a letter to me at 17

by Natalie

Dear Natalie,

You will get accepted to college, so I advise you to save $800 and not apply to 15 schools (or was it 16?) because you are nervous that no one will accept you. I believe eight do, but I don’t really remember. I know you have no idea where you want to go, which is why anytime anyone talks about their school of choice you consider applying there as well. Case in point, Jess from Honors Genetics. Despite her enthusiasm, you don’t actually want to go to Virginia Tech. Now about that business degree. It doesn’t really work out quite like you planned, and no, you do not own a bakery. At least not at 23. Ever heard of a language called Arabic?

I know you hate it when people ask what it is you want to do with your life. We still dislike that question, and under pressure in a job interview recently, we answered it by saying that we want to be a foster mom. When we are 60. We’re planning to be wealthy and own lots of land  in Colorado. We’re not sure how we get there, but luckily this goal impressed the interviewer.

Oh, Colorado. Let’s talk about that. You do not live in Colorado. Sorry. I know you’re hell bent on getting there, but the University of Colorado is not actually going to happen for you, even though you’re still about a year away from an intense desire to go there. You still reside in New Jersey, but you’re contemplating a one year assignment in China. Scary. We don’t have to talk about it. While we’re talking about Colorado, you don’t own a truck. And you no longer harbor the desire to do so, although for one week in college you will have the opportunity to drive a Dodge Ram. You will discover, thanks to a night out at the bar with Chris, that the alignment on Jeeps sucks, and currently you are very happy with your Hyundai Elantra, which you have managed to not crash. Your driving gets much better, and do tell Dad that it is not a good idea to drop the collision insurance on his car come March.

Let’s talk boys. It’s November…ah. You’re talking to Steve. I’ll give you a little hint. He doesn’t text you everyday after school because he thinks you two are great friends. That one is awkward, and you do not handle it well. By that I mean that you lead him on, but bless, you really are ignorant. It takes about 5 more years for the fact to sink in that when a guy gives you an excessive amount of attention it’s because he’s into you. You will spend a lot of time in denial of this fact. It’s fine. I forgive you, because I know that we were really ugly from about 11 to 17, so we really don’t believe that guys are interested. You don’t get your first kiss until 19, and if I tell you how it happens you won’t believe me.

Drinking is great, although never in excess, but you no longer consider it a heinous crime, and actually quite enjoy going out to the bar. You have been drunk a couple of times, and you have smoked cigarettes. I don’t regret this, but I’m sure you’re disappointed in us right now. You grow up a bit, and lose the pretentious attitude. However, when you do start drinking I would advise you to not take shots; they cause you to do things like throw cake, or scream while running away from a man on the dance floor. That one happens with Courtney, and she will never let you forget it. Ever. You will stop talking to AJ, but he never really leaves your life, and now you two have a wonderfully complex relationship, in the sense that neither of you are really sure how it functions. When he comes to the diner in July you should probably acknowledge his presence. You still talk to about 5 people from high school, and the people you were most concerned about staying in touch with have proved to be your best friends, so you can stop worrying.

Despite the fact that you currently own a 38 color variety pallete of eyeshadow, you don’t really wear much makeup anymore. In fact, you have a total transformation in college, and spend a decent amount of your first semester in converse and a baseball hat. Your best friend will be the coolest kid on campus, and you’ll get a little taste of being a hipster. Your mind will be blown by the wonderful realization of being in college, higher education, and figuring out this thing called LIFE. We look back fondly upon that period, but we don’t really become that type of person. You have a little stage where you’re a poser stoner. It’s not cool. It’s not that you pretend to smoke, it’s just that you look like you smoke. I wish you could still pull off the bandana look, but now you just feel stupid whenever you put it on. Becoming this awesome outdoorsy camp counselor does not happen, but you do find work at this little Italian Bistro, and you fall in love with everything there. If we’re honest, you like cooking food more than collecting firewood anyway.

Kyle will offer to go to prom with you, and Chris just isn’t worth it. Take a chill pill on that one. And tell Kyle no. Relish every single moment you have driving in the car with Katy. When you two decide to skip school to go try on prom gowns, don’t call yourselves out. Out of 800 kids in the 12th grade, the receptionist knows your mother’s voice, and isn’t fooled when you pretend to be her. You’ll still be talking about that concert in Allentown five years later, and in fact, it’s one of your fondest memories from high school. Looking back I can tell you that it all works out, although it’s entirely different than you ever imagined.