Do Not Open ’Til 2010!!!

Reading a letter from my 13-year-old self.

Deep in the storage room of my parents’ house in early January, I pawed all over my childhood desk. I shoved furniture aside and pulled open drawer after drawer, finally coming to a stop when I emerged, dust-covered and triumphant, with an envelope in my hand. I waited until I got back to my house to open it.

“Dear Molly,” the letter began. “Right now it is March 23, 2000, 12:45 pm.”

Ten years ago, I was sitting in my high school auditorium, a spiral notebook balanced carefully on my lap as I worked on an assignment for my theater class. I was a freshman, just 13 years old, and I was writing a letter to myself; a letter that was not to be opened for a decade. It took me two classes to finish the four-page note, following my teacher’s guidelines to write about my favorite foods and clothes, my family and friends, my career aspirations. In 2010, as an adult, I would be able to open and read what was essentially a time capsule of my high school self.

For 10 years, I was always careful to keep the letter safe in a desk drawer, not losing track of it even when my family moved just after I graduated from high school. I was determined to see the assignment through to the end (my nerdish tendencies have not changed, apparently). As soon as the calendar rolled over to 2010, that letter was the first thing on my mind.

Some things about me are still the same, I found. Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, pizza, and macaroni and cheese are still among my favorite foods, proving that my love for melted cheese is one that shall never fade. To Kill a Mockingbird is still (and forever more shall be) my favorite book — though, interestingly, the way I read it is different. When I was 13, I was all about spunky tomboy Scout, but now that I’m older I’ve come to love Atticus Finch, the noble lawyer, best.

I was also pleased to note that Billy Joel was dear to my heart even in my tender teenage years. From my painstaking documentation of my fashion sense, it seems that I also dress about the same as I did then, in a style I now call “nerd chic” and that my husband calls “librarian-ey.” However, despite the Dockers-and-sweater combo that I described, I also inexplicably tacked on a sentence declaring that “I like psychedelic hippie stuff.” Um?

My prized possessions at the time were my photo albums and a shoebox crammed full of playbills and school pictures and notes. I have since upgraded my box to an assortment of lovely Ikea baskets, but I still have packrattish tendencies when it comes to memorabilia. I don’t think I’ve ever thrown away a card or a letter I’ve received. Though my mother yelled at me for this habit when I was a child, I’m glad I kept them. Every so often I’ll go through a basket or two and find something really special, like a birthday card from my Grandma and Papa. When I have children, I’ll be sure to set aside a special place to keep their mementos safe, too.

Of course, many things about me have changed. Take, for example, my 13-year-old self’s “saddest moment ever” over the death of Charles Schulz. As in, the guy who drew the Peanuts comics. I wore all black and went weepy and everything. Now, I like Charlie Brown and Snoopy as much as the next person, but … really?

I found I still have a lot of the same passions that I did 10 years ago — drama, writing, reading — but my priorities have shifted. When I was 13, I was sure I would just jump on a bus one day and leave everything behind to become an actress on Broadway. Nowadays, I want stability and I am glad to be in a profession that lets me learn and grow and challenge myself intellectually. I don’t think that killing myself jumping from theater job to theater job and struggling with rent would have ever felt right. Besides, I still love theater, and I am lucky enough to work on shows each year with my friends through our theater troupe.

And, of course, because I was a teenage girl, there are parts of the letter that are utterly embarrassing. Like the part where I mention how much I really like the movie “Titanic.” Or the section where I poured out my angst-ridden little heart about the boy I was in love with. Even though he turned out to be gay. Oops. Blind to that at the time, I waxed poetic for entirely too long about how we were destined to be together and how our love was fated.

Despite this apparent fated love, that didn’t stop me from writing about my interest in another boy a mere paragraph later. Another boy who also turned out to be gay. I’m not really sure what this says about me.

I also had absolutely no concept of time or reality, it seems. I somehow thought that in 10 years I would be able to not only finish high school and college, I would also already be a Broadway star with a husband and two children (Ethan and Laurel) and a lime green Volkswagen bug and a ginormous mansion. I went into painstaking detail about my grand house — a multi-leveled colonial affair with bricks, balconies, and a big yard with trees. The location for this palace of mine? Smack in the middle of New York City. Clearly, I had never seen a city before. My favorite part, though, was when 13-year-old me felt the need to specify that I would share a bedroom with my husband.

I guess the bell for class must have rung by the time I got to the end of writing my letter. Without any real conclusion, I ended a sentence about one of those boys that I was in love with and abruptly signed: “Over and out, Molly.” Later on, I sealed my loose-leaf letter in an envelope, which I painstakingly decorated with my favorite sparkly gel pen set. “Don’t Open ‘Til 2010!!” I wrote in pink, blue, and purple. “No Peeking!!!” And just to make sure my bases were covered, “2010!” The pièce de resistance? My lovely artistic renditions of a flower, smiley face, music note, peace sign, heart, and Charlie Brown’s little sister Sally.

I hope teenage Molly would be happy with the way my life turned out so far. I may not be on Broadway, but I have a job that I love, and I have never been happier. At least teen-Molly would be happy to know that I do, in fact, share a bedroom with my husband.

Article © 2010 by Molly E. Weeks