Vicki, age 16.
Dear teen Vicki –
There’s so much I could tell you, but there’s one message more important than all the rest. It’s the one thing you really need to hear:
The dragon is real.
You’ve heard his roars and felt his hot breath for so long, all the while denying his existence. I know you say: “Of course there is no dragon. Such things only exist in the myths, fairytales, and fantasy books I love to read. In real life, the reason I’m sad and lonely and lost is simply because I’m a failure. I lack something everyone else was given at birth—the key to unlock love and open the world of connection and completeness. I am damaged.”
You are wrong. The dragon is real, and his name is Depression.
Somehow he slipped into the world with you when you were born. Perhaps it was genetics, or some fluke of brain chemistry, or just the luck of the draw. Who knows? But Depression has been skulking about your heels from the beginning, and no amount of family love (or wishing him away) can change that fact. You will learn (much later) that when you were seven one of your pediatricians suggested a therapist. Your extreme sensitivity and your frequent bouts of crying (hidden now that you are older) are pennants as red as blood. I’m sure lots of people outside the castle can spot those red flags, but your parents have never believed in such things—particularly for a child, and especially for THEIR child. Why send their daughter to be trained to fight a dragon when there are no dragons? Not in your house. Not in your family. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Vicki Weavil (CROWN OF ICE)
Dear Teen Me,
Steph at 13!
You are standing on the platform of the Long Island Railroad waiting for the 5:48 from New York’s Penn Station to arrive. You’re clutching a box of fortune cookies with the message “Al Lowenstein for Change.” It’s the spring of 1968 and you believe the world is very much in need of changing.
You rehearse what the lady Democrat suggested you say, “A vote for Al is a vote for change. Vote for Lowenstein and you vote for the future.” You repeat it over and over like a prayer, and hope that one of the businesspeople exiting the train will ask you why you think the Vietnam War is wrong, or ask your opinion about the draft. You have strong feelings and you express them well. You stood up at a meeting at your Temple and made a little speech about why social action was imperative. That’s when the lady Democrat told you about Al Lowenstein who was running for Congress from the district where you and your parents live. She handed you some mimeographed flyers (just wait for computers, you’re gonna love ’em) and said, “You should get involved.”
She said to be enthusiastic, which you know you can be because you believe Al Lowenstein can challenge the power structure, believe he’s already done so with the Freedom Marches in the South and the Dump Johnson movement he engineered. Giving out the fortune cookies is your first chance to be part of it, your first shot at changing the world. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Stephanie Feuer (DRAWING AMANDA)
Dear Teen Me,
Tracy, 19, at her family’s summer home in Canada
Right now you’re staring at the ceiling of your childhood bedroom, during Thanksgiving break of your Sophomore year of college. You’re nineteen, hardly a teenager anymore. And yet you’re staring at that ceiling, white against the purple walls your parents let you paint when you were fourteen, and you’re crying, and you feel like the smallest, most helpless child in the world. You’re also trying really, really hard to breathe.
Your mom is yelling at you to get it together. She’s telling you that the iron weight pressing down on your chest, crushing your lungs, is imaginary. That you’re being – as always – melodramatic. Histrionic. Selfish. She’s the one suffering, with her father struggling with Alzheimer’s and her mother dead from pancreatic cancer only months ago. You are just causing trouble. No, she will not take you to the doctor. No, she will not give in to your cry for attention.
You stare at her, tears rolling down the sides of your face, and try to gasp another tiny breath as guilt, embarrassment, and anger do their best to choke you. You don’t know it right now, but the tingling fingers, the crushing pressure on your chest, the trouble swallowing are not signs that you’re about to die, as you assume they are. Or that you’re a drama queen, as your mom assumes. You are, in fact, having the first and worst panic attack of your life. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Tracy Banghart (REBEL WING, STORM FALL)
Dear Teen Me,
Fifteen-year-old Beth, rocking the braces and oversized t-shirt. It’s tucked into white-washed jeans.
The other day, I finally unpacked the last box from our move to New England. (I know what you’re thinking: New England? But that’s 2,423 miles from where we said we’d be when we finally got to grow up and make our own decisions. Don’t worry: Keep reading.)
So this box, it was stock full of old journals. Wow, man. We were something. I love the fake entries you wrote so you could see if Mom was sneak reading. The one about shoplifting at the mall was pretty clever. But did you think about how you’d pull it off if she actually had been reading? I don’t think you did.
