NochNoch.com

letter to my 16-year-old

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Have you ever written a letter to yourself? More accurately, have you tried to write a letter to yourself, except to a you who were only 16 years old?

A friend told me of the book “Letter to My 16-year-old” a year ago when I was in the midst of my worst times. This book is an aggregation of famous personalities’ letters to themselves when they were 16 years old. This serves as a way for people to confront some of their past issues in order to move on, but also, simply entertaining for us to get a glimpse into other people’s growing pains.

I wrote a letter to my 16 year old self a year ago, and it recently got published on the book’s website, which invites people to submit their letters too.

Coincidentally, 16 years old was the age I started studying the science stream at school. Back in those days, under the Hong Kong education system, we had to pick to study the physical sciences (i.e. physics, chemistry, biology, calculus etc) or arts & humanities (i.e. history, literature etc) subjects in order to prepare for the public exams. Science stream was somehow considered the “elite” stream, and obviously, I was coerced to take that route, given that my scores were good enough for it.

Deep in my heart, I yearned to study the French Revolution or the glorified Chinese Empires of the past, and recite some Sylvia Plath and William Blake. I was told I could switch back in two years if I didn’t like Sciences, but that Science would pave the way for me to become a doctor since these subjects were prerequisites to taking medicine in university. I didn’t think I wanted to be a doctor. I wanted to be a lawyer then, or I had it in my head, I would do something different, something that would let me fly around and have fun, and just deal with people (thus why I was elated to do the job I did for the past 7 years).

No one believed me.

Well, I trusted that they knew what was best for me. After all, I was only 16 years old – how much did I know?

In fact, I think 16 year-olds do know. In fact, anyone younger can also know.

Why doubt ourselves? Listen to that little voice inside.

I failed miserably in a lot of my subjects. Well, ok, fail is exaggerating, but Ds and Es on my public exam results can hardly be called flying colours? I felt completely worthless and didn’t know what to do. Fortunately, I stubbornly refused to be put down and conquered in many other ways afterwards. Perhaps that was my drive to achieve for so long, just to prove to the world I could do it too.

letter to my 16 year old

But 16 years old was a long time ago – I just had to let go of the bitterness and insecurity I felt for myself. A letter to myself at 16 years old is not a bad way to do so:

“Dear Noch

You are not a disappointment.

The fact that you can’t do your physics or calculus problems does not make you a failure. Teachers and parents make a big deal of your grades but a few years later it won’t matter at all, and certainly will not matter when you are grown up. You place so much emphasis on achieving those grades and making everyone else happy, but there is no need. Trust me on that.

Soon you’ll make your own decisions and you will realize that pursuing your interests and passions are more important than any grade or 8-figure income you receive.

If you want to write, study literature and history, you should defy all your seniors and do so. Honestly, redox actions have no relevance to leadership and people management in this real world, nor does momentum help you in your negotiation skills.

Do what you do best. Do what you like.

Dwell not on those grades. You know in your heart what is it you want to doinsist on it.

It’s ok. You do not have to live up to anyone else’s expectations of you, and you do not need to feel you have disappointed them if you don’t do what they suggest.

You owe only to yourself.

Please change your course of study when you can. I don’t want you to end up like me 14 years later, and I don’t want you to have to go through depression and suicide attempts like I did, because you felt you have let the whole world down.

Write your poetry and your stories now; forget those math problems. Follow your heart.

Don’t wait till you are 30 years old to do that.

Listen for once to your heart, and not your mind.

It’s ok, you are not a disappointment.

Love Noch”

Writing a letter to your younger self is provoking and could open a whole can of worms. However, the fact that it does, means that there are past issues to be dealt with.

This exercise a year ago triggered suppressed thoughts and emotions that needed confrontation. I will not lie. I cried and sobbed uncontrollably. I felt way better afterwards though, and even manage to smile as I type this today.

For the better.

I encourage everyone to read this book, and write a letter to their 16 year old selves.

