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Dear Younger Self by Anika

Dear younger Anika,

Hey Anika, it’s me, well, you from the future. Weird I know, but listen, we need to talk. Look, I know you’re in grade eleven and you’re feeling really good right now, but I need to share a little bit of wisdom with you. Slow down and stop spreading yourself so thin. You just spent your summer getting ahead in summer school by taking physics 11 and biology 11 where you were so stressed and exhausted just making cue cards until three o’clock in the morning every day and then having to get to school by eight. Look, you don’t need to work so hard in these courses to the point where your hair is literally falling out and you don’t get any sleep, you hate science and you’re not even going to apply for science programs at universities in the future! Not only did you spend basically your whole summer in summer school, but rather than taking a break and spending time with friends and having fun, you decided to take a bunch of lifeguarding courses which just made you even more stressed out and exhausted. 

Now, as you are in September of grade 11, you are not only taken a full course load, but you are also doing a bunch of extracurricular activities, many of them that you don’t even enjoy, including being the president of the Me to We Club, the coordinator for our school’s swim team, the junior editor for the student newspaper, the vice-president of marketing for the business club, a swim instructor, and so many other volunteer positions both in school and out in the community that I honestly can’t even remember anymore because there were that many. I am telling you right now to stop spreading yourself so thin! I know you’re driven and ambitious and want to go to a good school and win scholarships, trust me, I get it, I’ve been there.

I hate to tell you this and I know you won’t listen to anyone, but what you’re doing right now is not healthy. The reality is that you do go to a good school and you do win a few scholarships and awards. If you don’t stop right now, things will just get worse and worse and worse. I remember grade 11 was the worst year of high school for you because every area of your life suffered because of your extracurricular activities: your grades suffered, you struggled to keep up with all of your clubs and activities, your relationship with your mom was strained, you barely ever saw your friends and barely ever hung out with them outside of class, and your health suffered. I think your health suffered the most though because not only were you so exhausted and burnt out, but you also barely slept, used food as a coping tool, never exercised and you were so depressed that you wanted to cut yourself and take your own life. Now it won’t be until your first-year of university that you will be diagnosed with anxiety and depression, but even back in grade 11 you had severe depression even though you didn’t know it. If you keep spreading yourself so thin, you will go down a really dark rabbit hole and quite frankly Anika, I really don’t want you to end up there.

Look Anika, I know you’re an ambitious girl, I really do. I know you spend hours lying awake at night and seeing what other girls in your grade and in the grades above you are doing in terms of extracurricular activities and comparing yourself to them. I know in your heart that you believe that if you’re not involved in so many extracurricular activities that you’re not doing enough and therefore, you as a person are not enough. But I’m here to tell you that that’s just not true. Even though future you often struggles with feelings of worthlessness and low self-esteem, I know now that external factors like how many awards you have or how many extracurricular activities you’re involved in do not define who you are or measure your worth. Your worth is determined by who you are on the inside and how you make a difference in the lives of others. Your worth should only come from things like how kind, loyal, compassionate and caring you are.

A wise counsellor once told me that you cannot pour from an empty cup as you need to take care of yourself first. While extracurricular activities can be fun, if you are exhausted and have nothing left to give, then it’s time to just step back and take a break. No club is worth sacrificing your health, grades, relationships and friendships over. Please remember to take care of yourself.

Lots of love,