Anyway, these books, they were filled with pages of pages of wishes.
You know what I mean: How you were going to leave that paper mill town and head West. Montana, specifically. You were going to live in a cabin, writing all day. (With some park rangering mixed in during writer’s block, of course.) Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Beth Vrabel (PACK OF DORKS)
Dear Teen Me,
First of all, take a deep breath. I know you’ve had a double-whammy this week, but the first-floor girls’ bathroom by the office isn’t exactly the best place to have a breakdown.
Grab some toilet paper, dry your eyes, and breathe. No worries, that mascara isn’t going anywhere. You’re smart enough to wear waterproof, because you’re no stranger to the rollercoaster ride that is teen years.
We both know why you’re here, so let’s start with Dad. Yes, the other, less immediate reason you’re cowering in that bathroom stall. I know he scared and humiliated you yesterday when you lost track of time after school and he had to come in and find you. Half of the junior class was still loitering around the main hall when he stormed through the doors and thundered “Michelle! Get your ass in the car right fucking now!” from twenty yards away. Everyone saw you slink down the hallway toward him, head hanging, the tears welling in your eyes.
I know. It was awful. Years later, reflecting on it is still pretty bad. But the thing is, he isn’t some monster. The medication running through his veins has changed him. The brain surgery changed him, too. Together, they’ve combined into an overwhelming storm he can’t control. I promise you, he wants to be better. He wants to be the dad he used to be, the guy who made you laugh so hard your sides would hurt. But he’s not there, yet. You’re going to waste a lot of time being angry, but time is one thing the two of you don’t have as much of as you might think. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Michelle. E. Reed (LIFE, A.D., M.I.A.)
Dear Teen Liz,
Okay, here’s the thing, you’re 13 years old right now and I know this might be hard to believe, but I love you a lot. Like more than you could ever imagine. BTW, this is actually you, only 25 years later. That’s right, we somehow made it to 38 (and, yes, our boobs definitely grew!). So, I thought it would be very loving of my wise old self to send you some advice. Take it or leave it. Knowing you, you’ll probably leave it. But, I figure it’s worth a shot. Okay, you can stop rolling your eyes now.
#1. Don’t fight the braces so much. Missing appointments and not doing what the dentist tells you to do is only delaying this seemingly miserable process. Those little metal brackets will turn out to be a serious life changer. Straight teeth are a luxury. So shut up and stop being so bratty to your parents. They’re forking out a considerable amount of cash to make your 20’s (and the rest of your life) more bearable. So try being a bit more appreciative and realize they aren’t ruining your life, they’re saving it!
#2. The acne thing. I know, I know. It is truly horrible. You have tried every cream, pill, ointment, and salve to help. Dad even gave us that Dear Abby article to use our morning pee! I remember we thought about it, but opted to not stoop that low. Here’s the thing. I promise, it gets better. Around 18, you’re going to discover something called, tea tree oil face wash from the “Body Shop” and it is going to rock your world. In a matter of weeks, all of that horrible acne that you have battled for years, will simply go away. No more pills, no more treatments. Just a stop at the local mall to pick up a bottle of this green-gooey-god-like substance. So take a deep breath and just know that one day soon, you’ll be able to throw away all those gobs of cover-up and foundation that you’ve been hiding behind and you’ll never look back. People will ask you why you never wear make-up and you’ll smile inside because you know that the answer is, because now you don’t have to. It’s so freaking liberating you could cry. And, you will. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Liz Maccie (LESSONS I NEVER LEARNED AT MEADOWBROOK ACADEMY)
Thomm on his first day of 10th grade!
You should be getting this shortly after that night in Jen’s family room. You think it is a hell of a good story: Baby Godzilla jumping on the television, Jen stopping in the middle to answer a call from her grandmother to avoid suspicion that she might be doing exactly what she was doing. She leaves you a couple of weeks later. In one way or another, you face this crisis for the next decade and a half.
Right now, you believe that you need a woman on your arm to be a complete person. You may not consciously realize this, since that programming is buried down so deep that you don’t yet have a name for it. The night you realize it, crying to your long distance girlfriend because you have a crush on a woman you just met, is one of your hardest nights to date. This other woman is available and you think maybe this one won’t be capable of leaving, won’t roam to the corners of the earth because she has as much wanderlust as you have anxious sighs.
