I’ve been thinking a lot about life and where I’m headed in the future lately. I was wondering where I’d be and what I’d be doing in ten years from now, and it made me think, what was going on in my head ten years ago? Well, ten years ago, I was fourteen. I was still a child. (Though, 14-year-old me would not like to hear me calling her that!) I thought I had everything figured out about what I wanted from life, but here I am, ten years later, and I’m still working things out. I got to thinking about what I would say to myself at fourteen, and decided to write a letter to 14-year-old Ken. I think she would have appreciated it.
I remember being so lost then, so I wish that I had a queer woman who had lived a bit more of life to offer me advice and encouragement. It wasn’t always easy to get through each day, and so I tried to write a letter that would have given 14-Year-Old Ken more hope for the future. Maybe there are queer teen girls out there who need to hear what I would say to my younger self, and maybe I’m just writing this for my own comfort, but either way, here it is.
Dear 14-Year-Old Ken,
I know life is tough right now, but you’re on the right track. Everything is confusing and frustrating at this point in your life, and it’s going to be kind of awful to get through it all, but you’ll make it to the other side in one piece.
There is so much that I need to tell you, and some of it you would never believe in a million years. Where do I even start? I could go on forever about all the things I’ve learned in a decade, but I’m going to try to keep it to the most important stuff. I could tell you about school and all the struggles you will go through and how your career path will change a hundred times… I could tell you about all the things you haven’t done, and all the things you have that you would have never dreamed of doing. I could tell you about the people you’ll fall in love with, and fall out of love with, and the woman you’re going to marry… but, like I said, we’ll try to stick to the things I remember being important to you. I seem to remember feelings of sadness, struggle, loneliness, confusion…boy, have we come a long way.
I’m sure you have questions about sexuality. I don’t blame you. Figuring that out was a process! Let’s start there.
Yes, you’re queer. And I mean queer in every sense of the word. (You almost call this blog Queerly Ken, so that’ll tell you something.) You’re a big gay weirdo, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You’ll come to discover that you aren’t really attracted to men, so you can go ahead and let go of the potentially small amount of normalcy you’re hoping for by labeling yourself as bi. Being bisexual is perfectly valid, but you, my dear, are not bi. You’re queer. A lesbian, you could say, but I prefer using “queer” since it encompasses so much more. You’ll figure it out eventually, though. Let’s just say that thinking a person has good traits is not the same as attraction, but don’t worry about it too much. (I know, I know…easier said than done!) It’ll all make sense in a couple of years, I promise!
And listen, I know you desperately want to be dating, but that will come in your future. Every queer kid I know who grew up in our time had to do a little more searching and a little more waiting than the straight kids. It’s okay. For now, focus on being the best version of yourself that you can be, and love and acceptance will come to you. Yeah, you’ll have moments when all you want is to have a relationship like your peers, but having a girlfriend won’t define who you are. You define who you are.
Mom and dad will come around. I won’t go into any details on the world wide web, but I can say that they love you so much and they’d do almost anything in the world for you. They’re people just like you who have had experiences and struggles (I mean, everyone has!) and they always have your best interests in mind, even if you don’t always agree with them. You’ll have disagreements, but people who love each other won’t always agree on everything. (By the way, if you’re reading this, mom and dad, I love you a lot and I’m so thankful for everything you’ve done for me.)
I know right now it feels like you have a huge weight on your shoulders because you want to let the world know who you really are, but you’re scared. It’s a terrifying thought that you could be met with disgust and hatred because you want to date girls instead of boys. I know coming out publicly is the ultimate (yet horrendously scary) goal right now, but the vast majority of people will give nothing but kindness and support. Especially those who matter the most. You’ll slowly find out that there are a lot more queer people around you than you previously thought. You just figured it out about yourself a little sooner than most. Also, you don’t just come out once; you come out over and over again throughout your whole life. Every time you start a new job, or take a new class, or basically meet any new person, you have to come out all over again. Eventually it becomes less scary, and you get used to it after a while. It’ll be as easy as slipping “my girlfriend and I…” into a conversation. You’ll deal with a handful of jerks (like that one guy in high school who will continuously use the term “f*g” while sitting in front of you on a bus on a school trip) but like I said, the people who matter will stick by your side, and defend you, and comfort you when the jerks come around.
You’ll come to find out that there are so many people who are different like you. (Not just in a gay way, either!) Beautiful, weird, wonderful people. There are people out there who think strange thoughts and have wild imaginations like you. There are people who wear bright colors and mismatched socks and who love musicals. There are people who will like the fact that you’re weird and loud and brassy! There are people who are weirder and louder and brassier than you! And you’ll love them to bits. You’ll love every second you spend with these strange and spectacular humans. You’ll meet so many amazing people, and you’ll wind up with the best friends you could ever imagine. Bosom friends, as Anne of Green Gables would say. You know some of them already, and you’ll come to know many more with time. These people will be your greatest gift as you get older. Cherish every moment you have with them.
You are so lucky to have these bosom friends, but I know sometimes you will still feel alone. That feeling will creep in sometimes, no matter how many wonderful people you have in your life. There will be days when that feeling sits on your chest and holds you hostage. That’s your depression. You’ll get to know your depression extraordinarily well in the next decade, as well as depression’s friend, anxiety. I won’t lie, they suck. A lot. They try to take away anything good in your life. With time, though, you’ll learn how to cope, with medication, therapy, and a good support system. You will have bad days, you’ll have awful days, you’ll have amazing days, and every kind of day in between. You’ll realize that the good days make life worth living. Sometimes you’ll be sad, apathetic, enraged. You’ll be confused, scared, and frustrated. Sometimes you’ll question if you still want to go on living. You’ll even experience these awful things called panic attacks that will make your heart beat so fast that you feel like you’re going to die. But you know what? You’re going to survive. You’re going to get help. You’re going to feel better than you ever have when you’re 24. If there is nothing else I could say to you, I would tell you: Please, please, always keep going.
I know some days it’ll feel like it’s not worth it. But it is. Life becomes worth it when you find wonderful friends, when you find someone you love and who loves you back, when you accomplish great things. You’ll sift through a lot of dirt and rocks, but it’s worth it for the gold you’ll acquire over time. Soon enough you’ll find yourself surrounded by riches. Not real gold, or money, or jewels, but a vast amount of friends, experiences, interests you adore, opportunities, and memories. You’ll have everything you need within your grasp. It might seem far away, but it’s within reach.
Like I said, you’re on the right track. Keep chugging through.
With love, and as much curiosity as ever,
There are so many things that I could have said to myself at age 14, but this small letter seemed to cover the most important topics. It’s hard to believe how much can change over time. I have gone from someone who was confused and frustrated with living life, to someone who knows and understands things, and overall, is pretty happy with getting to go out and do things every day. I remember dreading leaving my bed every morning.
I was thinking of writing another letter to my future self, 34-Year-Old Ken. I wonder what she’s up to in the future… If that’s something you’d like to read, let me know in the comments! Thank you so much for reading this post.
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