There was a trending topic on Twitter over the last couple of days, called “tweet your 16 year old self.” It was both poignant and hilarious and I really enjoyed reading people’s thoughts. I couldn’t really think of one for myself, because 16 was actually pretty non-eventful. At least in context to the year before. 15 was a pretty tough year. If I could go back, she would be the one I would want to go and hug first.
I was born in a province that is not this one, and it is halfway across the country. We lived there until I was 15, when we had to move here for my dad’s business. At the time, it was one of the worst things I could have thought to happen to me, being taken away from my friends and everything familiar to me, away from the city I thought I would spend my whole life in, to go to this awful new place, where everyone would be snotty and mean (or so I thought), where I just wouldn’t fit in. To top off the awkward phase I was in the throes of, it was a pretty awkward year to move. Where I was, you finished junior high in grade 9 and then moved onto highschool. Where I was going, everyone had already started highschool in grade nine. They’d had that year to form their cliques and their groups. How was I ever going to find anywhere to fit in?
We at least got to finish our school year before the move. I couldn’t let myself think of it, until there was nothing left to do but go. My friends threw me a surprise going away party and soon after that we were on our way. My sister and I stopped on the way to stay with our grandparents while our parents went ahead to set everything up.
Once we got to our new home, it took a lot of getting used to. The scenery and topography were so different, we experienced humidity for the first time, saw these weird, humongous June bug things swarm and it could not have felt more unlike home. We were no longer near anyone we knew. I spent a lot of that summer indoors, angry and scared.
School started and I found the people I came into contact with much nicer than I had thought they would be, I don’t know why I was surprised by this, but I was (it’s easy to create monsters when we don’t know what we are facing). However, try as I might, I was having a hard time making friends. I could never find a group of people I was comfortable to be with over lunch period, which had always been my worst fear about going to this new school. I imagined myself wandering the cafeteria, sitting alone, or in the wrong spot, or taking an “established” spot without knowing. I decided I was going to avoid going at all. In the beginning, it was easy. It was still warm and I could take my lunch outside, with whatever book we were reading in English class and look like I wanted to be alone. I wondered what I would do once winter came and as the fall wore on, I was eventually chased inside by the colder weather. I spent time at my locker after that, the halls were quiet and deserted and I was able to still make it look like I was totally okay with being alone. Like I meant for it to be that way. I had never been so caught up in my homework. I started thinking I may just have to spend my highschool years like that, biding my time until I could go back to my “real home.”
Then one day, I was at my locker at lunch as usual and a pair of feet walked past me, stopped and turned around. I looked up and there was J, introducing herself to me. We chatted for a few minutes and she invited me to join her and her friends and really was not taking no for an answer (I don’t think I really resisted, you can only take so much of your own company). Thanks to her, I fell in with a group of girls that were funny and kind and part of my social circle for the majority of highschool. Through them I met others and joined things and had some really nice experiences (in highschool! I know! Crazy stuff). While it had its up and downs and I certainly don’t consider high school my glory days, it was a much better experience than it could have been and I owe so much of that– all of it, really– to J.
J and I remained friendly, but got into different things and I hadn’t talked to her in years; however, I have always remembered what she did for my poor lonely self all that time ago. Recently, we got back in touch on Facebook (of course Facebook!) and I was able to finally thank her for it. For whatever motivated her to stop and talk to me that day, I will be forever grateful.
So yeah, I would go back and hug my 15 year old self, and tell her that everything will be okay. That she will make friends and come to think of this place as home; that she will live in several different cities and that each one will be an adventure, but that it is here that she will choose to return (and yes, I totally expect her to look at me like I am crazy, sometimes I still can’t believe it myself). But most of all, I will tell her that when a nice girl named J asks her to go and have lunch, don’t question it, just follow her there. It will be good.