“To the sixteen year old who wanted to change the world”

I can see you standing at the edge of everything you know,
so ready to throw yourself at every opportunity.
You flex your fingers, nails bitten short,
everywhere but here, you think.

You’re sixteen years old, you have so many plans,
there is so much you want to do.
You’re gonna do it all.

But right now, you’re terrified of being alone,
so desperate to be part of a group that you’ll laugh at their jokes,
even when the jokes make your cheeks burn,
you’ll chant along to their songs,
even when the words make the hairs on your arms stand on edge.
Soon you’ll learn that your words are more valuable than that,
and most importantly, you’ll learn that you are capable of being on your own.

Right now, you don’t just carry your heart on your sleeve,
you have sown it onto your palm.
Every time you greet someone new, you give it away.
It’ll take you a few years, but you’ll get better at guarding it,
and you’ll start to learn to walk away when you need,
and persist when you must.

You’ll learn that not every opportunity is golden,
that not every acquaintance is going to help you grow.
The sooner you learn that, the sooner we can stop picking bad decisions out of our hair.

Stop being so adamant,
you know nothing of people’s lives.
You don’t know anything about the dreams they had to alter,
how they had to come to terms with what the future held and didn’t hold.
Instead, be kind, tread lightly on other’s challenges,
and try to leave every moment you visit a little bit better than you found it.

You give so much and expect just as much back,
but I will tell you right now, people do not work that way.
No one wants you to give them your all, to give yourself up for someone else;
making other people’s pain your own,
does no one any good.

And remember to let people know how you feel;
even the ones you love cannot read your mind.
You’ll be left with nothing but clenched teeth and a mouth filled with coal
if you always expect people to know what they did wrong.

But there is so much good in the world, and you will find it.
In places you never thought to look,
in friends that you won’t meet for years.

And come twenty-two, you won’t even believe where we are now,
you won’t believe the people we have in our life.
Soon you’ll sit on the kitchen floor
in a little house all on your own.
You’ll have your back up against a fridge covered in pictures
of new friends and old friends and places you have yet to see.

You’ll lean your head back, close your eyes,
and think about a day spent in a little cafe in a new city,
laughing until you had to clutch your stomach,
worried you’d laugh your lungs straight out of your chest.
You’ll think about nights spent dancing,
sugar under your shoes,
nightclub evenings with people you’ve known since you were children,
when life’s brought you down different paths, but never too far apart that a slice of cake and a cup of tea can’t bring you back together.

Right now, you want to change the world so badly.
You want to grow up, get out, see the world and everything it holds.
You want the taste of unfamiliar foods on your tongue,
strange new flavours and ideas,
you want to meet every soul that’ll ever change your life,
and all of that right this second.
I promise you, you will do all of that.

But let me tell you, growing up is happening fast enough.
And soon, you’ll stop biting your nails.
You will move to another country, you’ll sign up to societies and clubs and events,
you’ll enter so many rooms knowing no one and exit with more love than you know what to do with.
You’ll start writing poetry, and you’ll read it aloud for almost a hundred people.
You’ll take the train to new cities you conquer on your own.
You’ll start sitting in cafes all alone, watching leaves fall off the trees,
and you’ll discuss how you love, but never really understand, Shakespeare,
with new friends who you’ll write postcards to, for years to come.
You’ll call multiple towns your home and dream in more than one language.
You’ll see sunshine in a raincoat and change the world one new thought at a time.

It’s all gonna happen soon enough,
so take your time. You’ve got plenty of it right now,
and no reason to rush.

Love, a twenty-two year old who’s just starting to figure it all out

OctPoWriMo2018, the prompt for day 7 was “unsent letters”. Yes, I know day 7 was yesterday, but this took a long time to get right, and I didn’t want to post it before I was happy with it. Felt like I owed 16 year old me that much. Life has gotten a bit in the way for my October Poetry Writing Month and I haven’t posted a poem a day at all, but I’ll keep trying as best I can, and post the few poems that do come from this challenge.
This, however, felt both strange and wonderful to write at the same time. Packed full of cliches and abstracts, as a symbol of how nothing feels more cliched and abstract than being sixteen.

Have a wonderful day!
-Andrea

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