A couple of days ago, I was talking to a friend on the phone. I met this woman when she reached out to me, confiding that she wants to stop drinking and needed a bit of advice. After just one conversation, I knew we were soul sisters – everything she’s experiencing now, newly sober, I experienced too. Naturally, talking to her always reminds me of certain things or feelings I’ve forgotten over time.

Dear 16-year-old Caroline…

It’s me, A.K.A. you, but 11 years older and a whole lot wiser. First off, stop going in tanning beds right this minute and don’t let anyone talk you into getting bangs. Just trust me. With that out of the way, here are a few other things to keep in mind as you navigate the insane world of high school, college, and early adulthood. Seriously, even if you don’t take advice from anyone else, listen to some advice from YOUR DAMN SELF.

A few weeks ago, my friend Kelly Boylan invited me to be a part of an amazing project called “I’ve Got Your Back.” To say I was thrilled is an understatement. Kelly is incredibly talented and I had already binge read all of her IGYB interviews before she asked me to be a part of it. In Kelly’s words, “I’ve Got Your Back” is “inspired by my own journey with self-acceptance. It’s inspired by my feminist beliefs and a desire to build sisterhood and community. It’s inspired by the beautiful women in my life. Each woman photographed is an inspiration in her own way.”

Yesterday, I had two conversations that stuck with me. They were completely different, but they both put me in that introspective mood that had my wheels turning all night.

The first conversation was with a woman who was upset with her boyfriend. His social media usage (specifically towards other women) bothered her, but she didn’t want to seem petty or “psycho” by asking him to stop liking/commenting/following other women on his various apps.

The second conversation was with a friend who had received an uncomfortable and hurtful comment about her body. She brushed it off at the time because the situation was so unpleasant, but privately she was in complete distress over it.

When Jeremy and I moved to California in June, it was a monumental moment for me in several ways. It was my first cross-country move, it was the official start of my freelance writing career, and it was my first time living with a boy! Big changes, right? It’s funny ­– if you had asked 15-year-old Caroline if I would ever cohabit with a boyfriend, I would have emphatically said NO. In my mind, that was off limits until I was married, “or at least engaged.” Two things I’d point out to 15-year-old Caroline… 1) Rent ain’t cheap, especially if you’re spending all your time in one place anyways and 2) You’ll know a ring is coming long before it actually does, so don’t try to be cute and coy by signing a year-long solo lease.

On my last blog, I wrote about my sobriety experience. I touched a bit on my relationship with my fiancé, and a few people had mentioned they’d be interested in hearing more about that. My experience finding Jeremy was a bit unique. I hadn’t had a serious boyfriend in a long while, and I hadn’t had a healthy relationship in much longer than that. For a while, I put the idea of a romantic relationship on the back burner while I focused on getting healthy and trying to figure out who I was. When I re-emerged, I decided I was going to do it my way. If it worked, fantastic! If not, that would be fine too.