Dear 13-year-old me,
Being a teenager is hard – harder than most adults like to admit. You’re somehow expected to figure out who you are, all the while enduring an onslaught of hormones, social/academic pressures, and the imminent threat of acne.
Your teachers, parents and loved ones all mean well, and they’re genuinely trying their best (let’s face it, you can be a pretty big asshole when you want to be), but no matter how well-meaning, you may still end up on the receiving end of some pretty shitty advice.
(For example: Someone might tell you that “These are the best years of your life.” If that happens, just assume that the person in question is either lying or sadly reliving their high-school glory days. Either way – yikes. Don’t listen to them.)
But that’s why I, the future you, want to chime in and give you a few pointers of my (our?) own to get you through puberty and beyond.
– Be kind to people. Be kind to them for no reason – but if you do need a reason: the act of being kind to others is capable of increasing your own propensity toward happiness… How’s that?
– Your self-awareness and your level of comfort in your own skin (with your braces and your awkward puberty weight and all!) is going to make your life a pleasure to live. Try to hold on to that confidence through all the different manifestations of your outward flaws.
– Keep being friends with the trouble makers. You seem to have figured out how to distinguish the ones who constructively challenge the status quo from the ones who are just degenerates for degenerates’ sake. Let them make you ask questions and evaluate situations more deeply… Then go spend the rest of your time with the nerds and weirdos.
– You’re going to “go out” with a popular boy, then he’ll dump you, then some girls will be mean to you for no reason. Know that people’s actions are always informed by their experiences; so basically, nothing that anybody does is only about you. They are dealing with their own shit and the sooner you can digest that and try to find your empathy bone, the better.
– You tell great stories. For now that just makes you a cool friend and an entertaining family member, but when you fine tune that ability, you’ll be able to connect with people on a level you never imagined possible. Keep communicating.
– The harsh words you spew at your mom when you’re angry will come back to haunt you in a decade or so when you give birth to your first child. Be mindful of people’s feelings – especially those of the people who love you.
– You are not a failure because you are bad at math, science and computers. Your brain works in a way that makes that shit incredibly hard to understand. Do your very best with them and don’t beat yourself up over the results.
– School exists to teach you HOW to learn and WHAT you like. (Although this advice isn’t new. Dad’s been giving it to you since you were eight; but I’m here to tell you – he was right.) But since that’s what it’s there for, use it as an opportunity to really figure out the most effective ways for you to learn. Having that knowledge will help you no matter what career path you choose.
– When it comes to your future, dream about it, set goals, let your imagination run wild, but don’t worry about it – Be open to changes of plans. They may feel scary at the time, but in the end, it’s all about the journey, baby.
Nikita, you have a family who loves you, friends who accept you, a private school education at your fingertips, and you have still yet to pay for a single thing in your entire existence (unfortunately, you will only know how fucking great that is in hindsight). Life is good now, but it’s only going to get better as the days go by, so worry less and enjoy more. Oh and stop drinking Coca Cola, that shit will kill you.