Dear Teen Tricia,
I’m going to tell you something that will probably surprise you. As an adult, you become quite the extrovert. Yeah, I know it’s hard to believe as you sit quietly in class, trying to be invisible, but it’s true. And despite the fear that you’re not smart enough or pretty enough or funny enough, you make it. You really do. Here’s how:
Volleyball: Good job! Trying out for volleyball is one of the best decisions you’ll ever make. Because not only do you challenge yourself to learn new skills, you make friends with a group of girls who, for the most part, have your back. Goofy fun prevails. But also, you learn that you can be and are strong, both physically and mentally. And even though your fear of failure will make you quit too soon, the years playing volleyball give you some desperately needed confidence.
Your brain: Okay, there’s good news and bad news here. First, the bad. Your math and science career lasts only two years. Because back in the day, that’s all that’s required. And yeah, I know those subjects aren’t your favorites, but it would’ve been nice to have some teacher encourage you to take higher level math or science. But they don’t, of course. I mean, you’re just a girl, right? Why do girls need higher math? But now the good news. Your English teachers rock. I mean, seriously rock. Encouragement, laughter, challenges—it’s all right there. Those fab teachers lay the foundation for your love of books and your future fiction writing. I hope they realize how much of a difference they make. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Patricia B. Tighe
Dear Teen Me,
Hello, ladies. Did someone order an uptight virgin?
Please stop masturbating for a minute so I can give you a bit of advice that could potentially change your life. You might be surprised to learn that you do not become a Southern Baptist youth minister, but instead you become a comedy writer in Hollywood. You lose your virginity at twenty, and, try as you might, you never do use The Force. I’ll keep trying, but I really don’t think it’s going to happen.
Your high school career, like most teenagers’, will be filled with a lot of temptation and torment, and you do an admirable job of resisting most of it. You’re very social, inexplicably popular, and even date a cheerleader. Life is good. Then, one summer night between your Junior and Senior year, you’ll get into a car with a group of people you don’t know very well, and that car will take you to a party at a barn in the middle of nowhere. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Kirker Butler (PRETTY UGLY, Family Guy)
Dear Teen Me,
Teen Scot, Self-portrait in Sunglasses with Cat and Rooster Butts.
Thanks for the poem and the picture. They both made me smile, but in the way you might smile at a puppy wrestling a teddy bear. You aren’t cute, but you’re practicing being savage and it’s kind of funny.
I understand your ambition to become an Aborigine—living lightly, minimally and autonomously will become trendy next century but right then, in the shadow of your seventeenth birthday, you probably feel like you’re the first person since 1788 to want for a simpler life. You’re not; you’re just isolated and that isolation is the root cause of the dull pain you feel in your heart, too. You’ll have to face up to the fact that you’re genetically unqualified to be a native, but your empathy for traditional people and your restlessness will help you form a backbone. It will connect you to people. Keep reading. Keep listening. Keep walking barefoot. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Scot Gardner (THE DEAD I KNOW)
This tiara that you so coveted? Yeah… the metal has tarnished and half the rhinestones fell out. (If that ain’t the perfect euphemism for high school!)
Guess what? The world doesn’t revolve around you. Did that just blow your mind? Nah, ‘cause you’re not listening anyway. I’m guessing you just rolled your eyes and went back to the “cool table”, to the spot you earned with gratuitous cleavage and a fake ID.
But you know what you should do instead (after you roll your eyes, of course, ‘cause I know you’re gonna roll those eyes)? You should go sit with the group of people that liked you before you discovered push-up bras and Natty Light, when you were merely a bespectacled nerd in a back brace doing monologues from Saved by the Bell. And before you start with “Say what???” denials, I know you remember it, because I remember it.
But you worked far too hard to forget that girl, those glasses, that back brace, and those friends. Now you have new friends! Ones who’ll drop you like a 90s pickup truck if you dare to show an ounce of individuality. Ones who’ve selectively forgot Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Jen Estes (FIFTEEN, The Cat Mc Daniel Mystery Series)
Dear Teen Me,
Let’s Go to the Hop! Just kidding, I’m not that old. Alisha and one of her amazing friends get ready for the Halloween dance.
Hey there, you boy-crazy, Roxette-loving, lip-syncing maniac. Oh, the drama of it all: friends and frenemies, rumors and romance, heartbreak and histrionics. I’m trying to think of some sage advice to give you, but as I attempt for the 27th time to write this letter, I don’t think you should (even if you could) change a thing. Because each mistake, each mortifying moment, each cringe-worthy episode in your life has made you who you are today (not to mention provided ample material for your future writing career).
However, there is one thing that – should I stumble upon a time machine – I would like you to try doing, and that’s adopting more of a courageous attitude. Not in matters of the heart, you’re quite fearless in that respect, to the point where you’re not afraid to make a giant ass out of yourself for love. But rather, when it comes to standing up to the people in your life who make Regina from “Mean Girls” seem quite lovely.