(disclaimer – if you buy the book through clicking this page, i get maybe USD0.04 referral fee via Amazon :) )

                               

51 Responses

  1. Om in Mom says:

    Hi Noch Noch! What a great idea. I will add this to my “to do” list -write a letter to my 16 year old self! Love it. Glad you could smile about it today when you posted :-) xxx

  2. Great post Noch!
    I’ll be sure to write a letter to myself. I’m also going to have my 13 year old read yours. I don’t think it’s ever too early! :-) Thanks for the inspiration.

    Vlad

  3. Shanti says:

    I’m going to write to my 16-year old self this week. I used to want to be like Sabrina, and leave my home town for France to study. Yes, at 16, I was a bit of a Francophile. Yet another post that resonates within me, Noch! Thank you!

  4. Ken Wert says:

    Hi Noch! I love this idea of writing a letter to our past selves. We are all so wise in hindsight, right? I just wish the adults in our lives at a young age were as wise! Sometimes when people decide what’s best for us, it is from within a very narrowly defined vision, often with dollar signs lining it.

    With our daughter, we decided that grades would not be the emphasis. Rather, it would be character. So if an average grade was the best she could do in a particular subject because she was truly trying her best, then we praised her (not for the grade itself) but for the accomplishment of doing everything she could. She chose to pursue a degree in piano performance and is one of the best (THE best! :) ) in the school at a top private university. The reason is that we encouraged her to follow her passion.

    Thanks for sharing so much of yourself here, Noch. It is such an inspiration for me to keep plugging along.

    • Hey kert,

      I do not think we should let anyone decide what is best for us and that even goes for our parents. What was best for them may not be what is best for us. Everyone is different in their own ways and we have different lives to live. I am not saying to disregard what everyone tells us, but to be able to make decisions for ones own self. We might make some bad decisions, but that is the only way we can stop leaning on other people’s shoulder and find out what is truly best for us.

      Just my 2 cents! It was nice reading this article! ( :

      God bless,
      William Veasley

      • nochnoch says:

        Hi William

        Good to see you here again! I agree, we all have our different lives to live and need to make our own decisions. As parents, maybe we just help steer the course and let the child decide? If we make wrong decisions then we learn from it all. Same for our children

        It’s all a process. I’m learning to put all that behind and move on with my life and make my own decisions :)

        Noch Noch

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Ken

      Your daughter is so lucky to have you as a dad! I’m thanking you for her haha. I don’t hate my parents and teachers. I think they did what they could. And There’s no point dwelling in it since I’m now 30 and no turning back. But we need to let go of the past and move on. It’s also a great lesson for me to learn about what my parenting methods could be for when I have children.

      I agree with you, when the child has tried her best, we need to reward. And help them live their dreams

      Thanks again Ken for coming by and sharing your thoughts. have a great day!
      Noch Noch

  5. Alice says:

    I haven’t written a letter to my 16 year old but I talk once in a while to my younger self.
    What you can also do: Listen to what your older self has to say to you. It might have some insights!

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Alice

      Thanks for pointing out a caveat in my letter writing – this is assuming our 16 year old, or however old our younger selves, will listen to us now as a older self. I know that I, for one, would think, “oh you think you know better just because you are older?”
      Hahah I might have to write that letter to mys 16 year old self as you did “LISTEN TO THE OLD SELF!”
      :)

      Thanks for coming by!

      Noch Noch

  6. Alice says:

    I haven’t written a letter to my 16 year old but I talk once in a while to my younger self.
    What you can also do: Listen to what your older self has to say to you. S/he might have some insights!

  7. Annie Andre says:

    NochNoch,

    Another coincidence. I have been writing a letter to myself too. Only, it’s my 80 year old self writing to me NOW!. it’s a writing prompt from this writing sort of club i’m part of called “A Year With Myself”. You can check it out here. http://goo.gl/XULen. I think you might like it.

