Dear 17-year-old me,

Right now, you’re probably sitting at Bakers Square in Homewood, choking down watered-down coffee, pretending to study and reading your friends’ terrible poetry. I imagine that you’re stressing out about getting into the College of Your Choice, the nightmarish indignities of gym class and the fact that the boys you like never like you back.

You’re probably also wondering why I’m writing to you from 20 years into the future. Well, sweetie, I just got a message over email (a passing fad, don’t ask) about our 20th high school reunion next year, and it got me thinking about you and where you thought you’d be when you got to be me. (Clearly, we still have a way with words.)

I’ve got some good news and some bad news about the next 20 years. You did get into the College of Your Choice, despite the fact that your oh-so-helpful guidance counselor told you that you’d “never get into U of I.” In several months, you will prance into his office holding aloft your acceptance letter like it holds the Honor of Greyskull.

You eventually got over your severe, gym class-induced aversion to physical activity, though your friends still snicker when they see you in workout clothes. 

And those boys you like? They’re gay. That’s the bad news for now. The good news for the future is that so are you!

You aren’t married, you don’t have kids and you, thank goodness, don’t still live in Homewood. (Sorry, Mom.)

Those mean girls who currently bully you are likely now mean women who bully their unfortunate children. Your revenge includes ignoring them when they try to friend you on Facebook (about Facebook, see above re: passing fad).

Fortunately, you are still friends with almost all of the brilliant non-mean girls around you, and most of you still know all the words to “Vogue,” “Parents Just Don’t Understand” and anything by Depeche Mode.

And you’ve fulfilled a bunch of your dreams: You live in Chicago, you’ve traveled all over the world and you became a journalist. As I write this, you’re the editor of an online feminist magazine that’s penned, in part, by your high school besties. (It’s like Sassy for grown-ups!) 

The years haven’t always been kind, and you’ve changed a lot, but you’ve managed to hold on to a lot of who you are. You still believe in fighting the good fight and in the power of the printed word.

Perhaps most importantly: 99.9 percent of the things that keep you up at night now (including math class) don’t matter a furry rat’s fanny to your future. Stop worrying and enjoy this time of your life.

You’re still dreaming 20 years later, and looking back has helped you look forward. 

To 57-year-old me, I trust that you do us proud.

In Rebellion,
Karen at 37

Karen Hawkins

Karen Hawkins is the Founder and Rebelle in Chief of Rebellious Magazine. She is a recovering mainstream media reporter and editor who wants to thank her former boss for naming the online magazine she's...

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