a chance to change it.
You can’t prepare yourself for his death. I understand why you so strongly feel the need to prepare yourself for losing him, but this isn’t something you can ever prepare yourself for. I won’t tell you what the future holds but don’t let what you think the future holds dictate how you treat him now. He is one of your best friends. Don’t resent him for changing. Don’t resent others for not caring about him, you, or your family. Don’t try to love him less.
Let your relationship with him change without thinking it is a negative thing. Be more understanding of the pain he is in, the treatment he is going through, and the medication in his system. Talk to him more. Call him more. Take more pictures with him. Dance with him. Joke with him. Continue doing all the things you used to do together. This is the kind of relationship you always loved having with him and this is the kind of relationship you should keep with him. If you don’t, you will absolutely regret it, and you have a long life ahead of you. He is an amazing father, so continue to treat him like one.
That’s all the serious stuff I got for you, kid. You still reading? I hope so.
Keep going to Good Charlotte concerts, wear lots of sun block, and don’t worry about the SATs. Study a little harder for the AP Latin IV exam, and date a few more guys. I know you think they are all bad, but a few of them come back around and end up being great.
Love your family, love your friends and stop stressing about how everything is going to turn out. You’re life is pretty golden where I am standing.
You have nothing to worry about.
Your 22-year-old self,
Name: Andrea Long
High School: Notre Dame High School (Sherman Oaks, CA)
College: Cal State Long Beach (Long Beach, CA)
Now: Student and digital content producer
This letter was written as part of the BetterGrads special series: “Write a Letter to Your High School Self.” Contributors are asked to answer questions or concerns they may have had in high school, such as “What’s the purpose of college?” and “Is it worth it?” If you’d like to submit a letter for publication, please read our editorial guidelines and let us know here.