Dear Teen Shannon,
Teen Shannon and friends. Shannon’s the one in the diamond colored dress.
First of all—Happy Halloween! You still love it, even as a grown up. And, yes, you still dress up every year. This year you’re totally pumped about a certain unicorn headband you’ve acquired.
But back to you, Teen Shan. Let’s talk about you.
There are a lot of things you are doing these days that you’re going to look back on and think, “What the hell?”
You’ve still got a lot of growing and changing to do. Yes, I know, Et tu, Brute? I can just imagine the look on your face right now—one brow cocked and a challenge in your eyes. You’re making your “Be serious” face at me right now, aren’t you? Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Shannon Lee Alexander (LOVE AND OTHER UNKNOWN VARIABLES)
Dear Teen Me,
Amy at 16, with lots of attitude, a nose ring and a hemp necklace.
Don’t let your friend give you those tattoos with the sewing needle in the park. You will regret them, trust me. You will pay lots of money to have them removed and covered up with other tattoos.
Apply to more than one college. Seriously consider going somewhere a little less intense, a little more creative. Your mental health will thank you.
Intelligence is not nearly as important as kindness.
People who are different than you are not automatically assholes.
You don’t have to try so hard to be different. You don’t have to try so hard, period.
Now listen. I know you think you’re smarter than everyone else, especially adults. But I’m you, so even though I’m an adult, you can trust me. The first thing I want to say is I’m proud of you. You survived two of the hardest years you will ever experience. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Amy Reed (CLEAN, OVER YOU, DAMAGED)
Dear Teen Me,
Teenage Amanda pretending she can see without her glasses while pretending be an old man who’s pretending to be an actor.
It’s not a phase. It’s not okay to talk about—and even if it was, nobody wants to talk to you anyway because you’re That New Girl. Again. Not The New Girl – the one whose ridiculously wealthy parents just moved across the Atlantic – no, you’re That New Girl, and by now you’ve given up on telling people what brought you to a loamy patch of Middle O’Nowhere, A.H.
As the not-so-distant version of you, I can tell you that it does get better. It doesn’t ever go away, not really, but you’ll learn to live with it. I’ve actually grown to love that odd little side of ours—the one that can be blamed for the abundance of awkward conversation, closets full of regrettable outfits, unusually loud farting noise our shoes sometimes fill the room with, and basically everything else that that makes us a totally awesome person.
Hmm, that side of us still needs a name. How about Fred? Nobody cares about Fred these days. If they do, they’re kind enough to let me go on believing they don’t. I think some of them even like the little monster in us. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Amanda Cyr (ZHUKOV’S DOGS)
Dear Teen Kat,
Destined for stardom (or the streets).
You’re 16. You’ve just been sick as a dawg for the better part of a month, broken up with your first boyfriend, and you have Big Exams looming. So of course, you decide you’re going to get famous.
The foray into film acting won’t turn out so well; playing college girl Suzy who cheats and gets stabbed to death is kinda fun, but kiddo, you’re not a good actress. So you’ll decide, after a few months of twanging away on your guitar and wailing along to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill a billion times… yeah, you’ll decide you’re going to be a rock star.
The idea looks like it might have legs for a while. After the local newspaper runs an article on you titled ‘Could this be the Year of the Kat?’ you will acquire a music agent. This agent drives you to your first ‘gig’, which is an open mic night in a dingy dive bar, and although you are shaking with nerves, you manage not to choke. On the way home, the agent steers the car with her knees while she rolls a cigarette and tells you that your gig went well, but you need to learn to sing from your foof. (She doesn’t say foof, though. She uses the c-word, liberally and with enthusiasm.) “I don’t think mine can sing,” you will tell her, although you’re more concerned about getting home alive at this point than the vocal abilities of your ladyparts. Your agent will laugh, and you’ll join in, although you’ll secretly be wishing you were at home watching Sex and the City with your mother and explaining the dirty jokes for her. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Kat Ellis (BLACKFIN SKY)
Jill at the junior prom with Patrick, a French foreign exchange student. She really didn’t want to go with him, but no one had ever asked her to a dance before, so…? Her joy shows plainly on her face. She is wearing a dress she made.
Dear teen me,
Don’t worry. Seriously.
I mean, just stop, already! Relax!
You are good enough, smart enough, and people like you. And I’m not just quoting Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live.
I am proud of you. You are loved.
Now that you’ve heard that, I want to tell you a few other things.
You have always been obsessively persistent. And that will pay off for you no matter what you try. You will chase your dreams of becoming a fashion designer all the way to New York City. You will graduate from the Fashion Institute of Technology and move to Los Angeles. You will get jobs as an assistant fashion designer. Just be ready. Be flexible. Because life doesn’t always turn out the way you think it will. And some of those fashion industry people are just plain mean. You never were a very good doormat.
But you’ve always been a dreamer. And you’ll find the perfect way to make use of your over-active imagination. Just you wait. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Jill Williamson
Dear Amber Dawn,
Amber wore overalls. She’d like to forget but there’s permanent proof.
You’re fourteen and you’re in a new country again. But this time, it’s your native country and although you’re supposed to feel at home, you feel utterly, completely, foreign. You don’t know which group you belong with at school, and that’s fine because the truth is, you belong with all of them and none. You’re different enough having lived half your life outside the States, so you don’t have to do anything to be unique. You just are.
