Thirteen is a big year for you. You will have your first kiss, your parents will present you with the idea of moving to Australia (you will say no), you will spend another summer at a camp full of girls who make you feel bad about yourself and you will devote most of your time there struggling for their attention and acceptance.
This is the year you will also begin to lie to your parents. You will lie in new ways, using it as a means to go to parties, see boys, and increase your popularity. Lying will become your biggest enemy – it will beat you down and tear apart your heart each time you do it. Not only will you lie to others but you will also lie to yourself. You will fall into traps of popularity and compliance when who you really want to be is someone entirely separate from this false reality.
Because I have had some time to think about your life choices, I feel obligated to offer you the following advice:
Just as how many women might advise their thirteen-year-old selves, I want to tell you to love yourself. However, I am not sure if you are yet able to understand what that means. To love yourself is the idea that who you are and what you have to offer this world has worth – infinite worth that can be used to make your community, your country and your world a better place. You are so smart and the leader inside of you is screaming to get out of the prison that you have created for yourself.
Even at the young age of thirteen, you have already let the ideas and opinions of others define who you choose to be in this life. Do not continue to give them that power. Most of the people whose opinions you care about now will not matter in a few years time. What does matter is the character of your being and the people and the practices that you choose to invite into your life – the ones who will help cultivate the beautiful being that you are.
As for the lying, the constant deception will exhaust you and bring such shallowness to your life that it will affect everything and everyone else around you. Your mother will start to see a therapist and your sister will consider suicide. This is not entirely your fault and everyone will be okay, but please know that your actions have an enormous potential to impact those that you love. You are not as small as you think.
For this reason, choose honesty. Choose to be real with the people that you love. Not necessarily for their sake (although caring for others is important), but for your own. Be truthful with yourself and do not be afraid. The real you is a beautiful person and during the next few years you will feel scared and trapped within a reality that is not your own.
Let yourself breathe! You have confidence buried deep down in your soul that you have yet to discover. Dig deep and grab on to it. Do not let go. Let your confidence blossom and use it to say “NO!” to bad friends and even worse, bad boyfriends.
Speaking of boys… I know that the euphoric feeling you get from their attention helps to numb the difficulties of being a teenager, but this feeling can also lead to decisions that will weigh heavily on your heart for years to come. You will lose your virginity in just two years from now to someone who will only be in your life for a very short time. During this time, he will find ways to hurt you and grind your solid rock of confidence down into fine grains of sand. He will teach you that you need to look a certain way to be attractive. He will show you what you think you deserve – other boys like him – misogynistic, judgmental, and completely unaware of your worth. You will continue to crave and seek their attention, using your body while putting your sharp mind on a dark shelf where it will hide with your confidence until, many years later, you find the strength to dust them both off and finally put them to use.
This is a lot of heavy information, and it may scare you. I want to scare you. I want to shock you out from behind the walls that you have built around yourself. I know that right now you are not happy. You put on a good show but I can see the growing well of sadness in your eyes. You can begin healing now by spending as much time as possible on self-love, on your family, and on the hobbies and ideas that you are passionate about. Read books, go hiking with Uncle Doug and talk to Mom and Dad more –they are dying to meet the real you. And so is everyone else, so go out there and introduce the real Saskia to the world. Be happy and be free.
I love you and I support you. Your family loves and supports you. Find the courage to love and support you.
Saskia Layden is a world traveler who teaches yoga to the children of Still Waters in Storm, a literacy and arts program for low-income children in Bushwick. She believes that yoga has the potential to be a very powerful force in children’s lives, giving them the space to play, move, relax and recover from busy and stressful days. She feels that teenage girls in particular can benefit from yoga, using it as a tool to cultivate self-love, confidence and value for the beautiful and strong beings that they are. Saskia earned her 200 hour teaching certification from Loom Yoga Center in Bushwick and she most recently completed a training with The Lineage Project, a program that uses mindfulness and self-empowerment practices to break cycles of poverty, violence and incarceration among youth in various neighborhoods throughout New York City.
Saskia has a Master’s degree in International Education from New York University and works part-time for the Queens College Office of Global Education Initiatives. She speaks Spanish and Portuguese as a result of high school and college experiences abroad in São Paulo, Brazil and Madrid, Spain. Since then, Saskia has lived, worked, and backpacked through many countries around the world.