I thought about writing this letter to a select few of you, the kids whose faces and stories I remember and can relate to in my own way. But I decided to write to all of you. Because even if I were to address this to just one person, it would truly be for every teenager who sat through the telling and retelling of this story with us.

You guys are not getting enough credit. Being an adolescent is so hard. The stuff you guys deal with- from each other, from the adults in your life, from your family... all of it is complex and messy and unique. Just like the rest of life. But you guys are at such a disadvantage right now, it’s crazy. You don’t have the rights, the freedom, the money, the means, or the straight up wisdom and experience, to create the life you want to live. The expectations you have to live up to, all the hard work and hard time laid out on the road before you... it’s a lot.

I remember the feeling I couldn’t picture my future. Couldn’t see myself doing the things everyone expected me to do. Go to college, study abroad, work a fucking internship, whatever other “choices” I had that felt more like burdens. I felt stuck between this ticking time bomb of “I can’t wait till I’m just OLD enough” to this ticking time bomb of “holy shit don’t make me go”. I ended up living there for a long time, well into my twenties. I was afraid. Afraid to fail. To try. To look dumb or mess up.

If I could give you guys one universally applicable piece of advice, it’s don’t get stuck thinking you can’t create the life you believe in. Even if you haven’t seen anyone live it yet. It’s still possible. Even if your parents have only shown you one way. Even if that way was really messed up. Even if that way included drugs or drinking. You’ve got power, you’ve got choices. You get to say no. And don’t despair if you feel like you don’t know what the future looks like. It doesn’t mean it won’t come. It will come. It may take a long time. Try to be patient and try to stay kind to yourself. You’re doing so good right now.

I love you,

Rachel