In high school I was voted most likely to go insane. No joke —there’s a picture in my high school yearbook to prove it. In it, I’m wearing a straight jacket.
The other guy in that picture was one of my closest friends, Dickie. He got the Class Clown award. I think he’s now a lawyer, and as far as I can tell, I haven’t gone insane. This goes to show that we can’t all live up to our high school expectations.
It’s funny to think about giving my teen self some advice. When I wrote The Secret to Lying, I tried to make it the sort of book that would have meant something to me (and maybe helped me) as a teen. So in a way, I wrote it as a letter to my past self in story form.
But if I had a chance to give my crazy green-haired self (see picture — yup, I’m the guy who dyed his hair green for prom) some advice more directly, it might go something like this:
Dear Wave (that nickname doesn’t last, BTW),
Todd is the guy on the bottom row, second in from the right, with the dark green hair (the color isn’t great on the photo, but it was leprechaun green. On a dare, he dyed his hair, wore ripped jeans, and took a female impersonator to the dance because his girlfriend at the time, who was Prom Queen, was going to the dance with her ex-boyfriend, Mr. Prom King.
I know you’ve got better things to do than listen to an old coot like me do his best pseudo-Yoda impression, but there are a few practical things it would definitely help you to know. Don’t ask why these things are important, or why they work. Just trust me, they do. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Todd Mitchell (THE SECRET TO LYING, BACKWARDS, THE TRAITOR KING)
Dear Teen Me,
The hair says John “Cougar” Mellencamp, but the eyes say it all. The eyes have new secrets. Fifteen years-old and tough times inside and out.
I know you feel alone. I know you spend a lot of time wondering and thinking and caring about things of little consequence so you can avoid the things of big consequence that are hurting you. So, you’ll create more consequences. It’s a total mind-screw. This consequence riddle will plague you for a long time. Hang in there.
Just to be clear, things of little consequence look like:
Worrying about why that Queen Bee doesn’t like you. Hey, she can’t like you because she loathes herself. Period. Quit jumping through flaming hoops of woe to earn that person’s approval and the approval of her drones. You were not born to be a drone.
Worrying about the boyfriend you caught making out with someone very close to you. Hugs for the double-betrayal. I wish I could infuse you with the antidote to taking things personally. His assery is his to own. It says nothing about you. If I could send a book called, The Four Agreements, back in time, I would. That book is a manual. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Tracy Clark (SCINTILLATE)
Dear Teen Me,
Teen Kristin, senior year.
I want to talk to you about your journaling habit. Don’t worry, I’m really happy that you kept all those journals and in fact I still read them and am grateful for them, since my memory is already starting to Swiss cheese itself à la Quantum Leap. But here’s something I know you’ve already noticed (because I read it in your journal): you write a LOT about boys.
It’s still true. True love is so important to us that it’s what we always write about – be it fiction for our readers or in a journal just for us. And, well, the fiction is fine. People love a love story. You and I both love love stories. (Especially the quirky ones like in Can’t Hardly Wait and 10 Things I Hate About You and The Breakfast Club.) But you want your own love story so bad. SO BAD. So bad that it’s all you really write about in your private diary.
And I know you’re not one of those girls who feels like she needs a boy to make her feel whole. You know better than that, and thank God, because you’ve got enough to worry about. But the thing is, you value companionship as much as you do romance. And you fall so hard for each boy you love that you go practically catatonic when things don’t work out. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author & poet E. Kristin Anderson (DEAR TEEN ME)
Dear Teen Me,
Keep running; the finish line is closer than you think!
Hey you! Yes, you with the bad perm and five-dollar tennis shoes. Pay attention because I want you to hear what I have to say. Keep running. Keep moving. Just keep going. I know, I know, you think you can’t. You have asthma. You have shin splints. You get light-headed. You feel like you’re going to pass out. I know. Deal with it and keep moving.
I’ve been watching you. I see how your eyes dart around from person to person as if you’re searching for something in each of their faces. I know what you’re doing and I know you won’t find it there. You have always been the anxious type, trying to please, trying to perform, but more often just trying to find some sense of security. You were an early bloomer, growing faster than the other girls in your class. I know you never felt like you fit in anywhere—especially not in gym class. You aren’t alone. Now that I am grown, almost every adult I meet admits to feeling this way at some point. You just want acceptance and that sense of belonging. And at times it has felt hopeless, especially at age fifteen when your parents moved—again—in the middle of the school year, when you had tests to take, projects due, and boys to impress. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Fiauna Lund (INDIGO)
Dear Teen Me,
Ara in 1987, the summer between junior and senior years.
Have the baby.
If you’re reading this between the ages of 13 and 17, you’re probably saying, What are you talking about? Just to prove how well I know you, and that this isn’t a hoax, here’s an age-level blow-by-blow of your thoughts:
Age 13 (pre-makeout session with that boy from across the street): No way! I’m not having sex with anyone!
Age 13 (post-makeout session with that boy from across the street): Maybe I’ll have sex eventually, but you’re still totally wrong.
Age 14: No guy will turn down a blowjob. Problem solved.