    Anyways, i’m finding it really hard to write the letter to myself. I think it’s because i’m facing my inner demons. also, as you mentioned, i’m starting to uncover some repressed memories that i ‘m not sure i want to remember. LOL.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Annie

      I think we must agree that we are two great minds since we think alike :)
      I went to that website you suggested – in deed very interesting. Thanks for recommending. Hmmm. that’s actually an interesting thing to do, maybe I’ll try to project myself too to 80 years old, I wonder what I would write to myself now. Perhaps I should save that letter, and when I’m 80 years old, read it again! Now, that would be quite eye opening

      Hope you find the courage to face your inner demons and get that letter written. Pls do share some of it if you don’t mind, I’d love to know how it goes and how you felt during the process

      Noch Noch

  8. The Vizier says:

    Hi Noch Noch,

    I have never tried writing a letter to my 16 year-old self.

    Like you, I was in the science stream too. Something about the Asian education system haha! Like you I also preferred reading history because that is where the action is. I suppose as fellow Aries, we yearn to make a profound difference in this world. Or at least look up to the movers and shakers who did.

    I never did well at school after my O levels. I guess I lose my direction and didn’t know what to do with my life. The next 10 odd years would see me searching and trying to find my way.

    I like the way you wrote to yourself. And it is true, an Aries must be true to themselves and their passion or they will never be happy. They can never live someone else’s life, they have to choose their own path. And though the road will be long and hard and even if success is not assured, at least they will have no regrets because it was a road they freely chose.

    If I wrote to myself, it would be a long list of the things I had to correct, areas where I had to master myself, especially emotions. And of course, I would strongly recommend I learn the I-Ching as soon as I could. Knowing my own thirst and quest for knowledge and knowing and mastery of myself, I know the 16 year-old me would listen. Since at 16 years old, I already knew that something was wrong somewhere.

    Thank you for sharing this lovely article!

    Irving the Vizier

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Irving

      Thanks for coming back again! I can always count on you for some interesting thoughts!!!
      I guess we shared the same plight then? At least we were not alone. I’m sure there are many more like us out there with this education system

      Well then – you know what you should do with your I-Ching!!!! :)
      And yes, I think we Aries do want to make some sort of impact on our community. I hope both you and I find a way somehow to do that and fulfil our dreams and passions!

      Noch Noch

  9. ayo says:

    hello noch noch

    how are you?

    this was quite a moving letter and i could relate to the physics and calculus issues because they were subjects i needed to conquer in my time too
    .
    however when i look back i realise i could have been happier if i didn’t crave for too much attention from friends i thought liked me for who i was( wrong judgments)

    i cant change anything now because it’s happened already but i can certainly move on appreciate who i truly am and learn from my past /present experiences.

    thanks for all you do on this blog.

    take care of yourself and enjoy the rest of the day.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Ayo

      Thanks for coming by – I’m doing ok today but slightly on the low side :(
      But I soldier on. thanks for asking

      I had always thought I was alone in my struggles and “regrets” of childhood, but it seems a lot of us are on the boat. But you are right, we can’t change anything, and there is no point in blaming anyone / anything (and that’s not the purpose of my letter). LIke you said, this will help us move on and appreciate who we are, and hopefully serve as guidance as we make future decisions.

      I’m glad you like my blog. I really enjoyed yours too :)
      Hope you will come back

      Take care too
      Noch Noch

  10. Hi! I find the idea of writing a letter to your 16-year old self absolutely amazing! Every human should do it. I am sure it will reveal so much about your self and it is going to help you understand a lot in your life. I will definitely try it!

  11. Nigel Chua says:

    You know what, I love this.

    It’s very similar to the exercise I learnt from Steve Pavlina on the interview with yourself – interview the you from five years future, and the interview with you from five years ago.

    But the letter to the 16-year-old you might be stronger, because of a longer period of emotional and mental journey. Love this.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Nigel

      Thanks! Yeh – perhaps the timing is only arbitrary, but I do think 16 years old is a time of teenage turmoil for most people. THen another mark at 25 years old or mid twenties – quarter life crisis they say? Whatever we have to confront, whatever the age, we need to, in order to move on :)

      Noch Noch

  12. Nigel Chua says:

    Hmm…well I did have a quarter life crisis at 25 years old…not only myself, my wife and several other close friends have the same symptoms and issues as well. My 25 year old sister is starting to show the symptoms too – I think it’s a defining moment for those who undergo this crisis.

    Not long after my quarter life crisis, I left the corporate world to start my own practice then too. I started asking myself all sorts of questions such as who I am, where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do etc.

