Letter to My Teenage Self: Brave Enough to Dream
February 25, 2017
The National Network to End Domestic Violence (NNEDV) recognizes February as Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. One in three teens in the United States has experienced some form of abuse by a dating partner. This month, we asked: “What would you say to your teenage self about what you wish you knew then about healthy relationships, advocacy, and empowerment?” Here is one such response.
Dear Teenage Me,
I know growing up in the small town you’ve been stuck in hasn’t been easy.
And that by now, you’ve developed the craft of the chameleon - changing who you are as a form of survival. In fact, you’ve gotten so good at it, you’ve grown to believe it yourself. You changed your style, changed your friends, and figured out who it was you’d need to become to stop being bullied and start feeling wanted. And one of those things is the guy you’re dating. He’s the first person who showed an interest in you, the first one to tell you you’re beautiful, the first one willing to hold your hand in public and say that it was only you he wanted. But the things he’s started doing lately aren’t what you think they are. Smiling and saying you’re his property. Making sure you check in with him at every break between classes. Not letting you hang out with your friends. Taking your money. Getting you to steal cigarettes for him. Making you do things you don’t want to do. Saying your body is his. Slamming his fist and head through walls. Following you places and showing up out of the blue. Threatening to kill himself if you leave. Just as you’re starting to suspect - those aren’t acts of love.
But the good news is, in just a matter of a few years, you’ll have figured out how to get out safely. You’ll have survived.
And you’ll learn that you deserve better. You’ll get out of that town that so many will stay stuck in. You’ll learn just how big and beautiful the world is. You’ll become best friends with your mom (no, really, you will!). You’ll fall in love again, multiple times, with people who teach you about both respect for yourself and respect for them. You’ll laugh harder than you’ve ever laughed before. You’ll drive across the country, just you and your dog, like you always dreamed of doing. You’ll camp out in the desert under the stars. You’ll learn that to be someone’s true partner, you first need to fall in love with yourself. That you’d been trying to fill up your heart with other people, when what you really needed was there all along. Was YOU!
And once you discover that and become not only ok with, but fall in love with being alone, you’ll meet someone who you’ll go on to create a beautiful life with. Who’ll teach you about what honesty and trust really look like. Who’ll walk beside you through the loss of your parents. And who’ll challenge you to become the person you’ve been working so tirelessly these past few years to forget about - the one you shoved deep down inside, because you felt ashamed and wanted so badly to just fit in. Who’ll let you know that being trans is a part of your beauty. Who’ll help you become brave enough to be yourself, and to tell others who you are.
My advice to you, is to keep dreaming – those dreams are going to set you free.