Dear High School Self...

An Open Letter to My High School Self:

Hey there. I know you’re busy, and I know high school is wonderful and awful and fun and scary and easy and hard all at the same time. I know you think you know who you are — for the most part — and I know your quest to find your place in this world is really just beginning.

I also know that you’re stubborn, and in an effort to find yourself and make your own way in this world you’re going to ignore a lot of great advice. That’s okay. Your mistakes will make you better if you let them. Mistakes can make your life more beautiful and they can make you a more beautiful person, if you learn from them. Here are a few things I wish I’d known, though, that I learned through some of the messiest mistakes.

1. Relationships are not magical. They are hard.

I still love fairy tales. I still love stories. I still love the idea of magical, incorruptible bonds of friendship. What I’ve learned though, is that even if you find your BFF soulmate (your “person” if you’re a Grey’s Anatomy fan — the Christina to your Meredith, if you will) it’s still a lot of work to keep that relationship healthy. People are messy. We just are. We make mistakes. Keeping your friends close requires a level of respect, trust, and vulnerability that is hard to achieve.

I’m not talking about a Pretty Little Liars, “secrets keep us close” type of friendship. If someone is torturing you and murdering all of your peers, by all means, tell your parents (why do they never tell their parents?!), but give your friends the same level of respect and understanding that you’d hope they’d give you. Friendship also requires forgiveness. If you want someone to love you despite your flaws, then you’d better love them despite theirs. Build up your friends. Encourage them to be their best, rejoice with them when they succeed. Don’t compete with them.

2) Twilight is not a healthy example of love.

I don’t know if I’m dating myself by admitting I read Twilight in high school. Many adults threw a lot of shade at the series while I was reading it, and I thought they were all prudes. “UGH, IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL, MOM. Team Edward all the way!” I don’t usually believe in regrets, but if I could go back and change one thing about the way I viewed the world during my last two years of high school, I would change the way I viewed what a healthy, “true love” looked like.

Again, I love fairy tales. I like to believe in soulmates. I like to believe there is someone out there who's kiss could break my sleeping curse if I was ever unfortunate enough to be the subject of revenge from an evil queen. Edward Cullen and Bella Swan are not examples of that kind of love, though. Bella did not respect herself. They didn’t complete each other. Bella lost who she was without him. Her whole life became wrapped up in Edward Cullen. New Moon, the novel where she spends half her time unable to function and the other half of her time being crazy, is not beautiful. It’s incredibly sad. It’s an emotionally abusive relationship and I feel like I have the authority to stand here and say that...because I have lived it. I have been Bella Swan.

I can tell you, there’s no beauty in it. Don’t lose yourself to gain someone else. Don’t allow yourself to become so lost in someone you’ve fallen for, that you don’t know who you are when they aren’t by your side. I still believe in fairy tale love, I’m not a complete realist. I still believe in the beauty that is finding someone you love more than yourself, and there is beauty in two people complimenting each other’s strengths and weaknesses, but there is no beauty in giving yourself so completely to another person that you are consumed by them. That’s unhealthy, and I wish I hadn’t blurred the line between the two so significantly that, years later, I’m still working it out.

I’m a literature freak, so you won’t find me at any book burnings or petitioning for Twilight to be banned from the library, but guard yourself from attaching yourself to characters who aren’t strong. Really consider what is healthy in a relationship and remember to always be true to yourself. Respect yourself and take those damsel in distress stories with a grain of salt.

3) You’re not alone.

I’m learning this even now. Swiftly approaching my mid-twenties, finally untangling myself from my own personal Edward Cullen, I’m a strong, independent, modern woman and I love it. I’m still messy, though. I’m still awkward sometimes (think Jess from New Girl crossed with Lorelei Gilmore — except less endearing wit). I’m still learning my place in this world. I joined a small group through my church — a group of twenty-something women who come together simply to do life together and support each other. It’s wonderful. Through this group, I’ve quickly discovered they feel the same way that I do. Everyone just wants friends. Everyone wants good relationships. Everyone wants to find the beauty in life and everyone wants to be respected. Also, everyone is awkward.

High school is a hard time and I know you are SURE no one understands how you feel. You are SURE no one is going through what you’re going through, but I am SURE that they are. Come alongside your peers. Give them the respect and the chance you’d want them to give you. You’ll be surprised to find out how much we all have in common just because we are humans. You can be strong and independent, but that doesn’t mean you have to be alone. You are not alone. You don’t have to face anything in life alone.

Being a teenager is hard. So is being 24. I think it’s hard just to be a person. But you know what? It’s also a wonderful adventure — if we can live our lives spreading more love than hate, choosing kindness over competition, and choosing to truly respect ourselves, our parents, and our peers, then we can all do life together. We can support each other.

There’s beauty in that.

WRITTEN BY Brittany King