This Is Not Your Life. A Letter to My Teenage Sister / A Letter to All Teenagers.

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In a few weeks my amazing, happy-go-lucky little sister will step through the doors of high school for the first time. In the midst of the excitement I feel for her I can’t help but look back on my first day of ninth grade and contemplate what it must’ve felt like walking down those foreign hallways.

The memories are murky but I’d imagine I was both thrilled and terrified, that I felt small but was also excited about the big possibilities of a new chapter- new friends, extracurriculars, teachers, etc.

The one thing I palpably remember is thinking that this was it. I couldn’t see life beyond fifteen. So when things were going great I loved it, but when things were going badly I didn’t think they would ever change. It was hard to find a balance or a happy medium in the midst of the highs and lows. This was compounded by the fact that I didn’t really know myself yet and had no inner compass so I relied on my peers’ perceptions of me. Luckily I experienced more good than bad and had a great support system.

All this to say that there have been too many disturbing stories in the news lately about not only bullying but also young people committing suicide. Did you know that the rational part of a person’s brain isn’t fully developed until the age of 25? Teens and young adults are literally incapable of fully contemplating the fact that choosing to take one’s life is a permanent decision. They don’t realize that these desperate pleas for help offer no take backs.

This letter is in lieu of the gut instinct to keep my little sister in my arms at all times.

It’s my way of coping with young lives lost too soon.

It’s a meditation of the beautiful and terrifying complexity that is coming of age.

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Dear AJ,

You are dripping with life as you dance into fifteen. Your cup is filled to the brim with hope, anticipation, excitement and uncertainty. The monumental changes and intoxicating unknowns have swept you off of your feet into an epicenter of firsts. Right now it feels like this is it. Time is still and the world revolves around you. Conversely to all that is changing, the sensorial vacuum you’re in gives you the illusion that things will always stay the same. Your young mind is caught in a paradox of growth. The magnitude of your transformation is offset by your limited perception of time and your inability to contemplate the same beyond the here and now. While your capacity to live in the present, a gift that will become more elusive as you age, is both beautiful and pure, it can be lethal when circumstances are taken out of context and extrapolated onto the rest of your life. Having limited perspective and believing there are no alternatives, some will take permanent measures to battle temporary problems. These actions can be irrevocable, causing lasting consequences that one will never get the chance to take back. It’s both a bitter and a sweet truth that things change and life goes on. On the days, weeks or years when life isn’t seeming to go your way and you ache to be someone or somewhere else, ruminate on the sweetness of that truth instead of imposing a fixed solution on a transient state. Trust in the fact that life is a shape shifter and will alter itself before you even realize it. Remind yourself of the things that lit you on fire when you were a child, before you let the world impose its judgements on you. And when you can’t work things out by yourself, talk to your balcony people, your parents, siblings and trustworthy confidants who know you to your core. Whatever you do, do not depreciate your birthright by believing that this is all there is. This is not your (entire) life, it’s just the beginning of your greater consciousness.

Love,

Sissy

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