To My Seventeen-Year-Old Self

Hello! This is your older self writing to you. I just thought that I would take the time to send love your way because I know that you are very frustrated and sad.

I am going to tell you some things that people should be telling you now, but aren’t. I am going to be a bit blunt; I hope you don’t mind. Know that I say this with kindness in my heart.

You don’t have to wear bras. You don’t have to wear tight jeans or form-fitting clothes. Wear what you want. Do not sacrifice your comfort levels for social acceptance. You’re worth it, babe.

That quote on the wall near the library from Eleanor Roosevelt? “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”—remember that? I think it’s true, but nobody tells you the tricks to not feeling inferior. From my short experience, I feel it’s about cultivating a sense of “not giving a fuck,” which takes a lot of conscious work and failure.

Which leads me to another subject: failure. It is okay to fail. I know your journalism teacher, Ernie, informed you of this (to your aghast dismay) but this is a gentle reminder. Failure happens. It teaches you important stuff but you have to look for the lesson. But don’t disregard your feelings simply to learn something. Take care of yourself, too.

You will find way better friends once you leave high school (don’t worry though, Ernie and Amy will still be your good buds). You will meet people who have similar values, interests and goals; they will like you for the adorable, polite, generous human that you are. You will meet people of various gender expressions who will want to kiss you. You will have the option to say yes or no, please remember that. You can even be shy and say, “maybe later!” That’s okay too.

You can also not have sex for as long as you want. There is no requirement that you have to have sex by a certain age. That is just social pressure. I know that sex makes you uncomfortable, it actually is for a lot of people.

You’ll start acquiring tattoos—I promise. I know you’re impatient for that. For your life to start. It will. It is.

School is boring. It’s not challenging. I know you know that, that you’re bouncing off the walls of your brain hating grade 11 because your classes have 30 people in them and your teachers cannot spend time to provide you with challenging material. You’ll feel this way in university too. Find balance elsewhere.

Good for you for choosing to tutor other students.

Keep hanging out with Ernie because he is a good teacher who cares about you. Listen hard when he tells you that being gay is okay. Pay attention to when Ms. Claude, your English teacher, plays spoken word videos in class. Those will speak to you.

Those foolish cruel people who tease you? They are not worth it. Do your own shit, even if it’s nerdy, like drawing zombies in the library at lunch hour with socially awkward dudes. They’re nice.

I would like you to know that it’s okay to dislike your body. It’s okay to daydream and wish for another body. Do pay attention to your body and think about what makes you hate locker rooms and gym class so much. Your body knows a lot that your conscious mind doesn’t.

Keep writing, keep writing, keep writing. Your time at Vision newspaper will be worth something. I will let you in on a little secret: five years from where you are now, you will win Canadian University Press’s John H. McDonald award for student journalism, specifically for your work at your university’s left-wing newspaper.

Oh, speaking of left-wing, keep reading the Montreal Gazette and getting angry at stuff! It’s good for you. And yes, some of the stuff is weird and conservative and you’re allowed to feel uncomfortable and disagree. You’re allowed to disagree. It’s true: your opinion is valuable. It is yours and you are important.

Don’t feel guilty about leaving the church: they want you to feel guilty! They want sinners and homos to burn in hell! It’s all bullshit! Or something. Believe what you want, not what your mother wants (heck, you don’t even have to take what I say at face value, for all you know, I’m a vampire). You’ll figure out your spiritual beliefs as time goes on, and as you keep having interesting experiences.

You will have dark times and sweet times. Keep your chin up through it all and look for tender love, even if it’s just from your teddy bear and your dog. You are lonely and heartsick and those feelings are important.

Being 17 really just sucks sometimes! You’ll make it better because you’re smart enough to know bullshit when you see it.

You’ve got a good head on your shoulders, dear. Your classmates mostly consist of self-absorbed teenagers. But they’ll grow up and so will you. You know what? You can ignore all the jerks after high school. No one will try and cheat and steal your test answers after high school.

Another thing: you absolutely do not have to wear that dress. Fuck the dress. Go buy a suit! Please, insist. You would be happier for it.

I know that at the age of 17, you’re not into hugs, so I will simply offer you my presence. I love you.

I wish you peace; I wish you well.

Keep on keeping on,
Oliver

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