    At 16, I was actually quite an ‘unawakened’ kid, pretty harmless and would literally do whatever my parents wanted me to do. :p

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Nigel

      me again :)
      yeh i think when we get to around that age we start to wonder about our existence and what we are doing. I kind of muddled through that in my mid twenties and just thought i was enjoying the high life. I think I was enjoying then, just that now I’ve changed, or something deep within me has awakened.

      ahhaah well, i had to do what my parents asked me too when i was 16. just that i wasn’t very happy and didn’t really know why booo :(

      but that’s all gone now. i’ve got more years ahead of me :)

      Noch Noch

      • Nigel Chua says:

        Hahaha yeah, didn’t question much about life, its and my existence and anything only until I turn 25, before that, life was pretty much a blur and unthinking “dark” ages =p

        Yes, you’re right, we still have a long (and bright and opportunistic) future ahead of us, let us not waste time on things that don’t matter, and invest time in things that do matter.

        Just a quick share, as I’ve thought about this recently – if one doesn’t know what matters or not, just pose this question on the problem/person/matter

        “Will this be here still/significant in five years time?”

        Putting a timeline on matters usually draws out it significance, and insignificance.

        • nochnoch says:

          Hi Nigel

          I think that’s very true, the timeline puts things into context. Back in the teenage years, my exams were so important to me. Now I look back, do the teachers even remember me? It’s a bit of a double edged sword though, because when I’m in my negative mode, I think, “will this blog be here 5 years later” and I come to the conclusion “wwell, it will all pass, so doesn’t matter, i might as well stop writing / do nothing / die…” and that’s a bit of a thinking trap I get for I get caught up in the insignificance of what I do
          So again, balance – magic word :)

          Noch Noch

          • Nigel Chua says:

            Actually Noch, that is a valid question, and may lead to reinforcing you ideas and beliefs about you and your blog’s purpose indefinitely.

            I would think if/when you confirm the purpose for this blog, it can only either strengthen your resolve in it, or propel you in the direction of pursuing what you’re intended to do, with or without this blog, Noch :)

          • nochnoch says:

            Hi Nigel

            I think part of how this blog helps me, if it helps no other person, is to help me clarify my own purpose and reasons for living. Through writing, I’m fleshing out my thoughts, fears, worries, concerns, joys, hopes, everything! I’m also learning to internalize the approval and happiness, so that it is not depended on what others say. It has already sent me forward in some areas to getting better, and finding out what my real passions are :)

            Funny, only a few comment discussion, and I feel like you know me well – are you stalking me?? :) haha just kidding
            NOch Noch

  13. [...] it’s a fact that I’m coming to terms with. Numbers are simply not my strongest point. I flunked calculus and physics in school, and just could not grasp the concept of how to calculate momentum or redox actions. I [...]

  14. Nigel Chua says:

    Hahaha!

    Yes I am stalking you :p

    No la, I think things move in interesting ways, and I’m pretty glad that we met over the blogosphere, and in a way, support and encourage each other.

    Be it through our writings, or spoken words of encouragement, we are all human, and I can share the pains and sufferings that you’re coping with and going through, because I too, have suffered pain, am suffering, and am going through it the best I can with the resources that I can access to. :)

    Perhaps, it’s because we share things more honestly and openly too, that’s why we bond more easily and readily! :)

    Nigel

    • nochnoch says:

      always love a stalker!!! :)
      yup – i’m slowly coming to realize the “force of the universe” or the “law attraction” / “manifestation” so to speak, coupled with some Christian upbringing, the world moves in mysterious ways. when i’m out there, giving myself genuinely, people give back. i used to be bitter and sad about people not helping me. then i realize i needed to change from within first. so much fear i need to let go
      and in the process, i’ve met all these great people i never knew existed in the blogosphere like you!!!
      thanks for being there
      Noch Noch

  15. Nigel Chua says:

    Totally understand that – sometimes we get into the “why-oh-why” cycle or “woe-is-me” cycle, which both are very vicious, negative and self perpetuating…and very depressing too by the way hahaha…but like you, with experience, teachings in the bible and epiphanic-revelatory moments, I kinda realised that sometimes we need not be too hung up on certain things, and we can always focus on better things :)

    The world is an amazing place, and the God we serve and know is even more amazing, putting people and things in place in advance as He knows our needs. I’m in the midst of something really awesome, and will share with you too once it all sets into place, and how His hands move is super scary and awe-inspiring at the same time!

