The postcard that took a month to write

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I am writing this post in tears. I had planned it earlier and everything was OK, but then Mr B started reading aloud to me from the little journal he had been keeping for Scout since the day she was born. Little anecdotes: everything from her birth story to her first Christmas, her cousins, her favourite toys, and her first pink and perfect sunset (last night).

Tears! Remembering those moments as he read to me was emotional overload. I kept imagining Scout reading this book for the first time when she was 12, or 16, or 21, and knowing how deeply she had been loved, from the very first moment. I said "Quick! Start writing one of these for Ralph too!" Because he will need this. I want both of my children to enter teenaged and adult life buoyed in the knowledge of their parents' forever love, with physical proof in their hands.

Which leads me to this post.

I've been wanting to write this post for a while now, but I've also been wanting to write a certain postcard, too, and I couldn't get it right in my head. I think I was giving it too much weight, putting too much pressure on myself.

You see last month I received a letter, out of the blue, from a young woman called Jessica (she has a sweet-as-pie craft blog called Jess Made This). Jessica was writing to invite me to take part in a lovely project she had launched, called Dear Holly. Essentially the concept was that you and I and just about anyone who had made it out of our teen years more-or-less intact, were invited to send a postcard sharing our words of advice or encouragement to young people all over the world.

In Jessica's words, "The idea is to cross the generational divide and provide a place online for young people to hear stories and words of encouragement and advice from those who have experienced more time on Earth than they have."

Isn't this a simple and beautiful idea? Do you want to take part? All the details for submissions are on the Dear Holly website (basically: a. send an encouraging, anonymous postcard to the address provided, and b. nope, that's all you needed to do). Their favourite submissions are shared on the website each week.

Here's what else Jess has to say, on the website:

Together we can create a living, breathing collection of real, gritty and heartfelt advice that teenagers the world over can can share, gasp at, learn from, and live by.

No longer will teens have to rely on the repetitive, commercialised advice found in any given women’s magazine or lads mag. This project aims to paint a picture of teenage life to help inspire, support and comfort those currently entering or going through it.

I’m doing this for the Holly in my life. You should do it for the Holly or Olly in yours, or the H/Olly that you once were. Join me.

So anyway, yep, I decided to answer this call, and join her. Of COURSE. But then I spent the next month wondering what was the best thing to say, in the space of a postcard, that I would have wanted said to me. And I thought it over and then I rethought it and then I guessed it and then I second guessed it and, in the end, I felt completely paralysed by the weight of what I would write.

Which was so silly of me and, ultimately, that was what I decided to write about. Because the whole dilemma felt unsettlingly familiar. Reminiscent of my teen years. Do you remember what it was like being a teenager? I remember putting on a facade of confidence and nonchalance while inside feeling completely, utterly, lost. Hopeless, useless, unworthy. Incapable, indecisive, inadequate.

So I decided to write to the teenaged me, because I imagine it's a fair bet that I wasn't alone in those feelings, and that a generation hasn't necessarily changed things all THAT much. I haven't shared the postcard here because they are supposed to be anonymous, but I don't mind you knowing the gist of what I wrote.

I told the Hollys (and Ollys) of this world that they were doing it right. Being a teen, I meant. That they weren't supposed to have it figured out yet, and that it was OK to be themselves. I also urged them to be kind to others, because confused teens are as guilty as the rest of us of sometimes overlooking the needs of others, or forgetting that each of us is fighting a battle of our own, and deserves our compassion. But most of all, with Mr B's loving words to our daughter still hot inside my heart, I told them I wished I could give them a big, motherly hug.

What advice would you give your teenaged self? Will you share it with "Holly?" All it will cost you is the price of a postage stamp, and a moment's (or a month's) thought. In case you missed the link earlier, you can find all the details about this snail-mail project here.

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