by Hannah Kazemi, Staff Writer

Dear me,

As of writing this letter, I’m 21 (22 in January. What the hell happened to the time?!) and every single day I mourn you, 14-year-old self. Sometimes when I’m laying in bed at night stressing about school, my body, or all of my life choices, I think about what I wish I had known about being an adult before it happened. I think about how I would have acted differently, what kind of person I wanted to be, and things I’m proud of or regretful towards. I write notes on my phone about all of these things. I think past me would have benefitted from hearing these things, had I been around to tell them to her. So here they are, all in one place.

#1 Shut up and move on.

You have a problem with getting hung up on things that are out of your control and kicking yourself for it until you don’t have the strength to kick straight anymore. You’re spending so much of your teenage years stressing about things that don’t matter anymore — your haircut, a bad grade, or something ridiculous you said in class. Shit happens. Sometimes bad or frustrating things come up that push all of your plans right out the window. It’s fine, you’ll get over it. You should cry first, though. Crying always makes you feel better.

But don’t always move on right away. You are allowed to express yourself and hold grudges and be angry. You are allowed to be unreasonable and mad at the world and think that everything sucks because sometimes . . . everything does suck. I wish someone told me this years ago. If they did, maybe you wouldn’t have developed anxiety by the time you turned 18. You just have to remember that when the tears run out, so does the energy you’re giving to the situation. That’s the point where you should think about moving forward.

#2 Stop over-planning.

Speaking of pushing things out of the window, your tendency to over-schedule your life and plan everything to a tee is going to kill you. For real. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about anything, it’s that nothing is guaranteed.

You can do all of the planning in the world, down to the minute, and still, something will go wrong.

You wanted to go out of province for the university to get the “full experience” and ended up going to SFU. You still live at home. In Surrey.

You wanted to study abroad in England in the second semester of your third year. COVID-19 hit during the first year. You visited England in the summer instead.

You hated English in high school. It made you cry and you swore to never take it in university. You’re graduating in April with an English minor and you write for the freaking student newspaper. Your writing has won awards.

Long story short, nothing ever goes to plan. At most, it goes kind of to plan. Write down your feelings and goals instead, I don’t know, just stop over-planning every moment of your life. Use that time to go out and actually enjoy being a teenager.

#3 Go to therapy!

This is probably my most important piece of advice. You’re hurting so badly inside and you don’t even know it yet. It isn’t until you turn 18 that you realize how badly you need to let the hurt out. Every relationship in your life will be better for it, and you’ll benefit from hearing someone else tell you that the way you’re feeling is valid. It is allowed. You’ll hate it at first because talking to strangers makes you anxious sometimes, but it’ll be worth it.

#4 Live a little!

Being scared of not being “perfect” or whatever in high school really hindered your ability to have fun as an adult. You get FOMO when you see your friends out without you, dancing the night away while you’re at home writing papers and reading books. I mean, it’s not bad to work hard and read — don’t ever be ashamed of being a “nerd” — but please, for my sake, accept going out more often. Stay out later than you normally would on a weekend (like, past 9:00 p.m.). Listen to music really loud and hang out with your friends more. DON’T WAIT FOR THEM TO ASK. I have to actively think of socializing now. I can’t be spontaneous at all, I have to rehearse in advance. Do you know what spontaneous means?? I shouldn’t have to rehearse it!! At the age of 21 (almost 22), I’m finally at a place where I actually crave going out and hanging out in crowds of people and dancing until my feet hurt.

#5 Your body will never satisfy you, so stop trying to make it change.

This piece of advice is one that I constantly need to hear but that never seems to stick around long. So I’m putting it on paper to exist in perpetuity.

The way your body looks does not define who you are or what you are worth.

Your. Body. Does. Not. Define. You.

Read that over and over and over again until it’s burned inside your damn mind because I swear if I have to watch you look in the mirror and poke at your belly or your thighs one more time, I’m going to scream. No amount of hoping and praying is going to remove your stomach fat. You can’t just cut it off. Little did you know at the age of 14 that your difficulty losing weight isn’t your fault at all; it’s the fault of your genetics.

Stop going to the gym and comparing yourself to the other girls there. Start going for long walks instead — I promise you will grow to love them. And you will grow to love your body. Well, sometimes. Sometimes you still hate it. But the times you hate it seem to decrease the less you occupy your mind with the way your body looks. Nobody notices but you, but your dysmorphia clouds that. Try not to let it. And fuck off with that “body positivity” bullshit. We now align with “body neutrality,” it means we accept this is our body, this is how we look like and who we are. We do what we can, when we can to stay healthy and not to change how our body looks. Learn to appreciate your body and take care of it as you would a small child. Give it what it needs to stay alive, entertain only some of its tantrums, don’t deprive it of all indulgences, and love it for its imperfections.

That’s all I’ve got for now, me. Believe it or not, you don’t know everything yet. You know a lot of things, and you certainly know more than you did when you were 14, but you have so much to learn. You learn new things every day about yourself and about what you wish you did or who you wished you’d be by the time you were 21, but trust me when I say that I don’t think anybody has the slightest idea of who they really are — especially when they’re 14, and even more so when they’re 21.

Tell your friends you love them. Hug your mom sometimes. I love you the most and I hope you take care of yourself.

Peace, love, and estathé,

Hannah xoxo