Dear Teenage Kate
Photo: Kate-Christine Miller
Dear Teenage Kate,
Thanks for getting me through. Some nights were close calls, and those nights still stay with me thirteen years later. You called everyone you knew, you threw the note in the trash, you put on your favourite song, you drew a picture of a woman coming out of the sky to save you, you did what you had to do.
Most of those things people around you are trying to make you feel ashamed of are actually you fighting for the things you need. You didn’t enter high school with the firmest of foundations, but you never gave up. You didn’t accept that the world had rejected you and you insisted on being seen and recognized. You made up lies, dressed inappropriately, talked back in class, and landed in the principal’s office with alcohol on your breath. You literally kicked and screamed until someone heard you. I don’t know where you found the energy but I’m so glad you did.
You never backed off, never found solace in movies or books (it’s ok that you don’t read, there will be so much time for that later). You didn’t pour yourself into monotonous schoolwork seeking validation. You can’t sit still in class and you never do your homework and you don’t know what the teacher said. None of these things mean you’re not intelligent. You just have too much on your mind to slow it all down and study biology. You’ll slow it down eventually, don’t worry.
I don’t know what to say to you about men right now. If you’re reading this at fifteen or seventeen or nineteen, I’m so sorry about everything that’s happened to you. Listen to the voice inside your head that says “get the hell out of here.” You’re not indebted to anyone except that voice.
You were raised in a world that taught you that the attention of men was the most important thing for you. Don’t hate yourself for seeking it, even as it keeps failing to make a dent in the gaping hole in your chest that you feel the breeze through all day long, even as you know you’ve stayed too long and what’s happened isn’t ok or even legal.
Stop testing your friends. They aren’t the bullies who made your elementary education a waking nightmare. They like you. They think you’re hilarious and smart. Listen to them, don’t envy them.
Don’t forget that the you who makes the little kids laugh at daycamp, who plays basketball, who dances while doing dishes with your brothers, and who goes for a long walk in the neighborhood with your best friend eating strawberries and talking about growing up is also you. You’re not only a dark cloud.
Get the hearing aids. Tell the counsellor the truth. Hug your baby brother.
Love, Adult Kate
PS. If you’ve got some extra emotional energy after reading this, maybe consider why you might keep that Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue under your mattress…