I know you think it’s the whole braces, giant glasses and perm thing you have going on. Or maybe it’s because they sense you won’t say anything back, being a non-confrontational, keep-the-peace, turn-the-other-cheek kind of gal. Who knows, it just may be their own insecurities making them grumpy. We’re all just trying to find our way and high school is a crazy time.
Whatever the reason, there are moments in life when you need to summon a little nerve. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Alisha Sevigny (KISSING FROGS)
Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Self,
Teen Amy and Teen Jonathan going to their junior prom. They might look six years old, but they are actually sixteen.
You know that cute boy from English class that you’ve been dating? You’re totally going to marry him. But first, you’re going to go through some hard times and learn something about what real love is all about. Those hard times start today.
Today you have just said goodbye to the boy you fell in love with six months ago. He moved away and you feel that your entire soul will be wept through your tear ducts. You are curled up in the neighborhood’s wooden playground fort for privacy, clinging to his childhood quilt he left for you. It still smells like him. You weep harder. You don’t believe you’ll ever see him again, because when do you ever see people again after the military moves you? Again. This time, though, you were the one left behind.
You feel like only half a person. And isn’t that rather romantic? You’re a bit of a martyr, in fact. Go ahead and play The Cure again and curl into a ball. I’ll warn you now: you’ll look for his letters every day at the post office like an addict waiting for a hit. You’re soulmates, after all, right? You can practically read each other’s minds; you finish each other’s sentences. And though he’s gone from this place, your mind will ever be drifting toward him. That last year in high school, you’ll somehow still remain “Amy and Jonathan” to everyone, when Jonathan lives across the Atlantic Ocean. One thing I can say about you, is that you are fiercely loyal and can love deeply. Thankfully, that’ll never change. But we’ll get back to that love idea in a moment. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Amy Bearce (FAIRY KEEPER)
Hey what’s ↑ ← ↓? Just kidding. It’s been awhile, and obviously there’s much ground to be covered. So let’s get right to it. Your friends are married. That gum you like is coming back in style. Punk is dead, newsflash, it was dead even then, but if you need further proof: Green Day had a musical on Broadway. But back to us—we could speak of cults, of addiction, your estrangement from your mother, and or your behavior to family, girlfriends, friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike, all of which don’t require much imagination or hindsight to provide an alternative course of action in which you might behave better, differently, kinder.
But even now in 2015—the year depicted in Back to the Future II—there doesn’t exist, at least not on the commercial marketplace, the technology to allow time-travel. (I should note, though there remains no flying automobiles, there is technology rapidly progressing for driverless cars, which given that we still don’t have our driver’s license, couldn’t come soon enough.) That’s to say I’m skeptical this missive will reach you, though I hope it does, and yet I’m still resisting the urge to warn you about future events. I’m no dummy—I’ve watched plenty of movies to know one small action alters the universe. For instance, if now, I insisted you make every effort to acquire your driver’s license, how can we know this won’t result in our death in an automobile accident on I-95 to buy dime bags on Frankfurt Ave. Shazam! Then neither of us are here, you to receive this letter from the future and me here typing it while I smoke a cigarette with the ceiling fan on, the window open, and a candle burning so our wife might not suspect what I was up to. Yes, you are married, and yes it is awful that you start smoking, it happens when you stop drinking, and yes, you stop drinking in a few months and at least until now, will not have relapsed. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author & poet Brett Fletcher Lauer (PLEASE EXCUSE THIS POEM, A HOTEL IN BELGIUM)
Dear Fifteen-Year-Old Lynn,
Lynn at 17 (at Emily Dickinson’s grave). She probably wasn’t wearing shoes because this was during her hippie phase.
You are being lied to. You’re in a paper gown with your feet in stirrups and an IV being secured into your vein and you are being lied to.
“You are so young,” says the doctor, “my guess is you will have too much scarring to ever carry a child to term.”
You don’t know if you even want children, you don’t know how to even think about whether you want children, but you start crying. And then you go under.
But let me back up. You are about to have your second abortion within six months. You’re back at the sketchy clinic near the airport that your best friend Jess’ mom found for you in the phone book after you called Jess in a panic that first time and neither of you knew what to do because you were only fourteen at that point. In the ‘80s in your school, “Sex Ed” was all about how to use sanitary napkins and not about birth control and not about consent and not about how sex is supposed to be enjoyable and certainly not about where to find an abortion.
Who called the clinic? I don’t remember, and it wasn’t you, you were so shy on the phone with strangers. You still are, by the way, you still get nervous calling for food delivery! Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author & poet Lynn Melnick (PLEASE EXCUSE THIS POEM, IF I SHOULD SAY I HAVE HOPE)
Dear Teen Me:
Teen Collision-Course Kevin, courting disaster.
Man, did you blow it! You couldn’t even kill yourself properly. Sorry to burst your bubble, but for all the energy you wasted on suicidal ideation…you never did get around to doing it right. I’m here to tell you that you’re still here. You made it this far. With no real life plan to ever burden you, because you didn’t really think you’d ever have a life to plan. And the whole time, there it was…being lived.
It’s not your fault. You are not alone.
