I turned 35 on January 18. I spent the day surrounded by best friends. I laughed and smiled and had an amazing time, and the love I felt was enough to make my heart feel like it was going to explode.
I had no idea that my life would look like it does at 35. I’m grateful for the direction things have gone in and for the things I have and what I’ve accomplished. I’m happy that I have the people in my life that I do and that I’ve been fortunate enough to maintain such close connections with childhood friends.
People have asked me before if I could go back, would I change any of the things I did (or didn’t do) over the years. I was thinking about this a lot on Friday morning. Life hasn’t always been sunshine and rainbows. I’ve been through some shit, like most people have. But that shit translated into life lessons, and those life lessons sent me down the path that led me to where I am today. So even though there were ugly times, I wouldn’t change anything. I wouldn’t want a butterfly effect.
What I would do, however, is share some things with my younger self, to ease anxiety and make the light at the end of the tunnel shine brighter. A combination of lessons and “insider information,” so to speak.
This is a letter to 15-year-old Nikki. This is a letter to a girl whose spirit was broken and who didn’t know what direction she was headed in. This is a letter to a girl who wanted to run away, but didn’t.
This is a letter to inspire hope.
Let me start by saying this:
You are smart.
You are beautiful.
You will make it through.
I know things are tough right now. I know that many days, you go home from school and cry because of how awful the “popular” kids treat you. I know that there are nights when you go to bed and hope with everything inside you that you won’t wake up the next morning, because it feels like being dead would be better than dealing with the things life is throwing at you. I know it feels like things are never going to get better but please trust me when I say they will. This will be one of the most difficult years that you live through but you’re going to make it.
People tell you this all the time to make you feel better, and now I’m here to confirm what they say: the kids in junior high and high school don’t matter a bit in the grand scheme of things. They treat you like shit because they’re miserable and insecure themselves, and that’s the only way they know to deal with it. That doesn’t excuse the things they’re doing to or saying about you, but I want you to know that so you don’t beat yourself up and wonder what’s wrong with you and what you’re doing wrong. You’ll never have to see these people again after you transfer schools in the future. Popularity won’t follow most of them and the real world will offer up a rude awakening for them when they fall from grace. You’re better than them and above their behavior. Try to think about that when things get tough.
Next year, you’ll get to meet Butch Walker, and it will be one of the highlights of your teenage life. Keep holding on to music, because it’s going to get you through a lot of the difficult times and inspire you to create things.
A lot of things are going to happen in the next three years. You’ll make some new friends, you’ll lose some old ones, and you’ll grow even closer to the people who will be in your life forever. You’ll switch schools, which will be one of the best decisions you ever make. You’ll have some crushes (a few of which will end up crushing you), you’ll get drunk (and smoke pot) for the first time, and you’ll end up moving in with your dad, which will be both a blessing and a curse. Things won’t always be easy, but you’re going to learn lessons from it and in the end, you’ll come out stronger.
Don’t put so much pressure on growing up. I know it seems like turning 18 will be the greatest thing in the world, and in some ways it will, but enjoy your teenage years while you’re there. In 15 years you’re going to look back and miss the freedom that came with being young. You’re going to miss the days when you didn’t have to worry about things like rent, car payments, and bills.
When you’re 18, a boy will come along and steal your heart. You’ll start dating him, your universe will revolve around him, and you’ll have yourself convinced that he’s going to be around forever. That same boy will break your heart within a year though, when he up and moves across the county with hardly any warning. This breakup is going to wreck you completely. It’s going to push you over the ledge and you’re going to spiral out of control. It’ll impact your friendships, your schooling, your job, your physical and mental health … everything will change in some way, and most of it won’t be good.
I need you to know that you will be okay. Everything is going to fall apart around you but you’ll pick the pieces up, put them back together, and the world you create will be better for you. And that guy … he’s not the right person for you. You’re polar opposites in so many ways and at the end of the day, you’ll be better off because that relationship came to an end. (You’ll be friends again down the road, which is what you were meant to be all along.)
Don’t let the pressure society and other people put on you about college get to you. People will nag you and question you and put you down because you don’t finish in four years and you change your mind about your future a lot. There’s no one-size-fits-all approach for anything in life. Everyone does college at their own pace, and that includes you as well. Don’t base your decisions or your future off what other people think is best for you. In the end, you know yourself better than anyone else, and you’ll figure out what you need to grow.
Don’t try to change yourself for anyone else. You’ll go through all kinds of body issues, struggle with self-esteem, and think that you need to change yourself in order to fit in, get a boyfriend, gain acceptance, etc. etc. etc. It’s fine to want to change, but always remember that you should try to change for YOU. Your motivation should be making your health better, making your life better, making your body feel better …everything should revolve around you in this area.
If someone expects you to change for them, they shouldn’t have a place in your life. Simple as that.
One of your “best friends” is going to teach you the biggest lesson about manipulation and betrayal that you’ll ever get. When it comes time to let that friendship go, you need to do it. Don’t hold on because you’re afraid that she will sabotage your other friendships. Don’t let her have that power over you. Your entire life is going to change for the better after you get out from under that situation.
Never, ever give up on yourself. Bumps in the road aren’t a reason to stop your journey. You have to pick yourself up and keep moving forward. Success won’t happen overnight, but it will happen and when it does, it’ll be an amazing thing.
You don’t have to have it all figured out right now. You’re 15.
Cut yourself some slack. Show yourself grace.
Let people love you and in turn, love yourself. Because you are an amazing girl. You have a fiery spirit inside, a ton of love and compassion to give, and the ability to change the world for the better. And one day, you’re going to do just that.
More love than you can imagine,