Age 15: Yeah, I want to have sex so bad it’s killing me, but I also want to be able to say I was 16 the first time. I’ll go on the pill before I turn 16, just in case it winds up happening on my birthday. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Ara Burklund (IF I DIE BEFORE I WAKE)
Dear Teenage Me,
If I had the time, I would sit down and tell you everything – how you made your writing dream come true, how you really aren’t fat at all (so stop obsessing), how everything will work out so much better than you ever dreamed. Yeah, it was hard—sometimes excruciatingly so—but so, so worth it. But instead, I’m going to tell you this, because I know that this is what you need to hear most: you matter. Right now, at this stupid moment where you’re probably scrunching your hair, pulling on your cheer uniform, or crumpled into a little ball because of him, because of what they say, you need to know that you matter.
I know you—I know me—so you’re probably going to roll your eyes and spit out something like, “yeah, whatever lady,” but do me this one favor and pay attention. You matter. And yeah, I’m going to keep repeating it because we both know we’re a little thick in the head.
What does “you matter” mean for you, at fifteen, and for me, at thirty-seven? It means that you are just as important as every single person who looks you in the face and says something that makes you hurt. Your hurt matters. You don’t deserve it. Even more so, you don’t deserve it when you do it to yourself standing in the mirror, agreeing with people you barely know who call you fat or ugly or a bitch, agreeing with him because you made him so mad he hit you. They don’t matter. You do. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Hannah Jayne (SEE JANE RUN; TRULY, MADLY, DEADLY)
Dear Teen Boone,
First off, let me just tell you to enjoy your boobs. Take time to really appreciate them. Maybe fondle them or admire them in a mirror for a few minutes each day, because when you have kids all their perkiness will head south. Just sayin’.
Teen Boone, on the Bottom.
Secondly, enjoy your energy. All your exuberance unhindered by sore knees or responsibilities—really revel in that. The saying, ‘Youth is wasted on the young’, gets truer with each passing year. You will still feel sixteen inside but time wears the outside down. Maybe do a jumping jack or two every once in a while. Or stretch. Try that new aged yoga stuff. It gets really popular later on. And as far as food goes, just because it’s fat-free doesn’t mean it’s good for you. So don’t go down the diet food path. You’ll save yourself and your taste buds a lot of torture. A healthy diet and exercise–just do it. Don’t analyze it, read magazine articles about the latest fad, or try every new diet product that comes out. Trust me; you may as well light those dollars on fire. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Boone Brux (SHIELD OF FIRE, SWORD OF THE BETRAYER, CHAIN OF ILLUSIONS)
You and your friends Kim and Linda at the yearbook signing party.
Dear Teen Me,
In these photos, you’re eighteen and a senior. The final days of high school are upon you and you’re writing goofy things in the back pages of each other’s yearbooks, such as KIT (keep in touch), and making big promises like friends forever.
You think you have everything figured out. You do! It’s so funny. You have a plan and you’re positive that if you follow it, step by step, your life will end up just like you thought. A + B = C. College, marriage, job and babies. You toy with the idea of being a writer and you’re going in the direction of journalism. Oh yes, a reporter! What a glamorous life you’ll lead….
But guess what? Nothing goes as planned. Oh, at first it does. You decide journalism is not for you after all, but maybe you can work in public relations. You transfer to the university you wanted to go to, then end up back in your hometown a year later. You move again, get married, and go to another university. You work at this not so great job with really great people. You quit college to have a baby and life is okay. Not perfect but it’s all right. It’ll turn out fine. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Monica Murphy (TORN, One Week Girlfriend series)
Dear Teen Me,
I’m supposed to include some pictures with this (although that might break some essential laws of time-travel-paradoxes) but you’ll see there aren’t any. Why not?
(and no, it’s not because you still have that ugly zit that keeps returning when it’s that time of the month)
You see, you did make it to college—a full scholarship, in fact! But the college was in North Carolina, so you left home after graduation, on your own at age 17, a thousand miles away from everyone and everything you ever knew. Sounds scary, right? Don’t worry, you’ll do fine—better than fine, in fact!
But after you left home, Mom and Dad decided to clean your room of all the stuff you left behind—you know, that stuff that they promised to keep safe?–and so, you guessed it, by the time you got back home over break, everything was long gone…no warning, no explanation, no apology…you should be used to it by now. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author CJ Lyons (BROKEN, the Caitlyn Tierney series)
Chris, age 14!
Dear Chris at 14:
You’re not stupid. You feel like a failure, I know. Reading is hard and so is concentrating in school. Your grades are lousy and the teachers are constantly threatening to hold you back. You want to do better, want the pain and embarrassment to stop. You thought by ninth grade you’d have it figured out, but you don’t. And you don’t see how you could possibly be a good kid and a good student. Maybe you are a bad kid, slow and lazy like they say. But don’t believe everything you think.
I know your secrets. Your problems aren’t just in the classroom. Over the summer your gang of friends turned on you. It’s your fault. What you did wasn’t stealing exactly, but now you’re caught in a lie that you can’t stop telling. Your blind loyalty to an untrustworthy person is costing you. Every time you see that group of kids coming you’re wracked with fear and shame and rage that you can’t talk about. Don’t worry, they won’t physically attack you. And it’ll turn out that you need to break up with that gang to make room for people who’ll be good friends for the rest of your life. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Chris Everheart (FLICKER, The Delphi Deception series)