Dear Nikki aka Lauren aka Nikki-Lauren aka Lauren-Nikki aka Niklecha,
Happy sweet 16! It’s a milestone birthday and you did it up right; you’ll never forget that party. Remember when Amanda & Victor chugged those sodas, and the cake fight? You slow-danced to “your song” with your first real boyfriend. You feel like life is just beginning, and it is.
I’m writing to you from the edge of another milestone birthday – your 30th. I know!! You got old!! Those 14 years are an unfathomable gap to you, but they’ve given me a lot of insight that I’d like to share with you.
I know you feel like you don’t fit in with the cool kids and your best friend does, and it makes you feel self-conscious and dorky. Bad news, love, you’ll never fit in with the cool kids. You’re a dork. Own it. You being yourself, in all your crazy clothes, artsy-fartsy tendencies, and cheesy jokes, is going to get you some of the very best friends you could ever hope for. Don’t underestimate these friendships, don’t discount yourself by saying you don’t know why they like you – these people love you for you. Know it, believe it, and hold onto it. They will give you strength when you need it.
There will come a day when you think it’s time to “grow up” and get “adult clothes” and take things seriously, because you think someone you love expects it of you – he doesn’t. Twenty-three is not old, and trust me, you’re going to regret giving away that vintage gingham dress. And yes, I said “he” and “love” in the same sentence; we’ll get back to that.
Don’t hate your body, and don’t feel guilty about hating your body. You are beautiful; stop standing in front of the mirror criticising. It’s a waste of energy. No one is perfect, even if they seem like they are. In a few years, a guy will tell you you’re “stunning” every day for two months; believe it when it happens & believe it now. Treat your body with respect, it deserves it.
You either just went to Austria or are about to go…? Oops, spoiler alert. Either way, it instills in you a love of travel that feels desperate sometimes. Don’t worry, you’ll travel again. A lot. Don’t let people tell you you’re being selfish or wasteful by traveling; it’s going to teach you invaluable lessons about yourself. And don’t be scared; you’ll learn you’re a lot stronger than you’ve ever been given credit for. Even if it seems like no one else sees this, know it yourself: you are strong. You can get through whatever is put in front of you. You’re going to need that knowledge later, big time. Oh, and in Rome, I know the “resort” with a pool seems nice but trust me, it’s an Italian trailer park in the middle of nowhere. Spring for a hostel.
Be nice to your brother. He’s going through a tough time & I know you’re busy with classes and friends and theatre, but try to show him that you love him more often. I know he annoys you right now, but he grows into a really great person that you’re proud to call your brother; get started on that early. Your family’s going to go through some rocky times; remember that they all love you and let yourself feel what you need to feel. Don’t worry about this now, but just know, it’s ok to be sad and angry and to need to talk to someone about it.
When you get to college, call Sara Ruffner. She needs a friend. It won’t change anything, but just do it. It will make you feel better.
You want to fall in love, so badly. You think unrequited love is the most romantic thing ever – why??? – and you’re about to find out how very not true that is. Over and over. Do yourself a favor & stop thinking about it; daydream about a real relationship instead. You have a bumpy road ahead of you, where love is concerned; your first love letter comes in a really sad form, but don’t let that inform all your relationships. It’s not your fault, it’s not your responsibility, and he’s fine now, honestly, so let it go.
You will fall in love, hard. It will feel just as wonderful as you imagine and more terrible than you ever thought. It will be like at first sight, and yes, he likes you back, it just takes him a while to let you know. You won’t say “I love you” until you mean it, and you’ll take things at your own pace; I’m proud of you for that. You will make a lot of sacrifices for him, and most of them will feel worth it, but listen to your gut and tell him what you need from him. I know it’s really hard; you’ve never had to talk about emotional stuff before, but learn how to be honest, and be honest with yourself, too. There will come a time when you pray and pray about what to do; don’t ignore what your gut is telling you just because it’s not what you want to hear. This is the time to be strong and do what’s best for you, even if it feels like your heart is breaking – and will be breaking – you will be better for it. Oh, and when the apartment becomes an issue, just break the lease; don’t play martyr. You’ll understand when it happens.
You are allowed to change your mind. It is ok to not do what everyone expects of you. Drama is temporary, always; don’t get caught up in it. There will come a time when you feel like your whole world is falling down around you, and it is, but remember it’s only making way for a new, better life. Trust how you feel and give yourself a break. You’re going to get a lot of grief about decisions you make; remember it’s your life, and just keep in mind it all brings you here, where I am, which is pretty good.
Remember that time you watched that show where the girl was like, “I hated who I was at 16; I wish I could just erase her” and you said to mom that you hoped you’d never feel that way & that you like the person you are & you think you’d want to be friends with her? I still like the person you are, and I like the person you become. Love yourself on this crazy journey, and be patient with yourself. Don’t worry when it doesn’t look how you thought it would; believe me, you have an incredible life.
I love you, I love you, I love you.
[photo: me on my 16th birthday]