( A letter to my younger self)
Let me preface by saying I will get back to Take Me Out. However, this piece is important in making my “whole” point.
I was watching my favorite mindless T.V. show, Married at First Sight, a couple of weeks ago. Nick gives me crap all the time but, I love it. I would say it’s actually just a glamourized social experiment. It’s fascinating, the idea of trained Doctor’s, Sociologist’s, Sex experts, and Marriage Counselors, collectively putting strangers together based on compatibility theories, is research before our eyes. Add the drama of reality T.V. and you have Married at First Sight. I love it. I highly recommend it if you like stuff like this. However, I would not start mid-season, start from the beginning, otherwise it can be confusing.
Anyways, back to the point. One of the “get to know you dates” planned by the experts, was for each person to write a letter to their younger self. Each person read their letter to their spouse with visible emotion. According to the cast, this was the most “vulnerable” experience they’ve shared up until this point. Each letter was read with compassion, empathy, guidance, clarity, cheer-leading, encouragement, and understanding, to their younger self during difficult years.
My brain was spinning and about to explode.
Why hadn’t I thought of this earlier?
There are many reasons why we write letters to our younger selves, for jobs, journaling, therapy. It’s used as a technique for growth. These letters provide some sort of support that we did not receive during scary times. Growing up is scary. As adolescents we are confused, unsure of ourselves and our surroundings, uneasy, we make impulsive decisions, we are figuring out our identity and sexuality, and making mistakes. Growing up feels exciting yet terrifying on where and how we fit into this Big Scary World.
When we write back to our younger selves as adults, we validate our feelings and experiences. Things won’t always make sense but we have a better understanding of why we felt the way we did.
My goodness, we participate in activities that remind us how vulnerable this population is.
Yet, why are we surprised that suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death ages 10-24?
Do we forget how hard it actually is?
Do we block it out because it was so traumatic?
Why do we as a society minimize the trials and tribulation of this population?
“He’s just a teenager”
“It’s not that big of a deal”
“There are bigger problems in the world”
“She just got her period, she’s overly emotional”
“She’s 12 going on 22”
“ I’m the adult, I make the decisions of what’s best for you”
“Why are you crying?”
“I don’t care if you don’t want to switch Math classes. Being in the same class as your friends is not the end of the world.”
To them…………..this is their world and they lack the brain development to rationalize what is happening to them.
Sadly, for Aria, it was the end of HER world( and the biggest part of mine)
Sometimes they can’t “snap out of it”
Sometimes they can’t “stop crying”
Sometimes they can’t see past “this moment”
Everything is changing, they’re unsettled, and things don’t make sense.
That is why when we are adults, more than likely, we meet our younger self with kindness because we finally get it. It took time, learning, failing, exploring to become who we are.
Kids are not “little adults” they are kids. It is our job to protect them.
I encourage you all to spend an hour to write a letter to your younger self. Read it over and over again. Cry, do whatever feels comfortable to sooth the emotions that come up.
Then, I ask, you bring that empathy, that understanding, that compassion to the adolescents in your life.
What would you have wanted to hear?
What did you need that you didn’t get?
Be that for them!!!
Around the same time that MAFS episode aired, my high school friend Bethany, sent me a Podcast from The Daily, called Inside the Adolescent Mental Health Crisis. The guest speaker was Matt Richtel a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter/journalist for The New York Times. While listening to this Podcast, I was in tears. It was the first time I felt like someone actually got it.
He brought up the idea of looking at the teenage years as a “teenage crisis” the way we look at a “mid-life crisis.” We change our view as a society to the importance of supporting adolescents. Mandating resources to help them socially and emotionally. While guiding them through the tough years and ultimately equip ALL to be happier, healthier, emotionally intelligent human beings throughout the lifespan.
( PLEASE LISTEN)