Our next letter to my YA self comes from Curiosity Quills Author Ayden Morgen.
Ayden lives in
with her real life hero, their
adopted teenage daughter, and three insane pets. She has a graduate degree in
Criminal Justice, works as a volunteer coordinator for one of her favorite
charities, and plans to save the world someday. When she isn’t writing, she
spends her time teaching her niece and nephews useless facts, hanging out with
her family, dancing in odd places, and fundraising for nonprofits close to her
heart. Look for her exciting debut novel, Fade,
later this year. You can learn more about her and Fade at: http://akmorgen.com Little Rock, Arkansas
Dear Fourteen-Year-Old Self,
You and I need to talk.
You’ve recently realized that being a hippy isn’t considered a valid career choice. You can’t live off of love, and wildflowers won’t buy the gas needed to fuel the VW Bus you so desperately want.
I know these truths have pained you.
You've had this life plan since you were a kid, and have always been so determined to see it through. Now that you’ve realized the truth, you’re struggling to figure out where you do fit, and you’re questioning a lot of things about yourself.
But don't worry about any of this, because you'll soon learn that the world needs more people like you.
Yes, you. The impatient, snarky you. The can't-keep-her-mouth-shut-to-save-her-life you. The bored out of her mind and probably causing mischief you. The silly you. The bubbly you. The you who's probably sitting in alternative school right now, busted for another misguided attempt to protect her friends. The dreamer. The idealist. The girl who drives her mother insane finding every creative, inventive argument possible to keep herself out of trouble. Even the you who knows exactly where everything is in her wreck of a bedroom.
You might not believe me now, but you'll see.
Next year, you're going to watch a young friend get caught up in a robbery, and sent off to prison for murder. It's going to shock and horrify you, and it is going to give you the drive you need to pursue new dreams. As a result, in six years, you're going to find yourself sitting in a classroom, listening to your Introduction to Criminal Justice professor talk about a young man who walked down the long hall from his cell on death row and climbed into a chair.
She's going to tell your class how, even as they hooked him up to the various drugs about to pump into his system, the smile didn't leave his face. And then she's going to tell you that he'd battled serious mental illness his entire life, and right up until that last moment, he genuinely believed he was going to survive lethal injection.
The rest of your class is going to laugh at his naïveté. But you're not. You're going to sit quietly while your professor berates your classmates for their lack of empathy. At the end of the lesson, you're still going to be thinking about that young man. And then you're going to get up, and go about your life for a while. Every few days, your experience in that classroom is going to come back to you. It’s going to bother you every time you think about it, and it’s going to make you a little sad.
Eventually, you’re going to watch American History X with your nephew. He’s going to ask why people are so mean. When you try to explain, he’s going to think seriously about what you’re saying, and then he’s going to tell you something that will stay with you for a very long time. He’s going to tell you that people should be nice to one another because, “they have eyes, too.”
As you talk to him, you're going to realize that your childish dream of being a hippy wasn't a total idealistic pitfall. You might not drive around in a VW Bus or skip through fields of wildflowers, but that's okay, because somewhere along the way, you were able to help instill the values you cherish in those around you. You will realize that the world never needed another hippy, they needed you. The idealist. The dreamer. The girl with her head in the clouds. The one everyone said was too compassionate, too idealistic, too much trouble, and too much of a dreamer.
You're not, and when you realize this, it will give you the drive you needed to stand up and fight for what you believe in. And you will realize that what you really believe in is rather beautiful in its simplicity.
You believe in the power of good.
Right now, you probably don't understand exactly how powerful that belief can be, or how it’s going to change your life. But you will realize this soon enough, and the experiences you will have as a result are going to stay with you for a long, long time. They'll make you angry. They'll make you sad. They will make you cry. But you won't regret a single moment of them, and neither will the people you’re able to help along the way, or the friends you make as a result.
Even if your dreams do seem impossible now, some day, while sitting on the couch with your nephew, you’ll realize you weren’t as far off as you thought you were. You might not have that van, but you have something better. You have the ability to dream big, and the desire to share those dreams with others. And that is something the world will always need.
So keep dreaming, fourteen year old self, keep dreaming.
P.S. You'll be pleased to know that, in the future, cookies still won't have calories when eaten in bed, you will not use algebra, and the Blackhawks will finally win another Stanley Cup.
This is great, Ayden! I loved learning more about you and spending some time with a flower child teenager :). Your nephew's wisdom was beautiful, "they have eyes too."