I'm on Dear Teen Me!

Candy at 15 with
baby brother Armand,  just two.
I'm so excited because I'm the featured author on Dear Teen Me. It's a blog featuring authors writing to their teenage selves with all the wealth of possibility that suggests. What would you say to your spotty young self? Do you have the wisdom to face up to all those insecurities, fears, hurts that you kept bottled up in those formative years? Or maybe you just want to say it's gonna be okay.

Dear Teen Me's founders Miranda Kinneally and Emily Anderson requested "epic" pictures to go with the article — I HATED having my photo taken as a teenager. So this old photo of me with big glasses and hiding behind the baby is typical and truly epic.

For my letter, I decided to focus on one particular moment when I was fifteen years old which was not about self esteem, looks or weight (though I could easily have done all those) but was I think key to the person I grew up to be.

It's about a scary time when I was left in charge of my youngest brother Armand while my brother Andre was in hospital having skull surgery. My memories of the particulars are not that clear (where were my other three siblings for example? I have no memory of them being there), but the emotions still ring strong and true.  Please read the piece (and COMMENT! Please comment so that it looks like I've got readers).

THEN read the bit below.

To write my Dear Teen Me blog post, I asked my brother Andre what he  remembered of the time he had the operation. He wrote me via Facebook from Busan, South Korea where he works as a teacher. Here's what he said:

For me it seemed like a routine check up with a twist — my bags were packed and Mom said I'll be staying in the hospital. They say the odds of getting Craniosynostosis is one in a million but if you have it your offspring will definitely have it too. When I went to hospital, they asked me who I wanted to be with for my first night. I said Dad. Armand cried as I left the house with Dad.

I really didn't understand what was going on. But I remember the time I went under the knife.  It was done in a small ampitheatre. They made me sleep face down. I didn't feel a thing. There was a moment I remember waking up and seeing many people.

The next day, I woke up with pain in my head. I was angry and throwing things.

Andre and Armand
But I was happy. I had new toys and I liked our walks around the hospital. Sister Marie Bernard, a nun who visited the children at the hospital, was also a good memory for me.

One day we were in the elevator and you pointed out a girl with no hands. I felt so sorry for her. But when I looked at everyone's faces I could see that THEY felt sorry for me. [Andre's head was bandaged up for a long time. He looked like a big egg.]

What I also remember was that my doctor was always followed by a herd of doctors. He would come in and show them my head.  He looked to me the most handsome man I'd ever seen, a real hero!

You made posters for the wall of my hospital room, funny, smiling drawings of me with my head wrapped up in its bandages. They made me happy because I felt special. Thanks Candy.

When they checked my bandages, or when they removed my stitches, my head felt really cold and I was surprised to see blood on my pillow afterwards! I can't remember how long my stay at the hospital was. Up to this day, the back part of my head is still soft.

The doctor said it might stay like that forever. Sometimes the surgeon would poke that part of my head during a check-up and my vision would be weird becuase that part of the brain is for the eyes! I cannot be hit on the back of the head til now because I literally see stars like in a cartoon. When that happens, I need to sleep it off.

Andre today with his daughter Zoe, skyping from
his home in Busan, South Korea. Photo: April Quimpo
Its hard to think that doctors now claim that my operation was unnecessary. But that was in the 70s. They had to do what they had to do and I am grateful.  One good thing that came out of it was that I was exempt from military training in university!

Thanks to everyone. Thanks to Dad who had to sell his grader to pay for the operation.

I am blessed.

We all are, Andre.

(Can't resist adding this - memories!)

Writing to my teen self was painful, exhilarating — and yes, liberating. I think everyone should try it. What would YOU tell your teen self? What wisdom would YOU hand down through the years to that gormless, spotty version of you? If you're inspired to write a letter to your teen self on your blog, post the link in the comments below. You can focus on a moment like I did, on the one big thing that bothered you, or give yourself encouragement, advice, a pat on the back  anything you wished someone had told you when you were a teenager.