A letter to my 16 year old self

I recently stumbled across another blogger who’d written a letter to her sixteen year old self. The concept was so appealing that I immediately decided I was going to do the same. It’s interesting to think back to my former self and consider my ideas, my dreams, my worries and how they have changed, remained stagnant, or strengthened. So here is my version of a letter to myself.

Dear 16 year old Tessa,

You’re awkward and nerdy and that will never change, but you are also smart and beautiful. And the combination makes you much cooler and more interesting than you might ever give yourself credit for. Don’t be intimidated by other people and what they may think of you. Often, those people are worrying the same thing. You will soon find out that there are other people like you–friends who will love you as you are and be a part of your life for a long time.  Friends who will be there whenever you need them, no matter the hour or distance between you.  Friends who know you better than yourself.  Friends who will challenge you and show you the world. Friends who you will feel lucky just to know and who will feel the same about you.

Also, grades in high school do not at all reflect your capabilities. Academia will always be a part of your life, but you will learn that teachers, including yourself, are not always right. And you will have the passion to try and change the system–along with so many other things. Don’t listen to others. Your life is your own and it is important to know that, even now. And while your parents love you and really do want the best for you, be strong and stand up for your decisions and opinions.

Listen to yourself and trust your instinct. Your gut is never wrong. You will go so far. Soon you will find that adventurous part of yourself that has really been there all along, but needed a push or two.  You are capable of taking risks and you are more than capable of succeeding.  Confidence is key, but it’s okay to not always know the answers and it’s okay to ask for help…

Because there will be hard times. There will be sorrows. There will be times when you question everything and whether you can handle  what life gives you. But you can and you do. These are the times that you learn the most and these are the times that make you appreciate the less hectic. ( I won’t say calm, because there isn’t ever really a calm moment in your life.) Stress is capable of driving you, but don’t let it overrun you.

And don’t forget what you want at this very moment. True, some of your opinions will change and your view of life will become so broad. But never forget the person you want to be. Only adjust it to what becomes available to you, because you have no idea the awesome things you are going to see and experience.  These experiences will change you, form you, and help you to become someone you should be proud of.

Yes, I said it. Be proud. Be confident. You are smart. You are beautiful. You are capable. You are strong. You are a leader.

And as for boys… Well, believe it or not, there will be many. But you will only have the time and patience to really pay attention to few of them. And of those few, you will have great experiences and you will have heartache. And somewhere in between you will learn to let your guard down and trust others. Don’t forget to take risks in all aspects of your life, because when you don’t take risks, the rewards aren’t as great.

As for the things I have learned so far and you have still to figure out, I will leave you with what I have really found most important: Stand up for what you believe in.  Don’t try to plan life, because it cannot be tamed.  Even when things don’t seem to work out, it’s usually for the better. Almost everything is subjective, so do not back down. Laugh often. Travel as much as possible. Don’t be afraid to be yourself, because people think you’re amazing. Appreciate what people have to offer. Have fun. Continue learning. And NEVER stop asking questions.

Love always,

24 year old Tessa

PS- Don’t try to tame your curls–they will only fight back. Use them to match a vibrant personality.

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Big girl, you are beautiful

One of my favorite shows is The Biggest Loser.  What can I say? I’m a sucker for success stories and almost every person on the show is there to make a positive, healthy change to their lifestyle.  For some of them, it’s a life or death matter.  I like how the trainers on the show focus on being healthy and achieving goals before they focus on looking good. Though one of the goals is always to lose a bunch of weight, it’s still a slightly different tone than the normal American media. At the end of the show, the contestants always focus on how much better they feel and how much more they can do and then talk about how awesome they look. If I’d dropped 200 pounds, I’d point out how awesome I look all the time.

I am currently 150ish pounds (a healthy weight for a 5’6″ woman) and wear anywhere between a size 8 and a size 14, depending on the store and cut of the garment. While I am confident in my appearances and try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, I constantly critique my body. This is something all women do, whether they admit it or not.  A child of divorced parents, I grew up with varying ideas of what beauty is. Beauty at my dad’s house is defined in a more traditional manner (thin, active, etc) than at my mom’s house (curvy, lively, etc). With the media sneaking its way into every space of my daily life, the constant influence of my upbringing, and the ideas and thoughts of my friends and those closest to me, my idea of beauty has become broad and accepting.  Although, like any woman, I am often not as accepting of myself as I am of others. And like I said, I am confident in my appearances, but we all have our weaknesses.

What has really got me stuck on this subject lately is the following video one of y friends posted:

It is part of a documentary by Jean Kilbourne–a long-time warrior against the damaging effects of advertisements. Like I said, I always thought I was above these ads. I don’t wear much make-up, I haven’t been a size 2 ever, and I am often upset by how skinny these girls look. But I’m beginning to realize that I’m still affected by these images: Some of the clothes I want to wear fall better on a taller and slimmer figure. I often wish my unruly curls could be tamed and luscious, if just for a day.  And when I buy my workout equipment, I want to be as toned as the people on the cover.

And still I know that I am not the worst off. When Kilbourne talks about the model who died of Anorexia, I think of my friends who have had or are currently battling eating and body image disorders. I have seen their daily struggles and it kills me to know that my words will not change how they see themselves or the value they place in a number on a scale. Kilbourne says that “our society’s obsession with thinness is a public health problem.” A public health problem indeed.

So the idea is more that we should focus on health than beauty, right?  I exercise often and don’t eat too unhealthily (I was blessed to not have a sweet tooth), but when I think of getting healthy, three things come to mind: I want to look good, feel good, and be healthy.  Should it not be the other way around? Shouldn’t I want to be healthy, feel good, and then look good? I know the answer to this epidemic isn’t easy and certainly isn’t a quick fix, but I think it can start with awareness. Ignorance may be bliss, but knowledge is power and I think it’s time we educate ourselves. How  do we get healthy, appreciate our bodies as they are, and look past the numbers and look more to the abilities?  We start by questioning what is around us and not accepting what is given to us as fact.

And as for the media, if only they could be a little more appreciative of all sizes, shapes and colors.