This is an extraordinary little book, based on a simple but wonderful idea: What would you say to yourself if you came face-to-face with the sixteen-year-old you?
One of the many things that delighted and touched me as I read the letters that follow is the commonality of our human experience. Nearly everyone who wrote, whether their letter is jolly or poignant, seems to have looked back on their younger selves with compassion, remembering how vulnerable and dangerous an age sixteen is, for all the fun and freedom it is supposed to entail.
The overwhelming message of this body of letters seems to be: Be yourself. Be easier on yourself. Become yourself, as fully as possible.
Attempting to isolate those life lessons I could pass back to the girl I used to be was a truly illuminating exercise. It made me look at my seventeen-year-old daughter and remember, in a more powerful way than ever before, just how raw and vivid life is for her, in a way that it has been only intermittently for me as an adult. I would not go back to sixteen for anything you could give me, and yet I still recognize that she has something I have lost along the way—something I had to lose, to stay sane.
You might have picked up this book out of interest in some of the fascinating people who have contributed. I don’t think you will be disappointed. The great thing about these letters is that they are extraordinarily revealing, whether short, long, full of practical advice or metaphyisical musings.
Whatever your motives in buying this book, thank you. One dollar a copy will benefit Doctors Without Borders.
Finally, let me urge you to use the blank pages at the end of the book to write your own letter to yourself, aged sixteen. I think you’ll find it just as thought-provoking and worthwile as we all did.
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