To My 16-Year-Old Self

Dear Mary Beth,

I wish I could tell you to hang in there. I see you throw your body on the bed and weep into your pillow. Your boyfriend’s kind of a jerk. I know. He won’t be the last.

Stella Adler Drama School, photo by Lou Stellato

Have faith. There are rescue boats on the way. Do not live in despair. Some life preservers will be — affection for children, intelligence, desire (and ability) to lead, wanderlust, art, honesty, a 12-step program, and education — These are not dilly dallies or detours.

You are not a dilettante. You are a lover of the arts and a lover of creativity! Now get up.

I know people say this ALL the time, my dear younger self, but the journey really is the destination. There are going to be some tough times ahead, with family members confused, hurt, struggling and ultimately there will be grace and recovery. There are also going to be very tough times in your 40s with your second husband’s Parkinson’s Disease. There will be boats to help you stay afloat just when you think you are sinking. So hang in there and do not give up.

You have to guard against your penchant for falling in love with unavailable guys. You probably should ditch B.S. You will fail in relationships (like your first marriage). Okay, so you are not too lucky in love. Though eventually you will discover the sexiness of nice guys. With the not-so-nice guys, you will need too much or your needs will be ignored and this will be repeated. Find strength from friends, family, especially your sister, 12-step meetings, and oddly enough, the whole movement that came out of a book, Women Who Love Too Much. Do not be ashamed that you love too much. It is a good thing. You have passion and enthusiasm. You work hard.

Among the things that will save you, one of them is New York City with all its vibrancy, beauty and diversity. You will feel at home on a bustling sidewalk. Enjoy those Oak and Elm suburban trees for now (although they are prompting many allergies), because you will never live in suburbia again.

You will travel the world — China, Brazil, Chile, Italy, Ireland. You will go many places and learn to smile in many languages. Your love of learning will be one of those boats that take you to a different shore. When you return home, you will ask big questions and find new ways.

You will do good work. And that will be a source of pride and income for you.

Sadly, you will not make it as an actress, but you will have medium-sized success in comedy, local television and writing. And you will enjoy it. Though you likely will never land a part in a major motion picture, you will have a joyful life in and around the theater.

You will teach drama and creative writing. When you teach, you will learn how much you know and know how much you still have to learn.

But best of all, there will be an amazing gift when you hit your mid-30s — I don’t want to give away the surprise. Okay, here it is. (As you know, I’ve never been good at surprises.)

You will have three children. Unbelievable, right? They will root you to life in a way that you never felt rooted to life before. They will make you pause and yell and hug and cry and laugh, almost every single day. So that will be good and meaningful, although not easy.

To my self, I want to write more, but two of those three children are needing attention right now. And because you become a really good parent, you are going to be there for them. So, get out of bed and be there for yourself. Learn to be a friend to yourself. Adventures await.

This post was inspired by the blog of Adam Bird. We are part of a Facebook community, Post A Day (Week) Challenge, an open group of people who encourage one another to post in their blogs  daily (or weekly).

3 thoughts on “To My 16-Year-Old Self

  1. Hi MaryBeth – it is wonderful to read other people’s letters. How they interpret their lives and analyise themselves back. Its funny, I only wrote mine two years ago, yet if I wrote it again now I’d write it back in a totally different frame of mind. You summed it up beautifully, life is a journey, and we have to go there to come back. It really is a destination. Am so happy that you found something in my letter to do your own.

  2. As you have learned, Mary Beth, there are all sorts of ways to be creative and all sorts of ways to love. Keep doing both!

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