Karen Rivers

dear me (for emily).

Karen Rivers

Dear Sixteen Year Old Me:

You do not know everything.  Not yet.

There are things you won't know until you are older.   Some you will learn when you're twenty.  More at thirty.   Even more at forty.   You will always look back and think, "Would it be different for me, then, if I knew what I know now?"



So here's the most important lesson:  You have to stop being such a bitch to yourself.   It's awful.   Don't do it.

Be kind.   

Stop hating your body and your hair and your face.  Hate is the ugly stick that you punch yourself with, that hunches your shoulders and scowls your face.

And you should smile more anyway.   There is a lot to be happy about.

So be happy.

Stop being that person who is trying to be someone else.  Try to be yourself.   People will like you better than they like the you who is trying to be someone she is not.    That version is exhausting.


A lot of what is happening that feels like the end of the world is not the end of the world.   You WILL look back on it and laugh.  You might as well laugh now.

Step up.   

If someone is being hurt by someone else, do not stand back and do nothing.   You will never forgive yourself. Tell someone.   Do something.    You are more powerful than you know.        

Drink less.  

Too much is never pretty and no one, no matter how old you get, will ever ever ever forget what you did that night when you were too drunk to remember doing it.  

Don't panic.

Try not to worry.   The things that matter so much in highschool are things that you will be quick to forget as soon as you leave.   Stuff all your bad memories in your locker and leave them there.   Don't dwell.   In the big picture, they will matter less than you think.

Have more fun.   

Stop thinking that certain things are off limits for you because you aren't cool enough, good enough, pretty enough or popular enough.   As soon as you stop caring so much about which category you fall into, you will stop falling into a category.   

Make friends with everyone.    Not everyone is who they appear to be.   

That said, some people do not deserve you.  You'll know when it's time to walk away.   Do it.   Don't be afraid of being alone because you won't be.

Don't listen to people who say cruel things about you.  Karma is a bitch:  They will grow up to work at the grocery store.   You will see them wiping off the zucchinis and you will pretend you don't remember them.   This will make you happier than it should.

Date whoever you want to date.   Do not consider every boy by what your friends think of him or what people will think of you.  If someone makes you laugh, choose him.   Don't choose based on the wrong things.    Choices based on the wrong criteria will always be bad choices.   Don't change yourself to be who he wants you to be.    Be you.   If he doesn't want you, then you shouldn't want him either.   He won't be good for you or to you.   Don't waste your time feeling unworthy.

You are as worthy as anyone else.  

Never spend more than ten minutes deciding what to wear.   No one will even notice what you have on.   They certainly won't remember it.  And it REALLY doesn't matter.   Don't waste your money on clothes to make you look like everyone else.   Save your money and travel after graduation.    Going to Europe for a few months is worth way more than wearing designer clothes for a few weeks that you'll never wear again.  


It's impossible to learn anything when you're starving.  Or to have fun.  Or to do things.   Fainting is embarrassing.   And you can't laugh when you're light-headed. The weight you lose will not make you a better person.   It will, in fact, make you sick.   

You only get one body.   Take care of it.   

Don't take yourself so seriously.   You don't have to have a career mapped out.   When you are done with high school, do other things.   Spend a year in the Peace Corps.   Travel.   Read books.   Make art.   Sing.   Help people.   Work.   Wait until you know what you want before you buy an education.  Do something profound.  Find yourself by looking outside your comfort zone.   Say 'yes' to new things.   

Do not be too focused on goals you set too soon:   Decisions that you make at sixteen are not the ones you want to commit to for a lifetime.   Let life take you somewhere you didn't expect to go.   Be open to it.

Stop obsessing about your hair.   It will never be perfect but then again, neither will you.   Embrace it.   

Be unique.   You already are, just stop trying to be the same as everyone else.   They are all unique, too.   They just aren't ready to be yet.   Be ready.   It will be more fun that way.   

Give yourself permission to not worry about what everyone else thinks and says and does, and you will be free.   

And happy.

And unique.

And trust me, it will all work out.

You are going to be OK.



Forty Year Old Me