    Noch, you’d be great! Ive taken a liking to your writing and personality from the beginning, and think you convey and communicate really honestly, intricately and intimately, and it really speaks out to me. Keep writing the way you do.

    Nigel

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Nigel

      You know, growing up in church, my favourite song was “Awesome God”… I’ve kind of drifted away from Christianity, but not exactly. I suppose I’m still working out what it means to me right here and now. But i agree, God or the universe, whatever we believe in, moves in mysterious and ways, and He knows our needs

      Thanks for liking me. Its awesome how we all get connected here. I’m experiencing such kindness from people I had never thought possible. You are a kindred soul, thanks for encouraging me on.

      Whatever you are doing, sounds pretty cool. Good luck with it. Trust in it. It will be great too!

      Noch Noch

      • Nigel Chua says:

        Hey Noch

        Totally understand where you’re coming from – to be honest, I left church for about 18 months, totally disgusted with some people from within…but interestingly, I could still sense His presence, the songs of churches still plays in my head all those 18 months, and the bible verses still come to me, even when I didn’t read the bible during those times. I ran away.

        But He stayed with me. Only later, did I slowly start going back, cautiously one step a time before I finally rooted myself in the church I’m in now.

        Anyway, I don’t want to make this commentary/post religious, so if you’d like, we can email each other k?

        We all go through our own journeys, and we all go through our own development. As you said, He knows our needs, and prepares in advance – in fact, as I share with you, actually, I too, am feeling encouraged.

  16. veehcirra says:

    Hi Noch Noch,

    That is quite a challenging and intereseting task you have put out there. Sometimes going back to the past and dealing with what happened then can be so hard. But it is recommended.

    I have never heard of this method of writing to my younger self, seems like a great tour into the forgotten world of the unknown past. A challenge I will gladly undertake.

    I usually use the 5 year thinking to deal with my past, now and future. I picture myself as I am today in an empty room sitting on a chair. Then 5 year old me, walks in the room and I tell her that everything is going to be okay and we hug and become one,( much like what you said in your letter to your 16 year old self).

    Then, 5 years younger from my current age enters the room and we go through the same process. Finally, this is usually my favorite one, 5 years older me walks in the room (of course she is as successful, beautiful, everything I want as ever) and she says everything does work out :)

    It’s a great process I enjoy going through.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Veeh

      That is a beautiful imagery, you hugging yourself… i think I might adopt that too, just to tell myself it will all be ok in good time. I just need to be patient.
      And yes, writing a letter to ourselves, we can be completely honest, and help us dredge out the history that we need to deal with – but the important thing is also to move on from there
      Hope you enjoy the process
      Thanks for coming to my blog! :)

      Noch Noch

  17. [...] got this idea from a new friend Noch Noch, she is an amazing writer. She wrote her to 16-year-old self a letter as a way of letting go of the [...]

  18. veehcirra says:

    Noch Noch I am really glad you like the process, it takes a lot from within, but it’s so effective.

    You know, this post really got me thinking…that’s why I decided to respond in a post. Thanks for the inspiration.

    Veeh.

  19. [...] read an article about this subject from Noch Noch (an incredible writer) and I absolutely loved the idea. A few days later another amazing blogger, [...]

  20. [...] I had always thought I was an extrovert, with friends endless surrounding me. It is with this challenge of depression that I finally realize, I’m actually happier on my own, and that I don’t need a bundle of friends if I might have one or two soulmates in my life. Society’s image of being popular and outgoing caught the better of me, and my effervescent personality bubbled through. However, I need to also accept and learn to embrace the loner in me, for there is nothing wrong with that side of me either. It is maybe, the more creative side of me that I had never explored, and even suppressed. [...]

