A letter to Sally, aged 16

Writing-Workshop-Badge Dear 16 Year Old Me,

So, bad luck on getting sent home from school.

It probably wasn’t that smart to get drunk before double biology, even if Miss Stocks did make you stand up in class while she announced: “Class, this is what failure looks like.”

And if you don't mind me saying, it was a bit silly to keep that bottle of vodka in your own locker, particularly given the fact it was also where you were keeping your stash of faked absence notes. Muppet.

On the bright side, it might not seem like it, but your parents really are going to get over it. Eventually.

Over the next 20 years, you’re going to get a bit smarter. For starters, you’ll realise that parachute pants tucked into pixie boots are never an acceptable fashion choice, and that the whole Richard Marx thing? Is just a really, really unfortunate phase.

In other news, guess what? You’re going to have sex. I know, right? Actual sex, with an actual person of the opposite sex. I know that after five years of all girls’ education this seems like a distant and impossible dream, but you are actually going to do IT. Several times, in fact.

Right now, I know you’re pretty miserable. You feel like you’re not wired the same way as other people, and you worry about whether your unconventional start in life somehow shows, that everyone else is better at this stuff than you. You think that drinking and ditching school to hang out in strange cities and university libraries will make you feel happier, but it won’t. Especially if you keep reading Thomas Hardy and JD Salinger. 

The good news is that skipping school isn't a big loss. You're not missing much. Honestly? You’re never going to need quadratic equations again. Ever. Or moles. But you’ll never regret knowing all the words to every single Smiths album and being able to quote They Might Be Giants off the top of your head.

In another year you’ll be heading off to University and it’s all going to be so, so much better. You’re going to meet other people who don’t quite fit in, and you’ll realise those are the best sort of people to know. You’re going to have some of the most amazing, interesting, funny and smart friends anyone ever had. Honest. 

Some day, you’re going to get to live in the places you dream of, and you’re going to travel. In the next 10 years you’ll work in Canada, drink cocktails in New York, sail on a steamboat down the Mississippi, ride a snowmobile in Finland, almost get run over in Paris, stay in a palace in Italy, and go swimming in Casablanca. It’s going to be awesome. Just wait and see.

Sally, aged 35

PS: Make the most of your brother. He’s not going to be around forever, and when he’s gone you’ll miss him every day.

[This post is written as part of Josie from Sleep is for the Weak's weekly writing workshop. Head on over there to join in!]


Sally is a full-time blogger and founder of the Tots100, Trips100, Foodies100 and HIBS100 communities, along with the MAD Blog Awards. She spends a bit too much time on the Internet. She’s also a very happy Mum to Flea, the world’s coolest ten year old.

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  1. 1st December 2009 / 12:05 pm

    What a great post, and it made me cry too. I sometimes wish the future me had written to the past me just to let me know that it wasn’t as bad as it seemed.
    The now me however, does frequently write to the future me… that makes fun reading!

  2. 1st December 2009 / 1:12 pm

    OMG that bit about your brother made me cry – so sad. I don’t think I can bring myself to write that letter….not sure I’d want to bother if I knew then what I know now!! Lx

  3. 1st December 2009 / 1:33 pm

    What a great post, it riased so many emotions and left me in tears.

  4. Liz (LivingwithKids)
    1st December 2009 / 3:11 pm

    Brilliantly written, and brought tears to my eyes x

  5. 1st December 2009 / 6:32 pm

    Love this post. I certainly wouldn’t go back to being 16 again. What a difficult age. I hope my boys have a better time of it than I did…but then again, I guess sometimes it is the angst and petty rebellion and feeling like you don’t belong that ultimately creates a stronger woman in the long run. I wonder if we will all be writing similar letters to our 35 yr old selves when we are 70?

  6. Sally
    1st December 2009 / 7:25 pm

    @Pippa – Cripes, what do you say to the future you?
    @Family Affairs – Thanks, I don’t know – I think most things in life are better than how bad you imagine life is when you’re 16…
    @MadHouse & @Liz – Thanks, it wasn’t really written to make anyone cry, I promise!
    @Nicola – Absolutely. as I tell my parents when they bring up the “Sally being kicked out of school” story for the 10 millionth time – all the most interesting people are weird teenagers. It’s practically the law.

  7. 1st December 2009 / 7:26 pm

    Lovely lovely post. If only we knew then what we know now eh?
    I used to know all the words to We Might Be Giants too, wish they hadn’t been edged out of my brain by all those nights settling tiny babies.
    Your PS has just made me appreciate my brother a whole lot more, so thank you.

  8. 1st December 2009 / 7:55 pm

    Wow. Just that. Wow.

  9. Muummmeeeee!
    1st December 2009 / 8:43 pm

    Brilliant post and the ending caught me by surprise – really sad x

  10. 2nd December 2009 / 3:09 am

    Very emotional post.
    “Why is the world in love again? Why are we marching hand in hand? Why are the ocean levels rising up? ….”

  11. 2nd December 2009 / 4:49 pm

    what a lovely post. Loving the bit about sex, forgot how desperate everyone was to do “IT” at that age.

  12. 2nd December 2009 / 7:12 pm

    That got me too! I am so glad I’ll never see 16 again. There again I’m pretty glad I won’t see yesterday again as well! Wonderfully written had forgottne how mcuh Vodka people drank at school – possibly because it wasn’t meant to smell – Lethal stuff! 🙂

  13. 2nd December 2009 / 10:43 pm

    I hope you’ve got the they Might Be Giants kids albums. it’s excellent stuff.
    I’m tempted to do this myself, although mine would basically consist of “don’t be scared of talking to girls you idiot”

  14. 2nd December 2009 / 11:07 pm

    I love your 16 year old self and find myself wishing my 16 year old self could have bumped into you. I could have told you about sex with boys and you could have told me how to fake absence notes and drink Vodka. I reckon we’d have been quite a team…
    So sad about your brother 🙁

  15. Mummytips
    3rd December 2009 / 12:20 am

    Really… knowing the lyric to every Smiths song ever written really isnt as rare as you would think but really does set you up for a pub quiz knowledge beyond your 16 year old dreams.
    cool post.xx