Dear Fifteen-Year-Old Me,
It’s two in the morning right now and I’m worrying about what I should invest in for college (Mace? A lifetime supply of laundry detergent?), and how I’m going to leave everybody and everything I’m comfortable with behind in a few months, and if I’m going to find a roommate who I can actually get along with for a whole year, and why I can’t just go back to being a fifteen-year-old. I didn’t have many problems when I was you—your problems extended as far as worrying about how much junk food you could hide in your room without Mom finding out or how long you could get away with avoiding your chores. Fifteen is naïvety and ignorance and, just like Taylor Swift said, there's nothing to figure out.
Do you remember that time you sat in your room at some after-midnight time—the house quiet save for your iPod blasting Vampire Weekend’s brilliantly-named first album, Vampire Weekend, at full-volume like any ‘normal’ teenager would. That night was the first time you said “fuck,” which, of course, was the best part of “Oxford Comma” to any fifteen-year-old goody-goody. It was the first ‘fuck the system’ song you’d ever heard. But when the word slipped out you smacked your hand over your mouth as if you’d just said the most horrifying word known to man. You were so afraid somebody was going to hear you. But what if someone had? What if you had been out with your family? What would have happened then?
Do you remember the only answer you could come up with?
And you started listening to more Vampire Weekend, and you started to feel powerful. And at fifteen, power is hard to feel. While your friends were dealing with eating disorders and school stress, you were listening to “One (Blake’s Got A New Face)” feeling that you were Blake—you were the one with the new face. And I’m going to let you in on a little, awful-but-true fact: When everybody else is going through rough patches and you’re sitting there with a genuine smile on your face, the power escalates. Your power radiated across the school and people came to you for advice, and because you were basically a teenage life-coach (Exaggeration? Please define the word. No, you were definitely a life-coach. You should have been paid for your killer services), the power you felt boarded a rocket and landed on the moon. In simpler terms: You were invincible; nothing could touch you. Just like Blake, the moon had a new face and that face was yours.
You became Johanna in “A-Punk,” stealing power as she stole the ring from His Honor’s lilywhite hand. But a reformation is coming just for you, by the name of “M79.” It's going to take a little time / While you're waiting like a factory line—those first two lines will hit you like a baseball going at ninety-three miles per hour. Because you pretty much believe in geocentric theory, except more to the point that you specifically are the center of the universe, you will believe that you, too, are waiting in a factory line. You are following the path of your fellow sophomores: going through the motions of high school, being conditioned for college, comparing friendships and pasts, etcetera. But as long as you’re in that factory line, what power do you really have?
So you’ll become less of a teeny-bopper drama queen—all thanks to Vampire Weekend and their cleverly-named first album. No longer will you dwell on the past or present, but you will begin to look toward the future and milk it for all it’s worth. And no more gossiping, either. When you desperately want to shit-talk, you’ll ask yourself WWEKD (What Would Ezra Koenig Do)? Because, after all, nastiness will cause your doom.
But that’s something to talk about in another letter, to Sixteen-Year-Old Me.
Do you remember going to the Bahamas for winter break sophomore year? “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” was how you spent your time there. At the gym, at the beach, in the hotel room, wherever you could bring your iPod—the music was rushing into your head, flooding your senses with its frenzy. You didn’t understand the song’s meaning, and I’m pretty sure I don’t either, but it was catchy and that’s all that mattered to you.
You know, when I think about it, fifteen was like a giant shrug of a year. You’d listen to “The Kids Don’t Stand a Chance” and just shrug along to it because you didn’t have to stand a chance against anything. You were under the radar; you were a speck on a windshield. You were small and unimportant and, no matter how much you denied it, I know you loved it. There were no big decisions, and you didn’t have to worry about the pin-striped men of morning or denying romance. It was just a happy tune that you were happy to listen to.
I remember how “Campus” and “Mansard Roof” were your favorites, though. You made a separate playlist just for those two songs and you’d sit there, listening to them go back and forth for hours. At fifteen, you sought freedom, and that’s what those two songs gave off. Sleeping on a balcony? Count you in. Walking on the tops of buildings? Perfect. You pictured yourself in those songs. You were on a campus; you were seeing Argentines collapse in defeat. But the song would change and you’d be back on the couch ignoring the dirty dishes. Far less exciting stuff.
But now? Now I’d choose dirty dishes over this album. I don’t need exciting stuff anymore. The only song I still listen to is “I Stand Corrected,” since I stand corrected: I do not have any power, and more things matter than catchiness, and I have to face-off with so many big decisions, and complete freedom is not what I want. Koenig puts it best when he says No one cares when you are wrong / But I’ve been at this for far too long. I’ve been wrong for about half of my life, and nobody has really cared. I was young and naïve, what could anybody say? But it’s time I make some right moves now. I can’t afford to not give a fuck about an Oxford comma when it may affect my grades and I can’t afford to fuck the bears out in Princetown when it may affect my safety (and health and relationships, if you’re really thinking about it). I’m not you anymore, no matter how much I wish I was.
I know that seventeen is very close to fifteen and I am still a little baby of a human, but adult problems have started popping up and I’m just a little baby of a human. How am I supposed to deal with emotions and boys and college and…I don’t know…taxes? Adulthood is ominous and looming ever closer, ever taller. And I’m sorry to break it to you, Fifteen-Year-Old Me, but you haven’t grown at all. We’re still 5’3”, so most things seem giant and scary, but adulthood takes the cake—no doubt about it. Remember how Six-Year-Old Me had to have the closet doors closed for fear of monsters? Well now it’s kind of like that except the doors are creaking open and there actually is an undefeatable monster in there: adulthood.
Do you want to switch places? I long to be you again; when I was you, I had nothing to figure out and life was dumb and fun. But now, life is stressful and I have too much to figure out. I don’t feel ready.
I’m not sure why I started writing this letter. You can’t write back, but I figure that since we’re the same person, you could help me in some way.
So. Do you have any advice, Fifteen-Year-Old Me?
Please tell me something other than that I should start adulthood by asking myself only one question: WWEKD?
Love and miss you,