My own heartfelt, and exceptionally personal letter:

1. When people think it’s weird that you always carry a camera, ignore them. Or better yet, realize that you’re insanely lucky to have found something you love doing pretty early in life even though this won’t dawn on you until later.

2. Fall in love more and worry less about whether or not it will last “forever”. Don’t let that stop you from dating because shortly you’ll figure out that sometimes the big loves last and sometimes they don’t but that doesn’t change how great they are.

3. Photograph mom and dad more. Also both grandmas and grandpa. Ask them lots of questions when you take their pictures because you’ll wish you did more of both.

4. Worry less about money. Better yet, don’t worry about it much at all. Money will come and go and it’s not a marker of success.

5. Stop comparing yourself to other people. Trite, I know, but really it’s worth getting this one right since it tends to cause heartache.

6. Be less prickly with mom and dad. Sure, the teen angst thing, I get that now, but really, they’re right a lot of the time and you’re young and you don’t know it all. Spend lots of time with them. You’ll get to do this later too but really, you can never have too much time with family. For that matter, never turn down time with family no matter how busy you are.

7. For that matter, busy is overrated. Don’t buy into the “busy equals successful” thing. Spend time without distractions. Make eye contact. Be present.

8. Don’t sweat stuff. You’ll realize soon enough that most stuff is petty and life is a lot more pleasant when you go through it with a smile.

9. Put on sunscreen every day. Mom will finally get through to you about this one day and you’ll feel silly that you didn’t do it for all those years. While you’re at it, take vitamins. They couldn’t hurt.

10. Get your sleep hygiene in order. Trust me, you’ll spend a good chunk of time in your 20s wishing you weren’t borderline nocturnal.

11. Be equally as excited about college as you are. Know that later on someone will tell you that there were photo classes in the architecture department (what?) and you’ll wish you’d known about and taken them. You don’t know this now but you’ll go on to do a separate degree in photography so when you get to college stop pretending you don’t love taking pictures and that you “want” a job in finance.

12. Physics class rocks. French class also rocks. So do your Folklore and PACS classes. These won’t play heavily into your adult life but they’re very enjoyable so don’t sleep through them. Ever.

13. Love more, judge less. This applies to loving/judging yourself too!

14. The iPhone (and iPad and smart everythings for that matter) will one day exist. Beepers and cell phones with huge batteries will be very passé. You will feel ridiculously outdated when you see 4-year-olds with cell phones or infants with iPads who intuitively understand the technologies knowing that you still see them as “adult” devices. On that topic, that laptop you fantasize might one day be actually portable and affordable rather than a pipe dream will be. Don’t worry.

15. Learn how to code. In multiple languages. You’ll regret being code illiterate.

16. Go to France. Go go go. It will be amazing and will change your life.

17. Stop ignoring mom when she wants to teach you how to cook. You’ll be one day realizing how cool it was that she wanted to teach you by companionship rather than instruction.

18. Drink fewer Frappuccinos. You’ll rarely drink them again and they’re kinda silly concoctions if you think about it.

19. Decide now to be a photographer rather than deciding later. I’m telling you now that you actually already know it’s what you want to do, you’re just not saying it out loud.

20. Really really ree-ally enjoy photo classes because you’re allowed to shoot whatever you want. Try everything.

21. Buy a Polaroid camera. Scratch that. Buy 5 Polaroid cameras. Make sure at least one is an sx-70 and two are 690s. Store them. Baby them. Start taking Polaroids now of anything you think is interesting.

22. Put down the camera and actually be in pictures other people take. One day you’ll regret that there aren’t very many pictures of you.  Start taking self-portraits.

23. Make images from your gut rather than your head.

24. Keep playing piano. Don’t stop writing music and keep backup copies of the pieces you wrote because the computer they’re on is going to crash and you’ll lose almost everything and be very glad you have those Xeroxes. Also, keep practicing and don’t take it for granted that dad has a piano because one day he won’t and you’ll miss being able to play regularly. Also, sing. It’s really fun.

25. Do a little less homework.

26. Go to more museums and start paying attention to artists and what they’re doing. You’ll be better informed later.

27. Ignore people who tell you that you can’t run track. To be fair, you are not the world’s best runner but you should ignore people who tell you that you can’t do things because you should try them anyway. By the way, being on the diving team will be a ton of fun so enjoy that.

28. Don’t let mom give away her excellent shoes and handbags from the 60s. They’re gorgeous and you’ll miss them. Also, realize dad has seriously great taste.

29. You are not as uncool as you feel. And for what it’s worth, “cool” is really a high school thing so it passes.

30. When you have one of those “movie moments” where you feel like you’ll quintessentially remember it for the rest of your life, savor it. You will.

31. Take more pictures. Do more art. Be more free.