Dear Teen Rachel,
Greetings from the future! You have much better hair now. I am here to report that you didn't end up becoming a costume designer, political reporter, indie musician, art historian, teacher, or professional dog walker.
But you know what's amazing? Your debut novel comes out tomorrow. You are an author (!!!), and soon people who don't know you will be reading your words. Your book is going to have an impact on people you will never meet (and some you will), and that is an incredible thing.
Where you are right now, though...I know it's rough. There's an ache deep inside that you won't figure out for a few years, and I am so sorry. One day you will call it depression, and you will call your rituals obsessive compulsive disorder, and you will realize you can't deal with it on your own.
Combined with the ache of adolescence, a longing for more, it feels like a lot. You are in your head so much. You are perpetually aware of your female-ness. You don't like how people talk about women or how women are expected to act, but you can't quite articulate it yet. You're afraid of a lot of things: saying how you really feel, the world beyond high school, your own body. Nothing about it makes sense and you have a million questions, and if anyone has the answers, you're too ashamed to ask.
You think you are supposed to be demure and passive and deferential. You think you're not supposed to have any power in relationships, romantic or otherwise. You submit to everyone. You sigh and say yes to everything when you want so badly to say no and for that to be okay.
It is more than okay.
People try to put you in a box. The Smart Girl. The Quiet Girl. The Short Girl. The Jewish Girl. You don't want to be any of these. You want so desperately to be the Cool Girl or the Pretty Girl, but more than that, you don't really want a label at all. You are so filled with want that sometimes you can't sleep.
The friends you have may not last. It might be a long time before you find people who truly get you. But I promise, you will find them.
So how did you get here, the night before your debut novel enters the world? It's been a rocky journey. You wrote a lot as a kid and young teen. You didn't write as much in high school and barely at all in college, but you'll fall back in love with it after you graduate. You'll query a few books, find an agent, and go on submission for a few years with a few different books. You'll leave your first agent because you can't bear to give up on your heart book. You'll query that book (your fifth completed manuscript) and become convinced no one will love it like you do -- but then, someone will. And it will sell to an editor who Gets It and it will transform into a very real physical thing. You held your first finished copies a couple weeks ago, and you're never going to forget that feeling.
You can't possibly know it yet, but this is the book you needed at sixteen. The book you needed before those uncertain first romances, before you went to college an anxious mess. This book could have given you the courage you needed to ask questions, to speak out. It would have given you the kind of power you want all teen girls to have.
This book is for you, and it is for them, too.
With so much love and an extra 12 years of (questionable) wisdom,