A Letter To My 11-Year-Old Self

racorn / (Shutterstock.com)
racorn / (Shutterstock.com)
As the school year begins and I am faced with the challenge of shaping the minds of 32 young, bright-faced 11-year-olds, I reflect back to what life was life for me as a 5th grader. Times have changed; they’ve memorized Instagram handles instead of phone numbers and know the names of the boys in One Direction instead of the ones in N’SYNC. But at the heart of it all, they’re still kids, just like we were.

Dear 5th-grade self:

I know that you might not think about these things now, and some of this may even sound a little bit foolish to you, but there are some very important things I must tell you about the way you see the world. Some things you may want to change, and some things you may want to hold onto for a very long time. Don’t let me fool you, though; you’ll turn out quite all right, kid.

Let’s start with school. You work hard. Really hard. And you won’t work that hard again until you’ve graduated college. You’ll find that things come pretty easy to you, and you’ll realize that sometimes you don’t even have to try. It’s a gift and a curse, so don’t get lazy. And when Saturday rolls around and you’re hunched over a model of the Empire State Building with your extremely particular grandfather, don’t cry about not going to your friend’s house. There will be more Saturdays, but there will not always be more Saturdays with grandpa. Cherish these moments, because they don’t last forever. Take pride in your work, and give yourself credit every once in a while. It’s OK to be humble, but you’ve earned the right to show off a bit. One last word of advice on school: Never, ever stop learning. If you don’t want to learn, you know you’ve given up.

Right now, there is nothing in the world more important to you than your friends.
Prepare yourself for this….some of those friends will stay, and some—even the ones you thought would last a lifetime—will go. The most important thing I can say about friendship is to surround yourself with the people that make you laugh and can cheer you up when you need it most, even if those people are only in your life temporarily. You’ve done a good job of finding friends you don’t argue with, but just because you are all so close does not give you the right to be the mean girl. Don’t talk about anyone behind their back. Don’t leave anyone out because they’re different. One day, you will actually pride yourself in being different. And most importantly, treat everyone like they’re your friend. You never know what that person might be going through outside of school.

Now for a topic that probably still makes you cringe a little—boys. Oh, the things I could tell you. For starters, they won’t always want to chase you on the playground, make fun of you, pinch you, and pull your hair. But they will find other ways to hurt you. It’s not all bad, though. Right now, boys like you for your genuine smile, the way you can talk about football and ballet, your smarts, and that shy thing you’ve got going on. Enjoy this while you can, because one day you will wake up to find that they begin to notice shiny hair, tight clothing, and makeup. I’ll just warn you now—middle school is not your thing, darling. Some boys will never grow out of that stage. Some boys weren’t ever in it, but you chose to overlook them. Through high school you’ll think your dating life is full of drama, then when MTV’s 16 and Pregnant starts airing, you’ll realize that your life was far from drama-filled. By the time you’re twenty, though, most boys will come back around to looking at your smile, your smarts, and everything else you have going for you. Just make sure you’re still keeping an eye out for the ones that never grew up. Some final thoughts for you—you’ll kiss a lot of frogs, feel at your highest high and lowest low, doubt yourself and fix yourself, but in the end it will all be OK, and you will be as happy as that 5th-grade Valentine’s Day when all the boys brought you candy and love letters.

You’re a very fortunate little girl who will have so many opportunities and adventures in her future. You can’t imagine yourself doing anything but teaching 5th grade after graduating from college…ultimately you landed right where you expected. So don’t sweat the small stuff right now, because in the end it will all work out. Hold onto to your childhood doll at night just a little bit tighter; who cares if you’re almost 12? Make time to play with your brother still, even if he isn’t as important as your friends at the moment. Hug your parents, grandparents, and family every time you see them. Tell them you love them. Try new things and do your best not to worry all the time. Life is not like The Sims—you cannot control every aspect of it (or get tons of money using “rosebud”) no matter how badly you wish you could. In the future, you’ll have days where you will just feel numb, like there’s no point to it all and the world is out to get you. In those moments look back to these simple times and remember what made you into the person you’ve become—your friends, your family, your dedication—because that person is truly amazing.

Love,

Nicole

P.S. You should really stop playing The Sims. It lies to you about pretty much everything in life. TC mark

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