Older Me and Younger Me


Elena Pletcher, Contributor

Dear Older Me:

Do you remember that first moment of realization? When we first knew? I do. Hot spray hit my back as I reached for my shampoo bottle, an inattentive and rambling narrative meandering through my head in sync with the warm steam that meandered through the cool bathroom air. The voice of Santana from Glee coming out to her Abuela echoed through my head. My outstretched hand paused, and fat drips formed on the tips of my fingers as if suspended, waiting for me to reach the end of my thought. “Hold on. Am I gay?” This was a bright Friday morning, the summer before middle school, and I had better things to be doing than spiraling into a life-shaping identity crisis. So, I casually went back to thinking about how I really had to learn how to skateboard before the school year started (to be cool, of course), and promptly forgot all about the gargantuan question that had surfaced just moments before. I wouldn’t even remotely consider the possibility of my queerness again until several years later.

Well now, Older Me, here I am, the afternoon before my first day of high school, wishing I hadn’t procrastinated this identity crisis that day in the shower. I find myself slumped in the passenger seat of my mother’s Prius, running my hands through my freshly-chopped hair with hot tears collecting in my eyes. How will I hide now? Forcing myself into authenticity had been exactly what I was looking for when I elected to cut off a foot of my hair, but my previous intentions don’t make the harshness of this timing much easier to face. I have less than 24 hours to figure out who this ‘new me’ is before I have to present a polished product to a campus teeming with teenagers, primed and ready to plaster me with stereotypes and cast judgements that will last for at least the next 4 years of my life. Now what?? Do we get slushied on day 1 of high school?? Please write back soon. I’m kinda freaking out.

A Very Concerned Younger Elena (14)


Dear Younger Me (and Dear Other 14-Year-Olds Who Are Also Kinda Freaking Out),

Luckily for you, the movies were wrong. High school isn’t the brutal cliche from Mean Girls. I’ll admit that it’s not all sunshine and pride parades – slurs are thrown around (yes, even in Marin), and you WILL hear at least a few of your straight friends tell you that they wish they were gay without even a remote understanding of the exhausting and dangerous pathway that many of us queer kids must take. There are still harsh truths that I have to come to terms with as a queer woman trying to convince myself that my identity doesn’t have to be a barrier for me – did you know that in our entire history as a nation, America has only ever found 6 openly queer women who have been palatable enough to win a seat in Congress? But my message to you, Younger Self (and to any young folk who will walk a similar road to mine) isn’t a message of warning about the rocky road ahead. I want it to be a message of hope.

It is so beautiful out here in the open. You get to be yourself, kiddo. BUT – you don’t have to know what that means. A lot of people talk about the necessity of knowing oneself and figuring out who you are – and there’s definitely some merit to that. You certainly don’t want to be trying to be anyone else. But on the other hand, 14 year old me, with your fresh haircut and your many questions, you can’t know who 18 year old me will be. You’d be SO mad that I still can’t skateboard, and you probably won’t believe that I wear dresses and pink now – sometimes even PINK DRESSES. And, there’s still uncertainty ahead – there’s no way for 18 year old me now to know who I’ll be at age 30. You’re trying so hard to figure out who the future you will be that you’re forgetting to leave space to think about who you are at this moment. You’re misinterpreting that common advice to “figure out who you are.” You think it means to “figure out who you are and who you’ll always be, then be that person forever.” But the mistake you’re making is agonizing over a question that’s impossible to answer.

I now realize that the better question to be asking myself – and the question you, Younger Me (and you, Other 14-Year-Olds Who Are Also Kinda Freaking Out) can ask yourself now – is whether you trust yourself enough to just exist as you are. Do you listen to yourself when that self tells you who you are right now and what you need right now (even if what you need is to wear your brother’s ridiculously large button down that 18 year old you will laugh so hard at you for)? I know now, at 18, that my authenticity is not pinned to a single point in my life where I was or am or will be one exact way. I don’t have to constantly strain myself trying to reach some weird societally imposed ideal that I think would be the best way to represent who I am. In fact, I can change and grow and transform as much as I want to or need to or hope to. Because any version of me who trusts herself completely is an authentic one. And any version of you who trusts yourself completely is an authentic one. You’ve got this. Rock that button down.

With love and pride,
Present Elena (18)