A Letter to My Teenage Self
by Diana Gallagher
I see you, Teenage Self.
You’re on the verge of your Lord of the Rings phase (spoiler: you won’t ever fully grow out of it). You’re wildly unfashionable (spoiler: that won’t really change, either). Much of the time, you feel uncomfortable in your own skin. You’ve grown out your bangs, switched to contacts, and chopped off much of your unruly hair. Even so, you feel the tension between who you are and who you wish you could be.
It makes you write.
You have all of these emotions to wrestle with, and sometimes, they come out in short stories and poems and stream-of-consciousness bursts. Years later, you’ll hear Wordsworth’s line about the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings and recognize how apt it is. Right now, your words are the only map you have, one of your own creation, and you have no idea where it’s leading you.
Here’s what I want you to know: you’re on the right track.
At this point in the game, you already enjoy digging in and working hard. Much like LOTR and your somewhat questionable fashion sense, you won’t be leaving that work ethic behind. Good. You’re going to need it. You’re going to face rejection and wild circumstances beyond your control. You’ll question where you went wrong and what decisions could have steered you elsewhere. You’ll wish you’d been born with a passion for something straightforward, like accounting, as you sit alone in your car and cry. (Hey, at least you finally passed your road test!)
And then you’re going to keep moving, because that’s what you do.
Here’s what else I can tell you: surround yourself with people who make you laugh, who don’t bat an eye when you wear your track sweatshirt for the fifth day in a row (it’s comfortable okay?), who find your blog and tell you you’ve summed up exactly the way they feel, too. When you lean on your friends, everything is better. Promise.
Above all of this, keep telling your stories. Right now, you have no idea how publishing works or how books end up on the shelf. You just know that someday, you want one of them to be yours. Cherish how it feels while you’re being that rebellious teen sneaking downstairs after midnight to type on the family computer with the lights off, because that’s when writing feels like flying.
Because in those moments, you make magic.
Though Diana Gallagher be but little, she is fierce. She’s also a gymnastics coach and judge, former collegiate gymnast, and writing professor. Her work has appeared in The Southampton Review, International Gymnast, The Couch Gymnast, The Gymternet, and on a candy cigarette box for SmokeLong Quarterly. She holds an MFA from Stony Brook University and is represented by Tina Wexler of ICM Partners. Her contemporary YA novel, Lessons in Falling, released in February 2017.
Lessons in Falling
LESSON ONE: Playing it safe beats taking chances.
After an injury ends Savannah’s dream of a college gymnastics scholarship, she quits despite her parents’ protests. She won’t risk breaking her body—and heart—again.
LESSON TWO: Catch your best friend when she falls—or regret it forever.
Rules are meant to be broken, according to Savannah’s best friend, Cassie—and it’s more fun to break them together. But when Cassie attempts suicide, Savannah’s left wondering how well she really knows her.
LESSON THREE: Leaping forward, not knowing where you’ll land, is the hardest of all.
Falling for Marcos wasn’t part of the plan. Not only did he save Cassie’s life, he also believes Savannah can still achieve her dreams. Except Cassie thinks Marcos and gymnastics will only break Savannah’s heart.
As Savannah tumbles and twists through toxic friendships and crushing parental expectations, she realizes you never know who will be there when you fall.
Thank you so much, Diana, for writing this beautiful letter to your teenage self about never giving up hope and striving for your dreams. We’ve all been that teenager who doesn’t quite know how to achieve our dreams, doesn’t quite know when to give up, but keeps going anyways, and this is exactly who we really are: survivors, stumblers, and chance-takers. We live by stumbling, finding hope, and continuing our path to greatness.
A huge thank you to everyone who has participated in this feature. Your words do wonders for those of us who are stumbling through writing everyday. Thank you.
We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!