A Letter to my Younger Self


Senior Alyssa Bruening writes a letter to her 14-year-old self.

Dear 14-year-old Alyssa, 

Oh my, I feel like just yesterday you were walking through those doors for the first time, and now I’m almost about to walk out them for one last time. We’ve drifted apart over the years, I lost you somewhere between 2020-2022. I wonder where we’d be had I held onto you. How strong, how stable, how great. Would I be closer with God? Would I still be able to say I’ve never dabbled in the things I used to be so highly against? Would I be in the relationship I’m in now? Sitting here now I know I disappointed you. 

I feel like I’m one of those people you would go home and pray about. One of those people you would’ve given a quote and wrote down in that book, guessing what hurt them and analyzing how it affected them. Well lucky for you, you don’t have to guess on me. Let me tell you right now. We’ve been hurt by people we cared about. Your best friend from first grade let politics and religious beliefs affect the way she viewed you and you’re no longer friends. That boy that used to be able to brighten any bad day, you guys don’t talk anymore. Your aunt got cancer that wouldn’t quit spreading. You’ve never found a place you felt you belonged, and one of your first real friends killed herself. 

All that hurt turned to resilience, then the resilience needed a place to go and I decided to take control. I left the beaten path you paved. I don’t have straight A’s anymore. I haven’t been to church in a year, and I’ve gotten comfortable in my faith. I still pray and read the Word every night but I’m not nearly as close to God as you were, as I crave to be. Our hurt and this resilience has led to what you feared most, and what I still fear to this day. Just like the seasons, just like the leaves, we changed. Changed into someone I know you would want no part of. 

I myself am my greatest critic, and for some reason instead of viewing myself as the person I am now, I see myself through your eyes. But I don’t think you get to judge me, as most of my weaknesses come from you. My judgemental thoughts, my shame, my self-condemnation, the trust issues I have in my very good relationship, my tendency to push everyone away and drown in my struggles, it all comes from your view of the world. I don’t blame you for that, you don’t know anything else. You always thought that being alone would protect you, but instead it held us back for a long time. Your need to be perfect only caused disappointment when you couldn’t be. I don’t blame you, I empathize with you, because I once was you.

I wish you would’ve known what I know now because it would’ve eliminated the hurt I feel every single day. I don’t use your ignorance as a scapegoat to my mistakes; I know I’ve messed up. I know I’ve done things I shouldn’t have. I know I hurt myself with my actions. I know I should be closer with God. I know I should be less flexible with my vocalization of what I believe. I just refuse to condemn myself the way I would have three years ago. 

I listen to “worldly” music. I kiss my boyfriend. I stay out until midnight. I even cuss sometimes. Something I totally struggle with is my conformity. Something we used to be so highly against. The skill of being a chameleon in every group I’m in is one of my least favorite powers. My ability to pretend, but that’s something else I got from you. Always feeling like we have to be okay. From the time dad died to now, that’s something we still struggle with. 

Another thing we still deal with is the unnerving feeling that we don’t belong, which is a contributor to my conformity. Even with our “friends” we feel like barely anything. I still don’t enjoy this school with the stuck up population I’m around on a daily basis. Kids that make you feel so small, and so worried that it’ll follow you through the rest of your life. You start to understand why other people see sorrowful extremities as the only way out. Convincing yourself to just play along with the orthodox popularity contest that is high school, to just stay in your place, even though you’re drowning in discontent. Just because you need whatever it takes to make it through the day. I’m tired of forgetting everything I ever knew, or changing which Alyssa I am based on which group of people I’m with. 

I just wish you would’ve known then what I know now. You never need to change for other people. Somewhere on my path I forgot that. You don’t have to be perfect. You can put yourself first and not be ungodly or selfish. It’s no one else’s job to make you feel like you fit in with them, it’s not your job to accommodate other people to fit in with you, but it’s everyone’s job to make other people feel like they are people. Not everyone does that though. I wish you would know that people will talk, but you don’t have to listen. You surely shouldn’t waste time worrying about it. 

You’re gonna be criticized. You’re gonna be laughed at. You’re gonna be called names. You’re gonna be looked down on. You’re gonna be reduced to an age. A gender. A hair color. You’re gonna question yourself and everything you ever believed because of it. It’s gonna hurt. It’s gonna feel like that time you fell off the motorized scooter down that hill the summer before middle school. The scars of judgment are gonna last just like the ones on your knees did. But you’re gonna be okay. 

I know you think you’d be unhappy with the person we became, but believe it or not, we’re stronger. Not to mention, we’d secretly think present day me is actually a pretty cool person. I know you’d think Tyler is pretty cute. And you would love the friends we have now. We used to be green, but the cold turned you red. Unlike the leaves, instead of being dead you’re more alive than you’ve ever been. Despite the negativity you face, you secretly like the person you are. Despite the negativity, you’re actually a decent person. And lastly, don’t change a single thing about the way you live your life, because even the things I look back and wish I had changed, still brought something good. You’re gonna be okay. 


17-year old Alyssa