Warrior Words: The kids are all right
Dear 8th Grade Olivia,
Unfortunately, young Oliver, you either did not hand in your “Letter to My Future Self” to Mrs. Rubin or she is being very coy and not returning it to you. In any case, Mrs. Rubin says can’t find your letter in her box of all the other letters, or in the surrounding closet, or in any other year’s box. While you were inspired to respond to this letter like Tyus Southern did last year, you will be merely operating from a vague idea of how you once wrote and acted and what your dreams were, and even more vague ideas of what your family and friends said about you. Turn in that letter goshdarnit, I’m a curious girl!
Some things have happened in the past four years that would not surprise you: you made it to 18. You’re graduating in one month. You’ll be playing lacrosse at your dream college next fall. You have not been arrested. Your sisters are your best friends.
I don’t believe that people change. We’re tucked inside ourselves from birth like Russian nesting dolls and while yes, we are a summation of all experiences that have morphed the exterior, our core of genetics and parental supervision grows like celery.
But when writing this letter to you I couldn’t help but think that you’d be a bit disappointed in me now. You would be surprised to hear that at times you will occasionally abandon all sense of self and motivation that you once took pride in. You will not have a 4.0 and most certainly will not be in the running for valedictorian. I’m not even 100% sure how to spell “valedictorian,” as it turns out. You’re not going to Georgetown. Remember how mom tried to get us onto the high school debate team in eighth grade? Well, you will quit debate team and Model Congress before junior year because your confidence in your voice and your story will lapse.
If I remember correctly you were a bold, spunky little 13-year-old that your middle school teachers loved and apparently you would have “argued the phone book with someone, and won.” Maybe everyone else just grew up, or maybe you were never really a unicorn in academia and you’re being nostalgic. Maybe it’s their fault and you were told you were special just one too many times and now you’ll never live up to the expectations middle school you set for yourself. You no longer want to lead a revolution or become a humanitarian or live in a tree house commune or change the world. I don’t know what I want anymore.
When you explain this revelation to father Gary he will say that he can’t believe you just said that. Being less competitive is a sign of maturity and growth and realism. No one can have it all. It’s OK to not be the best!
Anyways, did I mention that you can skate now? You will pick up ice hockey your senior year. You’re not too bad, either, and the team is awesome. You also will try your hand at improv, math team, volleyball, mock trial, track. You will binge watch Game of Thrones and TED Talks and Grey’s Anatomy and most recently Friends. You will work a minimum-wage job and love it. Surprisingly, you will have a boyfriend who you actually care about and will be sad to leave when you go to Colorado for the summer on a whim, another huge surprise. Your friend group will change, but you’re still surrounded by an amazing group of supportive and loving gals. So please don’t be too disappointed with me, because life has expanded in so many ways. There’s much more to come for us.
A few pieces of advice for high school: say yes to everything. Put your phone down. Smile in the hallways. Eat whatever you want. Most importantly: be grateful for every single day you have in this beautiful little town, with all of its rivers and paths and teachers and friends, because it’s home.
See you soon,
Olivia Phelan is a senior at Wilton High School. She shares this column with four classmates.