Over the holidays, I started a series of amazing books by Ellyn Spragins: Letters To My Younger Self. I am obsessed. This woman is absolutely brilliant. I applaud Ellyn for her innovative idea and collecting fascinating stories from successful women. She is my new hero. I am inspired to use her concept and ask some of my teens (students Bulldog works with in our programs) about what they would say to their younger selves. Over the years, I have learned that teens are smart, innovative, and often have answers to the problems we (adults) can't solve. Ellyn has inspired me to dig deeper and see what I would say to my younger self. As I spent some time in reflection, I realized I would write a book about advice I would give myself. From being a tween, to teen, to my early twenties, to especially my late twenties, I have way too much advice to give myself.
With that said, I would like to go back to my teenage self. There is a lot that I would want to say, but today I will take you back in time to my high school days. Picture my junior year in high school, in the late 90's. In my school there was the "Poules" clique (French for chicken), which were surprisingly the popular and pretty girls. The Chickens dressed up in business attire for school and hit the bars on the weekend (Canada has a legal age of 16 to enter bars and 18 to drink). The Chickens had the power to make you feel like you were part of the "in crowd" or they would ostracize you faster than you can blink. All I wanted was to be a Chicken! Now looking back I laugh at that statement. It sounds absurd but in high school those Chickens ruled our school. I was a social climber. As I type these words, I must admit I am embarrassed that I was not cool with just being myself and I had a need to feel popular. In my junior year, I tried so hard to be the best wannabe Chicken. I worked after school to afford the clothes, I had strategies to strike up conversations, and I learned all about these fabulous Chickens. I studied their every move and culture.
As junior year was ending, I felt so cool. The fabulous Chickens started including me in their group. I was making my way up the pecking order. I felt confident and powerful. I felt pretty and smart. I was on top of the world. I quit competitive skiing on the weekends to make sure I was available in case Mother Hen or Queen Bee called me. It was pathetic but all I wanted was to fit in.
One day I made a big MISTAKE. At a party, I kissed the Queen Bee's ex-boyfriend. It was bad so bad. I lost all my friends overnight, rumors started spreading about how I was a whore, slut, and that I paid money to have him kiss me. Queen Bee called all her Chickens and wannabe Chicks and said," If you even talk to that disgusting ugly whore, I will make your life miserable!" So overnight, I lost my fame, reputation, and friends. It was a hard time for me. I didn't want to tell my mom. She was a popular Queen Bee in high school; I thought she would never understand. I was alone, depressed, and scared for what might happen at school.
Here is the letter I would share to my younger self:
I know that you think your life is over and that you will never make it through high school. It feels like everyday things get worst. People are telling you that you should just kill yourself. Other people spit at you and say that you are so ugly. It is hard. I wish I could hug you and take away the pain. You are not ugly, fat, stupid, or slutty.
This challenging time will push you to be a better and compassionate person. You will never ever be a social climber again. You will be kind and driven to make a difference in the world. Kortney, you will go to a great college and meet amazing friends and build incredible memories. After college, you will travel the world, live in Spain, hike in NZ, and move to Chicago. You will meet people from all over the world and never look back at this part of your life. You will forgive Queen Bee because she's just not worth hating. Kortney reach out to your childhood best friend "Bou". She goes to the same high school and does not care about all this drama. She's comfortable in her own skin, so learn from her. Don't give up and don't lock yourself in your room. It is not worth it. Queen Bee wants you to suffer but screw her! Join new after school activities, go to the city more, learn about volunteer opportunities, and find new friends. Kortney, start skiing again! Don't let her take your happiness. Take back the power and talk to mom. She might have some advice or willing to help you get involved in new things. Get help and talk to people. You are not alone. Keep fighting because there is a big old world out there waiting for you to be part of. Sending you a big hug! Don't even think about taking your life because what is ahead of you is amazing. This time will pass. You will get out of that godforsaken town and never look back.
From the little voice in your head (the one you need to listen to),
P.S. You are beautiful. Don't let anyone tell you differently!
In closing, I would like to say that what I went through was bad. However, looking back I was so lucky. Cell phones, social media, IM, and texting did not exist. When I went home I was safe. Our world has changed and kids are crueler and use technology as a weapon. They can haunt you insensately. It takes a toll on kids and teens. I see it in my programs. Parents remember bullying does not stop at school. Kids bring it home with them. Help them feel safe again. Talk to your kid and maybe share some of your own experience.
If you want to read more about Ellyn Spragins. Here is her site: http://www.letterstomyyoungerself.com
Until next time...