I’m so thankful to be participating in this project put together by Ginger from GReads! As soon as I heard about it, I immediately hopped on board. One of the things that’s been the most important thing to me as a reader over the past couple of years was how much I learned about myself and how many things I was surprised to see myself working through.
I’m fairly confident and happy with my life as it is right now — I’m happily married, own a house, have a steady job, wonderful friends, and a great family — but it’s surprising how many things I’ve discovered as I’ve read young adult books that seem to stick around even after ten or more years have gone by since I’ve experienced them. It’s still incredibly painful to revisit some of those memories or situations and I was so surprised to find that by reading YA, I was able to work through some of those nightmares from my past, forgive others, and most importantly, forgive myself. (Oh. There we go. Already tearing up as I write this.)
This open letter to my young adult self, I think, was a very important thing for me to write. Even though I know I’ve worked through some of these things through reading, it’s just one step further to actually spell them all out in sentence-form and transition from feelings into words. I’m also grateful that I get to share this piece of myself with the people who read my blog. I didn’t start blogging until I was 25 so this is a big piece of my life that I don’t really talk about even though it’s the age range I’m often reading — mostly just because we didn’t know each other back then.
So here is my Open Letter to my YA Self… maybe something I should have done a long time ago that I never knew I needed.
Dear teenage Brittany,
I wish you had known some of these amazing YA heroines back then like I do now. I’ve only been reading young adult for a few years now — only after passing all of those awkward teenage years (sorry. Things are still awkward as an adult… but you do learn to handle them better, I promise) — and I wish I had a time machine to send these books from the present into the past. I know you could have learned a lot from these amazing authors and the characters that even now feel like they could have been you or your best friends. I wish I could have saved you a little grief by having these books as a way to work through some of those less-than-pleasant moments (although I can’t save you from those moments themselves).
I wish you could have met characters like Anna from Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins, Cricket from Leila Howland’s Nantucket series, and Allyson from Just One Day by Gayle Forman because maybe it would have helped you work through some hard situations and feelings at the present time instead of ten years later (although better late than never). These ladies learned that you don’t always end up with your first big crush or first kiss or first boyfriend. They learned that friendships will get you through some of the hardest things in your life but they won’t always be easy themselves. They learned how important family is and how to let them in. I wish you could have known authors like Stephanie and Leila and Gayle and Rainbow and Emery and Katja and all of the amazing characters, strong heroines, and touching stories that they would write. Through reviews or tweets or blog posts, I cannot express to these authors enough how much their books mean to me. I wish I could have known these books all of my life. Maybe the lessons wouldn’t have been absorbed or noticed right away, but as much as you’ve loved reading all your life, I know you could have easily thrown yourself into these books to get lost or find a friend or have a good cry.
If books like The Lunar Chronicles and The Grisha Trilogy had been around when you were a teen, maybe they would have held your interest in reading. Books used to be fun when you were a kid but they still are! They always are! Don’t be afraid to go to the bookstore or the library and find books that are not just for school. Sometimes it’s too hard to read when there’s a lesson attached and a huge analysis so find some books to read just for FUN and go get lost in them.
DO find books that YOU want to read. DON’T write books off just because school is taking the fun out of them. DO keep the lessons that you read (you never know when they’ll be applicable). DON’T believe that YA is for kids (you are a teenager afterall). DO re-read for fun (that was always a given). DON’T forget about the worlds you’ve already visited as a kid.
Harry Potter will always mean a lot to you. Meg Cabot is still fabulous 10+ years later. Authors are now your rock stars. Books will lead you to some of your best friends and rekindle your friendships with some of your current BFFs. Books will be a big part of your wedding (oh, yes, I said wedding) and change your life forever. You will write 1000 blog posts (don’t be afraid. It’s fun!) and go to book conferences.
But maybe I should set this letter to self-destruct because if I’ve learned anything from the books that I’ve read, the truth about the relationship between the past and the future is this: Everything that’s happened was always meant to be and can’t be changed (Loop by Karen Akins). There are already hundreds and thousands and millions of parallel universes where this has already happened and can continue to happen in different ways (Dissonance by Erica O’Rourke). Sometimes no matter which path you take, you’ll always end up where you need to be (Ask Again Later by Liz Czukas & Just Like Fate by Cat Patrick and Suzanne Young).
I guess it’s really hard to say what I should tell you, my YA-self. Every decision you’ve made — for better or for worse — has taught me a valuable lesson and led me to where I am today and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Everything you’ve done has led me to who I am today and who I surround myself with, who I spend the rest of my life with. I do wish books had never disappeared from your life outside of a classroom (thank goodness we always had Harry Potter) and if there was anything I’d change, that would be it. Books could stir up your imagination, teach you lessons, provide comfort, bring you closer to a friend, inspire you so I do wish that had always been a part of your life… But as we know, hindsight is 20-20! But no matter what happens, just know that you will end up exactly where you need to be. No matter how hard things get, your friends and family will be there for you and books will guide you even further.
Thanks so much for taking the time to read this personal note to myself! It actually turned out quite a bit differently than I thought, but I think that’s a good thing. I expected to reflect back on the harder times in my past but honestly and truly I can say reading the books and the authors mentioned has helped me work through A LOT that used to be so hard to think about all over again. I cannot thank them enough for all of those words.
Thanks for joining me and all of the other bloggers participating in the “Open Letter to My YA-Self” event! If you’d like to follow along, check out the hashtag, #OpenLetterToYASelf. A few authors will be sharing letters with everyone as well so you won’t want to miss that!
There’s also an event-wide giveaway and thanks again to Ginger for putting all of this together! You can enter the giveaway on any participant’s blog, but since you’re here, check it out in the Rafflecopter below! 😀