Because of your incomprehensible stubbornness, you never once considered those words. You accepted the blame. You shouldered the responsibility for what happened to you when you were only eleven-years-old. You closeted the single most horrifying experience of your existence into a silent scream that swirled around inside your head for over thirty years.
Boys don’t get raped. So it couldn’t have happened anyway, right? This is you at forty-eight, begging you to realize that statement is a big fat lie. It does happen to boys.
It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault.
Teen Kevin, circa 1984. The Mohawk is still his favourite.
Eleven. The year you first contemplated taking your own life, leaving this world. The year IT happened. The ground zero to the rest of your life. This one horrifying event did so much to form the teenager you would later become, the chaotic hot-mess of a teenager who was voted most likely to crash and burn. Nobody thought you would live to see twenty. Nobody had any faith in you.
But as it is with every tragedy, there was an opportunity for growth. I wish, more than anything in the universe, that I could have taken away the experience. But I couldn’t, I can’t. I promise you one thing, though. In your forties you’ll meet a phenomenal woman who will change the course of your life and the way you look at the world. You will heal. She will tell you IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT. She will tell you YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You won’t believe these things at first, but you will eventually succumb to the softness of the promises. This woman? She has made it her life’s work to bring survivors of childhood sexual abuse to a place of healing. What you don’t know right now, my dear teen me, is that you deserve to heal. You deserve to feel life without a constant mask of pain and shame. But only time, and a dear sweet angel of a woman, will convince you of this truth. Not me.
Kevin with two of the great loves of his life, his grandsons Edward and Charlie.
I’m not going to beg and plead with you to stick around. The joke’s on you. I’m here…which can only mean one thing. You made it. It was a courageous and, at times, catastrophic uphill battle. But you did it. You have beautiful children. You have beautiful grandchildren. The boy who would not survive has grandchildren.
There are other changes in your life. You are in a committed relationship with someone you love and someone who loves you. I know you won’t believe this, but you are. At forty-eight you are living YOUR life. The voices have been silenced. The demons have retreated.
There is now a flower garden growing atop your ground zero. You will never forget from where it is you have come. The scars are there and they will never leave you. But you are made stronger for them. You will one day get to live in this present world where the scars are not the only thing. That black ball of disaster that’s currently swirling in the centre of your mind, eating away at all the good you crave? You will kick it to the curb and you will begin a healing journey like no other. My only wish is that your silence and shame did not last as long as they did… that you weren’t re-victimized when, as a teenager, you screamed for help and were silenced by the one person you should have been able to count on.
Kevin with new friend and fellow Left Bank Writers Retreat participant, Nina, atop the Arc de Triomphe! Paris, June 2015.
I have some more good news to share with you, an actual solid tangible reason for you to stay alive. That world you sneak into through the books you devour, the one that includes the beautiful cities of the world you knew you would never see because you wouldn’t live long enough to travel? Guess what? You make it. You see the world. In all its painful glorious beauty, you see the world. So stick around. IT GETS BETTER. This, I promise you.
I know it’s crazy. In your bleak miserable now—my distant past—you can’t even fathom happiness. But it’s here. Waiting for you. I’m here waiting for you. It’s not your fault. Your life is always yours to fight for. And we are not our tragedies. Oh my god! We are NOT our tragedies! We are not defined by our moments of earth-shattering blackness. We are defined by the beauty in-between those black moments. And as much as I know you will never believe me, you are beautiful. You are worthy of making it to your future, to my now. And I will be here to welcome you with open arms.
With much love and gratitude from the old man on the other side of the darkness,
Curiosity Quills Press, December 2014.
Kevin Craig is the author of three young adult novels (SUMMER ON FIRE, BURN BABY BURN BABY, and, HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN) and two adult coming-of-age novels with child narrators (SEBASTIAN’S POET and THE REASONS). He is a four-time winner of the Muskoka Novel Marathon’s coveted Best Novel Award. Kevin is also a playwright. He has had nine plays produced for the stage, including six for Driftwood Theatre’s Trafalgar 24 Play Creation Festival in Whitby, Ontario, and two for the InspiraTO Theatre Festival at the Alumnae Theatre in Toronto, Ontario. Kevin has had articles, memoir, and poetry published internationally.
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Kevin-Craig/e/B005AO83T6
Dear Teen Nova,
Nova, angsting, around age 15.
Do you notice the spelling of your name? Notice how I refuse to use the h that you tried to add to the end of your name because you thought it would make you seem more normal among all the Jennifers and Heathers and all you wanted was to blend in? Only, everyone started calling you Nova-huh? And making fun of your name even more?
You are not Novah. You never were, and you don’t want to be. You are yourself, and that’s going to get you far. I have a surprise for you at the end of this letter. Keep reading.
I’m writing to you from the city where you’ve always wanted to live. Did I mention that? You’ll get to New York City as you dreamed, and soon, you’ll find someone who is kind and true and who loves the real you. All of that seems so far away right now. I guess it is. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Nova Ren Suma (THE WALLS AROUND US, IMAGINARY GIRLS)