Middle school is tough, but it's going to change your life. Don't despair because you get teased. That won't matter in a few years. I know you don't like yourself very much, and I wish you could see yourself the way I do now when I look back at you.
You are not ugly. Your flat nose, frizzy hair and round face are trademarks from your parents who are intensely proud of you. They connect you to your dad who still sees you as his little girl. Your curls bounce and twist like your mom's did when she was younger. That's why she took the time to comb through it, condition it and care for it since you were a baby. One day your curls will make you stand out, will be admired and you will love them. Take care of them, and stop trying to tame them with sticky gels and dollar store mousse. It thirsts for natural oils and conditioner. Treat it well.
You are not a whale. Stop looking at yourself and seeing a girl who is too fat to deserve love and attention. Stop wishing you were disciplined enough to stop eating and become anorexic because one day you will battle bulimia and it will be awful. You will find yourself curled over a toilet bowl, wishing you could stop but not strong enough to allow food to sit inside you more than fifteen minutes. It will plague you well into your twenties and cause some scary moments like passing out in a movie theater and the burden of hiding this secret from those you love. You are healthy and strong and you will be loved by wonderful men more than you ever imagined and it will have nothing to do with your size or your weight.
Your friends are treasures. You will fight with them, be hurt by them and hurt them right back, but that will not be the end of the world. The ones that are true will stick around through the ups and downs and the ones who don't care will go on about their lives without you in it. In their place will come other friends to teach you about yourself and life lessons. Don't care so much what everyone thinks of you. You are a good person and the friends who will matter know that about you. You are likable and that will carry into high school, college and beyond. Friends will grow into family and you will rely on them when you most need to and they will do the same with you. Sometimes you question the validity of your friendships and that's OK. Believe it or not, your best friend today will be your friend decades from now and you will find a certain comfort in the short times you spend together and thankful for the rich history you share.
Remember how I said middle school would change your life? Well all those hours you spend memorizing spelling words, reading and agonizing over math homework are going to lead to more of that, but it will be your ticket out. All those nights you spend praying to get out of Chicago, praying that God will help you find a way to get your family out of the hood will pay off through your education. I know you're scared and have nightmares about your father getting shot walking home from work, and of getting raped on the bus on your way to school, but none of that will happen. You will survive and you will get your family out of there. Take chances and make the sacrifices necessary for your future. In the grand scheme of your life, you won't miss the sleepovers you weren't allowed to go to or the time at the mall that you missed. You'll remember that you started digging yourself and your family out of the hood at age twelve and you will never regret a moment of that.
Relax. You put the weight of the world on your shoulders all the time and it will become a horrible habit. You will have sore shoulders the rest of your life if you keep this up. You can only control you. There is nothing you can do about the place you live. You cannot change the people around you. All the babysitting money in the world isn't going to pay for your tuition or buy your parents a house, but I admire your tenacity at saving. One day that will get you out of debt by age thirty, and save you when you face the hardest time of your life. Keep valuing hard work and living below your means and in time you will be rewarded with awesome experiences and some impressive stamps on your passport.
Above all, love yourself. Stop wondering why you were born, or if you matter. You do. You are preparing yourself for something greater than what is around you but you have to believe that you can achieve it. The only way you can do that is to care about yourself. Be easier on yourself about failures because they are inevitable. They will be lessons learned and you'll see that they will not be the end of the world. Learn and move forward.
It may be hard to believe, but you will look back on these days as some of the simplest times and miss them. Don't be in such a hurry to get to what's coming next. It's a nasty habit you'll battle well into your thirties and probably beyond, so try easing up now.
You in your late thirties.