An Open Letter to Teenage Me: Being Weird Is the Best Thing You Could Be
So stay weird.
Dearest Teen Me,
I see you, hiding behind enormous flannels, band shirts, and hair that was never quite red “enough.” I know you don’t much like being a teenager and you spend most of your time by yourself, trying to figure out who you are and who you’re supposed to be. You draw a lot. You write a lot. You don’t fit in and you know it.
I know you feel really weird, just about all the time. You read horror and sci-fi and romance, you love comics and genre novels and are deeply obsessed with Tolkien (that never changes, by the way). You get seriously into Stephen King and Terry Pratchett and Margaret Atwood. You’re pretty afraid of anyone getting to know you because that bullying thing that happened was really bad and they said you were weird.
And you know what? You are weird. You’re super weird. In the best possible way. The kind of weird that let’s you imagine all kinds of worlds and stories and characters. You also have that thing about Scottish accents for awhile and you actually wear elf ears to school when it’s not Halloween that once (it was St. Patrick’s Day and you told everyone you were a leprechaun) but basically, you’re a fun kind of weird that draws monster girls and writes tall tales. There are a lot of things you don’t know yet but you know one thing already: stories matter. They matter a lot. Not just to you but to basically everyone.
Since I’m you, I can tell you a few things from a whopping three decades into your future. 1. They will make The Lord of the Rings into films that you will resist very loudly at first and then love even though they’re definitely flawed. 2. You will write and draw and be published, in comics even, which you’re currently dreaming about but are very sure will never happen. 3. You will find an amazing community of other women into the same things as you and they are creative, supportive, badasses. It turns out that you are not alone and that other people will appreciate what you have to offer.
That’s not all, either. You go to art school in NYC. Then you get an internship at Vertigo, where you are later hired as an Assistant Editor. I swear, I’m not kidding. You go on to edit a lot of comics and work for a variety of publishers before you start writing, too. Your first published comics as a writer are about vampires. Yes, I’m serious.
People read your stories and seem to like them, so you write more and more. And you keep editing, too. And now you’re writing spooky monster kid romances and working with other creators on space romances and pirate romances and haunted romances. And all of these stories take diversity seriously and sincerely, from the creators to the characters. The Charmz line is a really fun, really perfect fit for your mixed-genre tastes and it’s both scary and fun to develop a line of books for readers a lot like yourself when you were their age.
Being a storyteller is pretty much the best thing there is, a very close second to being the mom of a fierce little girl who looks a lot like she was designed by Brian Froud when she’s born. You’re also still a feminist, you’re still feisty (and really short, I’m sorry to say), and your hair goes completely white like your mom’s in your 20’s. Which is pretty awesome. You travel, you meet people you admire, and you end up living all over the place, including in Europe. I know this all sounds impossibly cheerful and enthusiastic to your finely honed, Daria-influenced, sarcasm … but scratch that surface and you know you’re someone who cares a lot and wants to share the things they love. I mean, you’re still plenty snarky but not as a protective shell.
There are, of course, challenges. Sometimes comics is a frustrating place that doesn’t always reflect the ideals the stories suggest. A lot of people are not included in the industry or the works we produce and it can be a struggle to get people to listen and understand why representation matters. But there are a lot of people working at making it better, every day, and reflecting the world around us in a more real and sincere way.
All of this is really important to us and it’s something we look for in the work of others and insist upon in our own. Whether it’s spooky romances for tweens or surfer werewolves for adults, you want to make stories that matter to people. So every day you get up and you be a mom and you make stories and you help other people make theirs. That’s your life. Stories.
I know. I KNOW. That is literally everything you ever wanted to do and be and it actually happens. I pinch myself all the time, too.
And hey, I still doubt myself sometimes and always think I could be doing better. Because I can be. We can be. Because even though I’m older and probably a bit wiser, you’re still here with me. We’re still weird and I still love the things that you love (especially stomp boots and Big Trouble in Little China) and remember the things you thought and felt and hurt over. We still have a lot of stuff to work out. And we do that through our stories. We make worlds and people (or people-like creatures) and they have lives and loves and complications and tragedies. We write for other weirdos and they seem to like our weirdness.
It turns out that being weird is the best thing you could be. It will help you through the bad times and make the good ones a lot more fun. Being weird is one of the best thing that ever happens to you. Well, that and Farscape. But we don’t have time to even get into that.
Mariah is a New York Times Bestselling writer and editor of graphic novels. Whether she’s creating new worlds, writing for established characters, or helping others realize their own stories, she likes to keep it weird. She has even had some Tolkien pieces published here on TMS!
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