This weekend, I had the pleasure of hosting a family Hubs and I have known since our move to North Texas fifteen years ago. They knew us in the Age BC: Before Children. And we’ve watched their children grow from toddlers and infants to teenagers. So it’s always fun to get together and have our annual Christmas dinner together and reminisce.
But as we all sat around the dinner table after the food was tucked away, the talk turned to the challenges of being a teenager. I found myself reassuring the young ‘uns that it does, indeed, get better after high school. Oh, sure, sometimes life feels like high school just with more money, but for most of us, life gets easier the older you become.
It all got me to thinking: what would I say to my own teenaged self now, if I could? If I could write her/me, it might look something like this:
Dear Teen Me,
First of all, stop being so emo. Yes, I know it’s 1986, and “emo” isn’t a term yet, but you are that and you should stop it. You get summers off, long breaks from school, and you like learning. Good things are happening. You are intelligent, kind, and talented. Focus on how school can make your dreams come true, not if a boy can. The world is in front of you, and this window of options will narrow before you realize it.
Oh, yeah, school. I know you’re feeling like you are uglier and fatter than any other female at the school. But guess what: so are they. When you’re forty, you’re going to look at a picture of yourself at seventeen and wonder why you thought you were so unattractive and wish you had enjoyed your un-lined face and firm, if temporarily plump, derriere. Not to mention the opportunity to dress like Madonna circa 1986. Grunge is coming. Enjoy while you can.
Don’t hang around boys that make you cry. They aren’t worth it. There’s going to be such a higher caliber of men at college, anyway. Those backward-baseball-cap wearing boys from this tiny town are so…backward. Even if they are on the football team. Don’t do anything that doesn’t feel moral, ethical, or threatens how you feel about yourself for ANYONE’S approval.
Be yourself. Sing too loudly, dress too flashy, dance by yourself. But think carefully before you speak or act. Some things can’t be taken back.
Discover your purpose. Notice that gift of gab you have? That’s going to help a lot later when you become a writer and educator. The pain you’re going though? You’re going to get a lot of satisfaction helping people as a result of having experienced it. Hang in. Talk to your friends about it. Find an adult you can trust. You must find an adult you admire, someone who has a life like you’d want, someone who will help you focus on yourself and your goals after high school.
Oh, and don’t have sex until you’re at least thirty. No, seriously. Okay, at least not before twenty-one. And only have it with someone you love, because women aren’t designed emotionally, physically, or spiritually to have casual sex and be happy and safe too.
Focus on the future. A lot of these kids you wish you were? Guess what: they’re peaking in high school. This is as good as it gets for them. After graduation, they get fat, stay right there in your small town, have a dozen children, and long for their glory days. This state championship is officially their zenith. It’s downhill from here for most of those yokels. This will not be you.
Lastly, when you’re feeling down and sick of yourself, find a way to help someone else. You’ll learn over time it’s one of the only cures for depression. And on that note, your brain is still developing. So hold off the drinking. Good call on avoiding drugs. There’s a time and a place for everything, and it’s called college.
Hang in there, Teen Me! You’re having it rough. But you aren’t helpless. Get a prize, and get your eyes on it. You have everything you need inside to grow into what you’re supposed to be…as long as you don’t get distracted. And maybe even if you do.
Love, Middle-Aged Me.
PS: By the way? You can relax. No worries. It all works out GREAT.