Your girlfriend does not leave you that night. The other woman forgives your misplaced crush when you promise not to mention it again. The reason you have a roving eye is not so much that you have a glut of adolescent hormones coursing through your veins, but that you never let yourself learn the texture of a healthy relationship. With few exceptions, these do not occur when one is a teenager. For the majority of your twenties, you entwine yourself to a woman who would have made for a good girlfriend for a year or so, a comet that entered your atmosphere instead of a body that warped your orbit. Instead, because you thought she would never leave, you stayed by her side. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Thomm Quackenbush (Night’s Dream series)
Dear Teen B,
The good news is that by the time you are 35 some things will be figured out. BIG things! (Yikes 35 must sound so old to you! Okay, that still sounds kind of old to me too…) You will have a career you love, an awesome apartment in the city you’ve always dreamed of living in, loyal and funny friends, lots of exotic stamps on your passport, and a series of blowouts from some place called The Dry Bar which will be life changing, and yea life is kind of easier with good hair. Your books will be in the library, in other languages. How fabulous is that??
But, don’t freak out, the truth is that you still don’t know how other parts will turn out. Specifically the marriage and kids and happily ever after parts, and you will waste hundreds of dollars on psychics to tell you the ending. Don’t. Buy books of poetry instead or go to Europe or jump in the ocean. No one ever knows the happily ever after part because that doesn’t exist outside of the John Hughes movies you (still) love, which conveniently end at prom anyway.
There are a lot of great things that happen after prom. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Bianca Turetsky (The Time-Traveling Fashionista series)
Dear Jenny/Jen/Jennifer/Whinnie/gwen/ gwenny,
Teen Jenny/Leigh!, 14 years old.
You are right. You don’t know it yet, and you won’t for a long time, but your hunch about your family is correct. Not all is what it seems. But please don’t worry about that right now. Just know that you aren’t crazy. Trust your gut, it’s always right, and it’s right about this.
You are also right about the fact that your only way out of that god-forsaken one horse town full of judgmental people who don’t understand you, is a scholarship. So work your butt off and get good grades and be the president of everything you can be the president of, get that scholarship and start living. But also know that the god-forsaken one horse town is actually a pretty nice place full of pretty great people. You’ll find that out later when you start traveling the world and you realize you miss them. (Ok, you won’t miss all of them.)
Yep! That’s right. You get to travel the world. You get to see things, meet people, do stuff, and experience life to the fullest. So rest easy on that one, but while you’re working toward that goal, try to be a little bit kinder, a little bit more understanding, less judgmental, and have some fun once in a while. I mean, come on already, you’re only in high school once. Sheesh.
Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Leigh Statham (THE PERILOUS JOURNEY OF THE NOT-SO-INNOCUOUS GIRL)
Dear Teen Me,
Kristin in her track team portrait, senior year.
Hi. Me again. For some reason I’ve decided to continue sending you these letters every year on our birthday. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But right now, this whole ADULTHOOD thing is killing me. I mean, RESPONSIBILITIES. Who knew they’d be so…icky? Still, you’re getting this a day ahead of time. Because I’m an adult. And I have a schedule to keep.
Okay. So. ADULTHOOD. It doesn’t suck that I don’t ever have homework. And nobody ever yells at me if I eat ice cream for breakfast. (Not that I do that. Usually.) Sometimes I even buy things I don’t need. Like shoes. And I can wear the craziest outfits I want to whatever venues I feel like and nobody other than me gets to have any say about that. (Pretty sure I’m going to wear a cocktail dress to a burger joint tomorrow…BECAUSE I CAN.)
But, oh my God. You know how right now when you go to the doctor your parents pay for it and you don’t even need to think about the word “insurance” or what it means or how it works? Yeah. You’re going to learn about that crap the hard way one of these days. There will be a period in your late twenties where you don’t have insurance and you will spend a lot of time falling down (okay, you fall down a lot, whatever) and assessing the damage in terms of whether you will break more if you don’t go to the doctor (and calling your mom to ask her if you will die if you don’t go to the doctor) instead of just going to the doctor like a normal (insured) person. Let’s just say, our ankles aren’t what they used to be. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author/poet E. Kristin Anderson (A GUIDE FOR THE PRACTICAL ABDUCTEE, A JAB OF DEEP URGENCY)