First off, I’ll be announcing the winner of the Spew Story contest tomorrow morning on the blog so check back then!

And guess what? There’s another chance to win a personalized, signed copy of Tempest in this post, so keep reading!

In late 2010, I participated in the “Dear Teen Me” project, which is a group of authors writing letter to their younger self. The idea is full of awesomeness and since I still had the letter, I figured I’d post it today as a way to introduce the teenage version of Julie Cross to The Perfect Ten, my new teen advisory panel.

As I look back on the years that have passed between 1994 and now, I can hardly believe that was me and yet, that girl is still a part of who I am now. We all change but not so much that we can’t find pieces of ourselves in former versions. I consider it a sign of personal growth to look back and think how stupid my younger self was…hopefully all of you will be able to do the same in the years to come.

16 year old me in 1996

Dear Teen Me,

Okay, so I’m approaching this letter sort of like time-travel. Which means, I’m going to try to NOT tell you too much about the future because I know for a fact you remember poor Marty McFly disappearing in that picture of him and his family. And if you vanish, so do I.

I can’t remember exactly what occupied your mind or your time in 1993, but I know it’s not school work… aren’t you flunking Math? Since you’re not exactly in the smart Math like your best friend, you really shouldn’t be failing. What about English? You read the book, why haven’t you turned in the paper?

Alright, I’ll stop sounding like our mother. So you’re riding the “C” and “D” train. I get it. I will tell you one thing–it won’t be your demise. Despite the fact that many grownups in your life have told you (daily) that if your grades don’t improve you’ll be headed to community college via public transportation because everyone knows girls who don’t pass 8th grade Math never own a car. Ever.

Since I’m from the future and all, I know the one class you HATE worse than Math. Worse than English.

American History.

What if I told you, and I’m not saying it’s true since this could all be a big elaborate scheme conceived by the school counselor and our mother, but it’s possible that a few months from now, that “D” in American History will be an “A.” Your first “A” since early elementary school, before grades were actually based on completing assignments.

And that teacher who is really getting on your nerves, jumping up and down, being all excited about Colonel Sanders in The Civil War or whatever, he will eventually become one of your favorite teachers. Someone who will make school and academics three dimensional. Alive and real. Something that will stick with you long after 8th grade, long after high school. Long after college.

It will begin like this–the cool interesting vibe he brings to US History will spark your attention one day (when you’re slightly more awake than other days). Then he’ll make a reference to World War II and you’ll answer a question correctly because you’ll remember reading Number The Stars in 5th grade.

And just by paying attention and absorbing the material in class, you’ll manage a “B” on the next test and more importantly, before he hands out the tests, he’ll read a student’s essay question aloud as an example of an answer that received full credit. That essay will be yours and believe me, it will shock the hell out of you and everyone around you. But it will feel beyond amazing. Like hope. Like maybe, just for a little while each day, you can finally be the person your parents, your teachers, even your friends want you to be. But more importantly, you can be the person you’ve always wanted to be.

This is more than a good grade, more than a class, more than school. The experience you’re about to have will shape how you view yourself. After your essay is chosen as the perfect model and suddenly you have answers other students don’t, the world begins to turn. Flip upside down is probably more accurate. But when you walk into that classroom, for that semester and a half you have left of 8th grade, suddenly the words: loser, slacker, underachiever won’t exist. No one will be yapping about you not reaching your so-called “potential” because you’ll be there, riding that wave and loving every minute of it. Finally. Success is an amazing thing. So much better than potential.

I’ll leave you with one last tidbit of the near future. At the end of the school year, every teacher will sign your yearbook.

Two will actually write, “Wish you came to class on time more often… better luck in 9th grade.” Another will write, “Julie, you’re a smart girl. Hope to see you apply yourself in high school.” Your gym teacher will write, “Don’t forget your PE uniform next year!” An unnamed teacher will scribble a favorite message, “Wake up and pay attention, you might learn something on accident!”

But that one teacher that is driving you nuts with all his enthusiasm and ideas… he’ll write, “I expect great things from you in the future,” and he’ll mean it. And both of us know that no one ever says things like that to you.

One of the only regrets you’ll have, is not saying, “thank you.” Even years and years later (like when you’re 31) you’ll wish that you had said more.

So if you could, for me, take a minute away from the end-of-the-year excitement and tell your favorite teacher how much you appreciate what he does. Not just for you, but for everyone. It matters more than he could ever realize.

Thank you to all the teachers who followed this one. Every one of you has impacted my life in a way that left me with no regrets. Not everything went perfect, far from it, but every step was important. So younger me, enjoy the moment and soak in the success that you will see again someday, I promise. Even if it takes a while, it will happen.

Your 31 year old self


Okay, now for the contest! I’m going have this one just for the younger crowd, however International is fine…so Middle School, High school, or College (University) kids only. Write a short note, 250 words or less (and yeah, I know mine is much longer than that) to yourself, two years ago. Just a little bit of advice for that younger you. What would you change? What advice would you give him/her? Paste your note in the comment section of this post.

For this one, I’ll give you guys all the way until next Friday, March 2 at Midnight. I’ll announce a winner on Sunday, March 4. The Perfect 10 will be sharing there own notes in the comments.