in which I write an open letter to my twelve-year-old self

Dear Twelve-Year-Old Self,

First of all, hi, it’s me, future you. Second of all, you are rocking the crap out of that perm, don’t let anyone tell you differently. Third of all, if you ever get the chance to go to Latvia, don’t do it. A volcano will erupt while you are there, and you will be stranded. That has nothing to do with the story I am about to tell you, I just needed to get that out there.

Right, now let’s talk about you.

Now Self, right now in your life, you spend a lot of time doing three things; one, watching the movie Newsies and then recreating it in your bedroom1; two, reading books by people like Shannon Hale and Avi; and three, writing really terrible poetry.

Good news – you’re doing everything right.

And one glorious weekend in New York City, ten years from where you are now, these three things will culminate in a trifecta of awesome.

Right now self, you harbor a secret desire to be a writer. In fact, you’ve already started working on your first novel. It will be sixty glorious pages of hand-written tripe, but that’s okay, because everybody starts somewhere, and these habits that you make now of doing ridiculous things with great vigor, and being passionate about something – those are the traits that will sustain you through the next ten years of your life.

But you want to be a writer. You don’t tell many people this, because you’re a little bit scared of how much you want it.

Now over the years, Self, you are going to start to have to face the Realities of Life, namely that writers don’t really make money. And so you are going to tuck your writing dreams into your back pocket and forget about them for a while. You are going to search for years, looking for something else you want to do with your life. There will be several times you think you have found it2. But in the end, nothing is going to feel right. Nothing is going to fit. Don’t panic. Because one day, in a train station in England3, you are going to find it again, in the pages of a book. And on that day, you will remember the feeling of being twelve years old, obsessively rereading The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, and writing in that sparkly green poetry notebook. You will remember that nothing makes you happier than being a writer.

And that feeling of knowing exactly what you want to do is going to scare the crap out of you.

But trust it! How you feel now, every time you write another ridiculous poem – hold on to that feeling. Keep it close, and remember it. Because the journey is important, but what’s going to matter is that someday you come back to that feeling. That is your Santa Fe, Self. And we may not quite be there yet, but we’re finally heading in the right direction. Save our place, we’ll be there.

And twelve-year-old Self? Someday you’re going to meet Avi. I know – I KNOW! And Shannon Hale is going to sign a book for you that says “I look forward to reading your novels4.” In fact, after a very awkward conversation where you try not to be exuberant but can’t help yourself5, you’re going to stand between them and take a picture6!


can you believe this is what you look like in the future?

I KNOW! And someday, in the basement of the New York Public Library in a roomful of other aspiring YA authors and people who love children’s books, you are going to experience the strongest sense of belonging you have ever felt. You are going to feel that you are part of a community. An awesome community who shares your love of doing ridiculous things passionately. And you will know in that moment that you are exactly where you want to be.

And as for Newsies? …well, I don’t want to give anything away. But let’s just say your impossible dream of someday seeing it live on stage may someday not be so impossible.

spoiler alert: we never get good at photography.

And I know you don’t believe me, but Corey Cott is way hotter than Christian Bale.

Love, Future Mackenzi

And PS, Hold on to 14. You’re going to go through a lot of friends in the next ten years, but she’s one to keep around.

  1. You make a rocking Jack Kelly, by the way.
  2. Spoilers: it’s not being a blacksmith, or a travel agent. Both of those careers have been dead for years. Update your dreams, twelve-year-old me!
  3. Yes, we go to England. We do so much more than just go there. We fall in love there. Though not with a boy, because I totally agree, boys are gross. Oh twelve-year-old self, just wait until you see England.
  4. Go ahead, wear a cape when you go to her event at the library next week, those are the sort of antics you won’t be able to get away with for much longer.
  5. This photo should be motivation enough for you to start working now on decreasing the squinty eyes in photos. It can be done, and then, in your future/my present, you won’t look this ridiculous.
  6. Your future can essentially be boiled down to a series of awkward conversations with people you admire. Just get used to that now.
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One thought on “in which I write an open letter to my twelve-year-old self

  1. 14 says:

    Apparently our 12-year-old selves knew what they were doing when we became friends– it was definitely one of my better decisions. I’m glad we stuck together through middle school, and high school, and college, and now to real life… at least your real life :) Also… NEWSIES. So jealous.

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