Conversations with Myself
If I could visit my 15 year old self, this is what I'd say:
“Baby, quit trying to fit in with those girls. It doesn't matter if you try to buy Guess Jeans and K-Swiss shoes and try to wear Sunflowers perfume that frankly, chokes you and gives you a headache, no one cares. You aren't ever going to be one of the pretty, popular girls because there's so much inside of you. You couldn't be that flighty and insincere if you tried. Your personality makes you different. You have artwork and poetry and English compositions inside your ridiculously smart head that won't let you be like the other kids. You are going to make good grades, even when they make fun of you for it. I know some people don't like you because you are poor. You eat free lunches at school and borrow money from friends so you can get vending machine food and look like you fit in. You also look different. You have weird long legs and knobby knees and small breasts and the whites of your eyes are blue. People always notice your eyes. Then you have to explain the bone disease. They make fun of you because they don't understand it.
All of that is okay though. One day you'll be beautiful. You'll appreciate those legs, I promise. One day, the people who make fun of you won't matter. They won't matter because you won't remember who they are. You'll remember a general feeling of discomfort when you think of the school you attend, but you won't remember a single thing anyone ever said to you. When the scary, huge mean girl threatens you and in self defense all you can think to do is bark at her like a rabid dog? You won't even remember that until your best friend tells you the story twenty years later and she and you both laugh until you cry.
Honey, put those cigarettes down. I know they help sometimes. Yes, god, they still smell good, but eventually you are going to want to stop smoking because your clothes stink and you have to stand out in the freezing cold in winter to smoke and your kids will plead with you to stop. When you finally make up your mind to stop, you are going to have to take prescription pills to help you. These pills will give you three months of the most horrifying nightmares you will ever have. It won't matter that you've had to smoke butt ends out of your ashtray or that you had to look in the couch to get the rest of your cigarette money or even that people will bitch about it when you do smoke. You will not want to take those pills, I promise. Just stop smoking now.
God, you've made some cool friends. They don't care that you're poor. They are too. As long as there is money for weed and cigarettes, life is good, huh? I know you'll only ever smoke weed, it won't lead to anything worse for you. Your friends give it to you for free and you never spend a dime on it. Those cool friends are all grown up now. They've all been married and divorced over and over. One still decorates in skulls and rock band posters. He's almost 40. He hasn't been sober since October of his senior year in high school. The other one, that was so cute is now fat and bald and missing a good portion of his black teeth. He was supposed to die a while back from liver failure. He was yellow. He made it through it, according to what I hear. He had one wife who ran off with the guy who decorates with skulls. He was the golden boy. Now he's just broke and stoned. One guy may or may not have a few kids with a couple of people. He's paying for some, but he isn't sure if their his or not. He's too stoned to care. He will always be a manager of some pizza place or another. In the town we grew up in. He never leaves. His ex-wife might have had a child by the skull guy. She is now on a most wanted list. He is going to be 40 also. They are all still listening to Pink Floyd and drinking too much and they've all drifted apart. Even from me. I never hear directly from any of them. They're on Facebook. We just have nothing in common now.
Wait! Don't let that guy have your virginity. Really? Him? He weighs 300 pounds. He grows up to deliver donuts. He never goes to college and his wife will send you a weird Facebook message one day about how you messed up his entire life. You'll date him when you're fifteen years old and he's eighteen. For six months. During those six months he will display jealousy, a lack of trust in you, a need for constant drama in one form or another, and what you just knew was love was simply excitement over having sex. You'll realize six months from now you don't love him. Why did you sleep with him? Because two of your girlfriends had already lost their virginity and out of a set of four of you, you didn't want to be the last. You will come in third place in the virginity races with a fat redneck who grows up to deliver donuts. Congratulations. Later, when you are sixteen and you get raped, he'll tell you you probably deserved it. Please don't let that boy have you. You have got to set some standards and not settle for whatever shows up. I'll show you how if you'll let me.”
This is what I'd tell my 17 year old self:
“Don't try to grow up yet. Let yourself be a kid just for a while longer. I know it's fucked up at home. Your mom turned into a stranger when she met your stepdad. You were promised that you could stay in Alcoa, but they yanked you up and slapped you down in Oak Ridge. It wasn't a big deal to them and if they knew you hyperventilated in your car, they'd make fun of you for being a dramatic teenager. They don't understand that having people around you that you don't have to explain your blue eyes to, or a new set of people to impress, or figuring out which people will rape you and which won't really is a crisis in the seventeen years you've been on the planet. You'll try to find solace in drinking and smoking weed. It'll be okay, I promise you that. You'll live through that and it helps you keep the panic at bay most days. Just come over here and hug me though, because I'm going to lose you to sex. You're going to sleep with everyone and everybody. You'll do this because you were raped at 15 and had you not cooperated, you are pretty sure you would have been at 16 in the middle of Atlanta Georgia. You want to keep the monsters away and prove to yourself that sex is good. You are going to go on a rampage. Please don't do this. There are other ways to heal. We will never to this day have one emotional feeling during sex. You will associate it with feeling good, but it will never mean anything to you if you do this. You can't hear me, can you?
Your head is still chock full of brains and you make every honor roll and all straight A's. You are generally high when you do this. I don't know what I could have done if I'd put effort into myself. Your heartbreaks and worries are tossed aside when you talk about them because your parents can tell you what real problems are. If you don't talk about your problems, you are a slut and being rebellious. If you do talk about them, you are blowing things out of proportion, or shouldn't be doing what you are doing anyway. You can't win when it comes to looking for help. Don't worry about that, you grow up to take everyone seriously, even small children. Kids adore you because you don't treat them like kids. You know how real their problems are, and you accept it. You're getting some great life skills.
You are finally standing up for yourself. The last time your mother hit you was in Alcoa. You made damn sure that the last time was the last time. It stopped that day. Now you are taking your new found power a little far, but it's certain no one pushes you around anymore. Hang on to that, you'll need it for a while. Please take care of yourself. You are going to have a baby soon. She will be the brightest star in your life and the best thing you ever accomplish. You will be a great mother, and it's because of the path you've been on. This is hard right now, but you are going to turn out just fine. You don't know true love now. You won't know it at twenty. You might think you've found it at 34, I'll have to let you know. I love you. I'll hold your hand through all of this. Trust me, I won't let us down.”