Dear Me,

Cady Armstrong

Dear sophomore year self,

Howdy! It’s yourself about a year and a half in the future. I’m writing you this letter to tell you to take a step back and stop being so hard on yourself. As you’re reading this, you’re probably trying to plow through an extreme amount of work while feeling overwhelmingly anxious and sad. Right now, you don’t understand why you just can’t seem to focus and get done what you did last year. You’re frequently staying up until 3:30 a.m. only to wake up at 6, and still not getting everything done.  You think this is normal.

Current HiLite News Editor and junior Cady Armstrong (center) poses for a photo with her sisters Grace (left) and Megan (right). Armstrong said she would tell her past self to relax and not compare herself to others.

Surprise, it’s not! Guess what? You have ADHD, OCD and obsessive anxiety disorder. Now, it takes you half a year to finally admit how you’re feeling. Why does it take you so long to figure this out? Well, that goes back to societal norms, but that’s a whole other topic I won’t get into right now. Anyway, I am telling you all this to tell you to relax. You feel like a bad person and bad student, but you’re not. That’s your anxiety lying to you. You feel like you don’t deserve to shower or sleep. You do. Future you isn’t perfect and still hasn’t figured everything out. But, you’re trying. Give yourself some slack. Stop comparing yourself to your classmates when your brain doesn’t even work like theirs. You’re perfectly fine the way you are and deserve everything you think you don’t.

Tessa Collinson

Dear 14-year-old Tessa,

I know right now you think life is great, but buckle up kiddo.

You can’t see it, but your life right now is superficial. Your “friends” from dance really don’t care about you, those two friends you’re super close with end up causing a lot of drama, your dreams will change drastically, all while dealing with your Lola (grandmother) being sick and eventually passing away.

Tessa Collinson, then-toddler and current HiLite Managing Editor and senior, rides her bike. Collinson said she would tell her past self to keep persevering in light of challenges she will face.

I can’t lie to you, it’ll take a toll. You’ll feel sad and alone, but as you like to say: everything happens for a reason. I know, I know, it’s so cliché but it’s true.

All those friends you lost end up making space for new people in your life. You quit dancing and cry about it for a while but realize it gave you the time to fall in love with newspaper staff, join some clubs and get a job. Losing Lola hurts, yet you’ll be glad she didn’t have to suffer for very long.

Life hurts. There’s no way around that. But the highs are insanely better than the lows. Your “happiness” now is nothing compared to what you’ll feel later. So hang in there, because the experiences you’ll gain throughout the rest of high school is worth it.

Kiersten Riedford

To freshman me,

Look at you, head low, so invested in your phone as you wander about the freshman center aimlessly trying to find out which part of the triangle you’re actually in. Look at you, carrying books in your hands because if you tried to shove yet another textbook in your backpack, the seams might break. Look at you, so small yet so ambitious, dreaming of it all. I’m so proud of you. The things you will do in the future, which is nothing but memories to me now, are astounding compared to what you think you’re going to do. The things that you think are hard now, honestly, it’s going to keep getting harder. But the difference between you and the people around you is how you will persevere.

Perseverance and courage, you’ll read a speech in AP Lang that makes those words seem like the only traits that you’ll ever need to succeed. And, quite honestly, it seems to be as simple as that. Courage to be willing to take on the hardships, perseverance to get through them. You will be great if you acquire both traits. But one thing you have to keep in mind, despite those hardships you will face, is that you can’t give up on a dream no matter how crazy it may seem. That longing to chase your goals down, to have something to be proud of. That’s your drive, and still my drive. If there is one thing you’re going to learn, it’s that you have to start chasing after your goals early. It sucks, I know, especially if you realize how much work it’s going to take to get there. But the earlier, the better.

All in all, little me, you’re going to witness a lot in the next four years at this school, but it’s all for the better. Every experience you have at this school is going to prepare you for the world more than you ever thought it could. This school has a way of doing that, making you grow. This school has taught you more than you’ll ever need to know, so have confidence that you’re going to succeed. You will succeed because you had courage and perseverance no matter what was thrown at you.

Zainab Idrees

Dear freshman me,

The next two years of your life are going to be crazy! Guess what? A pandemic hits, and everyone has to wear masks and quarantine. It’s like a science fiction movie except it’s real life. The world could be a movie right now.  You’re not really good at adjusting to change. A lot of change is going to come in the next two years, and it’s going to change just about everything. No more volunteering, no more movie theaters, no more social gatherings, and no more 11 p.m. grocery dashes because you want to eat a Twix bar.

But you credit yourself with being patient. Well, keep doing that. Be patient with other people, even if they do get on your nerves. Be patient with the WiFi when your computer decides it won’t connect for the millionth time. Be patient with yourself. That’s a thing you struggle with. When progress isn’t external, you think it’s not happening, and that’s definitely not true.

And finally, be patient about the pandemic. Things are going to change. You’re going to be stuck at home. But hey, you do some awesome things too! You learn how to rollerblade! You binge watch nostalgic movies! You learn how to play a couple of songs on the piano! You learn a little bit of ASL! And you established an active routine where you would go running at 7 in the morning!

Be proud of yourself for that. You used to be a couch potato (sorry, but it was true). Now you actually know how to run and are way healthier and happier than before! I think you’re very much going to like the girl you are now. So yeah, there will be a lot of change. But you will come out of it better. And trust me, you’ll like this new girl way better than the old one.

Edward Dong

To my younger self,

What if I told you there was a way to happiness and success without working yourself to the ground? Somewhere, sometime, you’ll develop a conception that hard work and sacrifice will bring you contentment and joy. That’s not true. Yes, you’ll need work to supplement it, but to find happiness requires vision and personality. You’ll need to reach out of that timid bubble to make new friends, spend time with them and go out of your way to find the fun in each day.

6-year-old Edward Dong and sister Julia Dong dress up before a formal photo. Edward said he wishes he developed a special talent and appreciated moments with his family.

Work hard, but only where it’s needed. Spend the time to develop a special talent that you’ll be proud of! I know it’s hard to commit yourself to one thing when there’s so much to jump between or with so much time to just lounge around, but I promise that you (and your conversations) will be more interesting! You don’t have to be a genius or natural-born athlete to stand out. You just have to look for a talent where no one else is looking.

Finally, don’t forget your family and where you came from. Nothing is eternal. I once dreamed of raising my younger brother through his toddler years, perfecting my sidewalk calligraphy with grandpa or learning our family history with grandma, but somehow those hopes got lost along the way. I still do dream of those things today, but they’re irreversibly locked in the past now. Keep your eyes on the future but treasure every day, because remember that for every year, experience or responsibility that you gain, there is something you lose.