Dear Teenage Maranda
Photo: Maranda Elizabeth / Art: Erin McPhee
Dear Teenage Maranda,
I’d like to sit down and listen to you; I think that’s what I’ve been doing the last few years. I’ve been writing for you, writing the words you wish you could find. The stuff you’re going through is not just a phase. Your interests in witchcraft, cosmetics, zines, and mental illnesses will make more sense as you survive your teenage years, and then your twenties. (I know you thought you’d be dead by now!)
You’re going through a lot of bullshit right now. You’ve dropped out of high school, and you either can’t sleep, or can’t get out of bed. You hate your clothes, your body, and your life. That stuff’s still gonna be happening “when you grow up.” I put those words in quotations because, at twenty-eight (you didn’t join The 27 Club!), you still don’t feel grown up, nor do you expect to anymore. But right now, as a teenager, you think you’ll feel like an adult when you enter your twenties, and that you’ll share an apartment with your best friends, like on Friends. It doesn’t work out like that, but don’t worry, you’re figuring it out. When you’re older, you’ll have a better vocabulary to process it all. You’re smart, but there are a lot of words and ideas you don’t know yet.
You don’t know words like genderqueer or femme. You don’t know the meaning of words like trauma or abuse. You don’t know what it’s like to be listened to. That feeling you’ve always had, that ending up in the mental hospital is inevitable? It is. You’ll lose count of all the times you’ve been locked up on psych wards. And that other strange feeling, like you’re not a girl but don’t wanna transition and be a boy? That’ll make more sense, too. I wish I could tell you right now.
The thing is, you are actually living through so many stories. As a teenager, you’re writing stories about the people you wish you were; in your twenties, you’re writing stories about the person you actually are, and get this: People fucking pay you to read them! You’re gonna travel! You’re gonna write so much more!
Depression is gonna nearly kill you. I’m sure you know that already, and I’m sure it feels like nobody cares. You scream a lot and you don’t know why, and you’re scared of just about everybody. You wanna run away but you don’t know where or how. You’re cutting up your arms with broken glass and stolen razorblades. You can’t write anything in your diary anymore because privacy doesn’t exist for you. This depression is gonna follow you the rest of your life. If you think you’re exhausted now, wait ‘til you move out on your own, wait ‘til you have more scars, wait ‘til you’re locked up – like, literally, wait. Because I think it might be worth it.
Despite all these constant messes, you’re also gonna live the life you’ve been dreaming of. Wanna know what I’m up to these days? I just moved into an apartment on Queen Street West in Toronto, the legendary street that every adult in your life is telling you you’d fit right in (it’s a different street than the one you’re learning about watching MuchMusic all day and staying up and watching Showcase all night, but you’ll be able to find those elements as well). And guess what? You’re gonna become a published writer. Your favourite writers will invite you to read with them, and you’ll give your first book (there’s more than one!) to members of your favourite band, Hole. You’ll learn new words, and create a few new words, too.
You will feel connected to your past in strange and magical ways. You’ll cast more spells, grow plants, ride many bikes, make new friends, get a passport, get a whole lot of tattoos, meet the artists you admire, and even become an artist that other people admire. They’ll ask you for your autograph! You will dye your hair the perfect shade of purple, and you’ll be so busy being creative and taking care of yourself that you won’t even have time to read every book you wanna read, write everything you wanna write.
You’re still here. You still sign your name with two hearts.
Love, “Grown-Up” Maranda <3 <3