Dear Juan Jo:

Whenever anyone asks what the happiest day of my life was, I always say it was the day you were born. I don’t really remember much of it because I was only three at the time. But having a brother has made me so happy that it only makes sense for me to pick that day as my favorite. Do you remember the time I made you ride Cheetah in Busch Gardens, and how you were so mad at me at first but it turned out to be your favorite ride? Or how about all those times we went outside and ran in the rain when it was pouring outside? Or all the movies we watched while eating our weight in Cheetos and popcorn dipped in nacho cheese? Whoa, where did time go?!

You’re a freshman in high school now! When did this happen? And I’m in college now. A couple thousand miles away from where you are. And since I’m older, therefore wiser, I can give you a few pieces of advice to help you get through these years.

But that’s a lie, though. I’m not wise at all. If you ever look at college kids, and think “Oh, they’re so grownup”, just know they’re not. As a matter of fact, I felt a lot more like a grownup when I was your age than now. Now, I usually feel like I’m 8. Just a few hours ago, I was crying over my physics homework and I thought, “Whoa. It’s like I’m fifteen again.”

I’ve learned a lot of stuff throughout these years, and I’m definitely a lot more independent that I used to be. But there may never come a time when you think, “Oh. I’m officially a grownup now. I’m so put together and my life is not a mess anymore.” It will be okay. Just keep moving forward and trying your best.

On that same note, thankfully, you are still only fourteen so the “real world” is still kind of far away from you. So enjoy being a teen while you can. College life comes with a lot of perks, but it still sucks waking up homesick one day and realizing you won’t see your parents again until Christmas. Mom and Dad may seem super annoying right now, but they want only the best for you. No one is going to rub your belly like Mom does when you’re feeling sick, and no one’s going to wake up and pick you up at 3 am even when they still have work tomorrow at 8 like Dad does. However, no one will ask where you’re going, who you’re going to be with, who’s driving you back, etc. (multiple times because they forget). I do not miss that part.

Remember how our mom made us drink butterbeer so we would get a mustache, and when we didn't get a mustache she smeared it over our faces, all for a picture? Yeah, you're going to miss that.

Remember how our mom made us drink butterbeer so we would get a mustache, and when we didn’t get a mustache she smeared it all over our faces, all for a picture? Yeah, you’re going to miss that.

The friends you have right now will not be your friends forever. I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, that’s what everyone says, but that won’t happen to me and my friends.” Well, it probably will. It’s sad but sometimes people change, or interests change, and the people you hang out with the most right now might not be in your life a couple years from now. That’s perfectly normal, too.

Drinking doesn’t make you cool. And it doesn’t make you uncool, either. It just is. However, whatever you choose to do, realize there will always be people judging you for it. I was very proud of you the day you came home from your first real party and told me, “I don’t understand why people need to drink to have fun” because that shows you are already making better decisions that I did at that age.

That being said, you still have three years of high school left, so if you do choose to drink, please watch your drink and don’t make a fool out of yourself by drinking more than you can handle. If you are drinking, make sure to do so in an environment where you feel safe. Just don’t even think of smoking and/or doing drugs because I will personally get on a plane and rip your head off.

Also, off the record, enjoy all those quinces (Quinceañeras) that you are being invited to. There will never be a time in your life when free alcohol and free food are so easily available than when you are fifteen. It’s funny how society works sometimes.

Do NOT ever drop football or baseball. I like to think most of the (bad) decisions I’ve made in my life have helped me become the person I am today, but I will never be able to explain to myself why I dropped ballet. Stick with your passions, even if it gets hard. Twenty years from now, you won’t even remember that hard math class or that bio project, but you will most definitely remember your teams and all the memories you made with them.

Oh, by the way, remember how a couple weeks ago you took all my SAT books because you needed a stack of books to put something on top? You might as well start studying from them.

High school will end soon enough. Have fun.

Love you forever,


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the author

Clarissa Gallardo is a sophomore at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Originally from Panama City, Panama (only place in the world where you can see the sun rise in the Pacific and set on the Atlantic!), she is majoring in Mechanical Engineering and minoring in Mathematics and Ballet. A member of the Honors Program and dancer at heart, you can find her studying at the library, scrolling through her Tumblr feed , dancing, or reading. Clarissa has a really bad case of wanderlust and is obsessed with white chocolate mochas, The Big Bang Theory, and Doctor Reid from Criminal Minds. You can follow her on Twitter and on Tumblr.

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