That’s a good thing, believe it or not. Especially when you’re sixteen and there’s a stupid fad to dress up like a sexy baby doll.
This is what I want to get across: the world is real, and real means gritty, soft, hopeful and hopeless. It’s full of love and mistakes and regret, and you’ll discover that you manage to make incredibly huge mistakes over and over again, but each time—this is key—you pick yourself up. You dust yourself off. And then you do your best to take care of the collateral damage. You’re not exactly an angel, but you’re not a demon. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Amber Lough
Dear Teen Me,
I know this is my third letter to you so it’s like, what now? You’re seventeen and it’s getting a bit tiresome being beat over the head with advice regarding academics and religion by your older self. But today I come in the name of peace. Not just peace, but love. Because love is what I want to talk to you about. More specifically, the romantic kind of love. You want to believe in a forever love as the only true love. You want to believe that the L-word you spoke to someone (or someones) in the past couldn’t possibly have been real—it was child’s play. You want to believe that the love you’re currently absorbed in is the real deal. That it isn’t going to end, despite stats about high school relationships and how often those couples return to their ten or even five year reunion together. You want to be the one (or two, actually) who prove everyone wrong.
I’m not going to tell you the outcome of your current love interest. Sorry if that seems harsh, but I need you to understand something very important and giving that answer will distract you. What you need to do is stop worrying about proving anyone wrong. Stop worrying about defying odds. This isn’t the Olympics. A relationship isn’t something you want to persevere through for the sake of perseverance. Turn off the white noise around you and focus only on how you feel and what your heart is telling you to do. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Julie Cross (WHATEVER LIFE THROWS AT YOU, TEMPEST)
Vicki’s favorite senior picture!
Dear 9th Grade Vicki,
Earlier this week, Dad made a comment about how we always surrounded ourselves with “geniuses” in high school. It’s true—the majority of our closest friends were in honors classes. And then I made the joke, “Yeah. Who knows what went wrong? Maybe I was just the stupid one to keep them grounded.”
Teen Vicki, I’m writing to you now from October 2014 to implore you not just to surround yourself with smart people but to let yourself become one. You have potential that you hide because you’re afraid of being uncool. You’re so insecure in your own skin that you’d rather pretend to be a “tough chick” and seek out the next boy to call you pretty. You need to realize how strong, beautiful, and intelligent you already are.
You’ve gone through a lot in the nine years following graduation, and not all of it was good. Instead of graduating strong, following your dreams, and living life to the fullest, you let our lack of confidence get the best of you. You let boys walk all over you, and during college, you were more worried about losing a boyfriend than a lifelong dream. Yes, that boyfriend did become your husband, but only one week into your marriage, that husband strayed—and three years later became your ex. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Vicki Leigh (CATCH ME WHEN I FALL)
Dear 15-year-old Me,
Caroline with her date Paolo at the prom.
Right now, you’re a sophomore in high school. You have a mouth full of braces, a big pile of homework, and a deep love for all things Abercrombie & Fitch. Actually, I bet you’re wearing your favorite A&F sweatpants right now while you’re sitting on the blue carpet in your bedroom, trying to draft a paper for English Lit—but let’s face it. You’re not thinking about Death of a Salesman and how it relates to the American dream.
You’re thinking about boys instead.
You’re thinking about boyfriends in particular.
You think a lot about kissing.
You’ve never been kissed before—which is why you think about it so much—and you’re secretly hoping that you’ll get your first kiss this year. You spend hours wondering what it will feel like, pressing your lips against a boy’s mouth. You blush when you think about your tongues touching. Wouldn’t that be, um, squishy? Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Caroline Tung Richmond (THE ONLY THING TO FEAR)
Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Sarah,
Sarah playing guitar, age fifteen.
The hole in your father’s chest is big enough to fit both your fists inside. It’s okay, Sarah, you tell yourself as you clean and pack the wound from his heart surgery. Even now, when I’m writing this to you at age thirty-four, the smell of betadine makes you violently ill. You can see Dad’s sternum held together with wire.
Your friends are freaked out and stay away. Yours is the house where your friends land when shit gets bad. If they get kicked out, they know to come to you. But where can you go? None of them has had a dying man in their house, but you do. You’re used it. He’s been dying for three years already.
You’re a junior in high school and mad. Your sister Ericka’s off in college in Chicago while Mom’s already told you that you’ll attend the junior college in town. Never mind that you’ll be offered full scholarships to both of your dream colleges elsewhere. You must take care of Dad. There’s no arguing, which is how it always is with Mom.
Your godfather and his roommate move into the basement. They are alcoholics. You don’t feel safe with them in the house. Not with the things they say about you when they wander upstairs, hammered, while Mom’s away at one of her three jobs and Dad’s sick in the bedroom. They leer at you, talk about whether you’re a virgin since you have big breasts, offer you a drink. You never tell anyone. Because you’re embarrassed. Because your godfather is Mom’s friend. Because you were raised to believe you helped people who couldn’t be on their own feet. But they feel very, very wrong to you. So you make dinner for you and Dad, and you keep a sharp knife at hand, and when you go to the basement to take care of laundry, that knife is hidden in the clothesbasket. Just in case. It’s okay, Sarah. They get themselves kicked out of your home. Good riddance, even if they pop up like Whack-a-Moles for the next few years. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Sarah Bromley (A MURDER OF MAGPIES)