  21. Bee says:

    Just stumbled upon your blog via another link. This is such a great idea. There are so many things I would love to tell the 16 year old me and some that I continue try to get through to the 2012 me. I have found blogging is certainly helping with processing and dealing with certain situations through writing. The letter to the 16 year old me is definitely going on my to-do list.

    Thank you for sharing your letter.

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Bee

      Nice to meet you and glad you liked the letter. Hope you find time to write one to yourself too and see what you discover. I keep coming back to this myself to give myself courage to do what I want to do now :)

      Take care
      Noch Noch

  22. [...] a state of destitute misery, I suppose we try to grapple with anything that comes our way, and try to hold on to whatever life [...]

  23. [...] Y and Millennial are more prone to depression and anxiety issues. My umbrella argument was that we lacked a purpose in life and was too used to instant gratification. In response to this phenomenon, I suggested the way that [...]

  24. Blomky says:

    Hi Noch,

    How are you today?

    Stumbled upon blog when I was having a ‘bad’ day sometime ago. Thank you for your wonderful writing! Thank you! Thank you! I have eerie common grounds with you and I feel like some of the stuffs that you wrote could be me.. but I digress.

    This letter to yourself is wonderful n I’ll compose one to myself soonest! But, I could probably steal yours! Cut and paste allowed? :)

    Reading your letter did trigger uncontrollable tears but I feel better after so, thank you, Noch. I didn’t realise my 16th year old self was such an unhappy girl.

    As a sixteen year old in a schooling system pretty much like yours, I was ‘advised’ to take the elite Science stream as well to broaden my future prospects.. what if I want to be a doctor, an engineer, a biologist? I was told that I need add maths ~ calculus, algebra and chemistry and physics etc if I want to get into good universities and good faculties. I am really not a numeric person and I failed miserably, of course and yeah, I’m talking about Ds and Es here too! I felt like such a failure at that time. There goes my hopes at a good college and there goes my parents hope in me. Haha… sounds familiar?

    I went on to uni and then college and got my necessary papers and finally became a successful sales leader that travel a lot for work and manages a team of people. And a few years later, I find myself in depression and thinking very hard of a reason n a purpose for living. I have spent too much time trying to excel, to be a success, to be a good leader and had lost focus of myself and my health.

    Thank you for a reminder today that I should not be harsh on myself and I should be true to myself. I guess I was very harsh on 16th self then too and I shouldn’t be. I am very harsh on myself now too… and I shouldn’t be!

    I hope more parents and 15 year olds read this post and the kids dare take a chance and be true to themselves.

    cheers, Noch!

    • nochnoch says:

      Hi Blomky

      I am doing okay today. A bit flustered but hanging on in there. Thank you for getting in touch and leaving your thoughts here. I am glad you found my articles and writing helpful and you relate to it. It makes me sad in a way that so many of us go through the same inner struggles, but on the positive light, I am happy we are all going through a self-reflection process and not letting ourselves indulge anymore in the achievement focused train track. And yes we need to give ourselves a break – i always forget to and Timmie has to remind me. I sometimes scold myself for being sick and unable to work, but I have to remember my body and mind needs time to heal and there is a point to stop pushing myself overboard.

      I hope your health is better now? Please do take care of yourself.

      And yes – haha – you can cut and paste! :)

      Hope to hear from you again soon

      NOch Noch

  25. [...] write here as therapy, dealing with past issues and moving on Then why do I feel guilty for not having bought my mother a mansion by now and feeling like I let the whole world down not [...]

  26. [...] The town felt destitute and dismal. Yet everyone was so happy. [...]

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about Noch Noch

Noch Noch is born and raised in Hong Kong and Australia. She has also studied / worked / lived in the US, France, UK, Japan, The Netherlands, China, and has travelled to more than 40 countries. Noch Noch loves travelling and her curiosity in foreign cultures and languages has led her to enjoy her life as an international executive for the last 7 years in the banking & finance industry. However, she was forced to take time off work in 2011 due to her illnesses and now spends her time in recovery, cooking, practising Chinese calligraphy, reading and writing – in short, learning to take care of herself and letting out the residual work stress.