Dear Teen Me:
Teen Lisa has many, many good reasons for hating the color orange.
I can see you so clearly. It’s the last day of eighth grade, and you’re running out of the school and into the June sunshine without books or papers to weigh you down. You’ve made it through middle school. You’ve survived, and you’re ready for what comes next. You’re thirteen, just barely a teen, but you feel completely grown up. You are so ready for high school. You have watched Saved By the Bell and Hey, Dude and Clarissa Explains It All, so you know all about how this high school thing is going to work. You are so certain that it will be the time of your life
As you walk across the street to get a celebratory custard at Strickland’s with two or three of your friends (the first time you’ve ever been allowed to do this), you can almost feel the future starting. High school is where you will finally stop being the awkward one with the bad hair. In high school you won’t have to feel left out because you’re not allowed to go to school dances or hang out at the mall. High school is going to be different. You’re going to be different.
I wish I could freeze this moment for you. I wish I could make you really look at it and savor it.
By fifteen, you’ll be disappointed in High School and already focused on a new future: Getting through. Getting out. Going to college. Being a Success. When you’re fifteen, thirty will be your dream age. You will believe that everything in your life will be settled by thirty—you’ll be a lawyer, you’ll be successful, you’ll be happy.
Once again, you’re going to be wrong about a lot of that. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Lisa Maxwell (SWEET UNREST, THE GATHERING DEEP, HEARTLESS THINGS)
Dear teen Kelsey,
Kelsey’s choir photo from freshman year. See that hand position? It screams: I’m 15. I’m cool. And doggonit, I’m casual.
Please. I’m begging you. Today, this very second, I want you to stop caring so much what they think about you.
I know that it sounds like a stupid Disney Channel moment, but the only thing I wish I could scream to you now from across the past 13 years is:
Stop living for them…
But you won’t, dear one. (Spoiler alert.)
You’re addicted to the need. You’re hooked on their approval, their admiration, their appreciation. You continue to crave it in every facet of life, and I know you think that you’re just being you, but I promise you, Kelsey, you’re not.
Forgive the condescension, but you have no idea who you really are, or who you could be because you’re blinded and bogged down by their vision of you. You don’t yet understand that it’s okay to wear sneakers and jeans when everyone wears dresses. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Kelsey Macke (DAMSEL DISTRESSED)
Dear Teen Amy,
6th Grade: The hair deserved to be bullied. YOU did not.
You’re thinking about a boy right now, aren’t you? How did I guess? Since about eighty percent of your brain activity at this time centers around one boy or another, I figured my odds were pretty good.
But that’s okay. Don’t be embarrassed. At sixteen, you already spend way too much time worrying about what other people think. You were bullied so badly that one year in middle school that people-pleasing became a habit that you’ll never break. Here’s a spoiler though: it gets better. You’ll learn to defend yourself, and those girls will never bother you again. In fact, you’ll soon overhear one of them dragging yet another girl through the dirt you’ll tell her off so soundly, with just seven words, that she will literally snap her mouth shut and turn bright red. And then the other girls who witness it will thank you. They’ll tell you they’ve never had the guts to do what you just did.
(You won’t understand this reference for about a decade, but picture Molly Weasley and Belatrix Lestrange in the Battle of Hogwarts. Molly and I used the same B word.)
It will be a defining moment for you. You won’t be bullied like that ever again. But you’ll also realize that matching her aggression just that once is enough. After those well-said seven words, the Mean Girl facade won’t feel good on you, so you’ll shake it off as quickly as you can. You’ll know like you always have that it feels much better to build people up. To lift them out of the dirt and brush them off. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Amy Finnegan (NOT IN THE SCRIPT)
Lois and her family the morning of her bat mitzvah. Note that nearly everyone is exactly the same height.
Dear Teen Lois,
Mazel tov! It’s your bat mitzvah! Today you are an adult in the Jewish community!
Which seems ridiculous, because you are 13 and 3/4 years old. Even most of your teen years are ahead of you. But once upon an ancient time, this probably would have been the age at which you were married off. So it’s still important, culturally. Your big day. Years later, you will not remember any of it.
You will have a slightly better memory of your younger brother Larry’s bar mitzvah, which will happen about a year from now. What you will remember is that your older brother, Jeff, home from college for the event, teaches you what he feels is the most important lesson he’s learned: gin and tonics are the cheapest mixed drink at most bars, so you should learn to drink them. He will sneak you several from the bar at the bar mitzvah reception. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Lois Leveen (JULIET’S NURSE)
Dear teen me,
Lish in what her brother refers to as her “crystal dragon necklace phase.” (Probably about 14 years old.)
You are currently cleaning the woodstove. It’s not terrible. It doesn’t smell, like cleaning up dog vomit, which happens frequently because your dog eats everything, even hot sauce and Listerine, and your step dad gags when he tries to clean it up. Your oldest brother is away at college (this is right before he drops out to become an apprentice farmer in Maine, which you never realized was even an option) and your second oldest brother is out. He’s always out. Unlike you, he’s popular. Basically, you are low man on the totem pole, so if you’re mom isn’t around, any disgusting or unwanted chores go to you. So when your stepdad asked you to clean the woodstove (even though it’s his chore) you said yes. What else would you say? You’re used to following orders. You want to be the good kid. The person who make things a little easier, because let’s face it, your home life could use some smoothin’.
At this point you want to get good grades, graduate early, go to college, and impress the hell out of some people that have been giving you the impression that they expect failure. You want, more than anything, to be good. Somehow being good will make everything okay.
I want you to hold onto this moment because it’s that weird sweet spot where those dreams die, and the seeds to new dreams get planted. Don’t be sad. They were little kid dreams, like the one where you turn thirteen and become a wizard. You never quite let go of your desire to be a wizard, but all that other stuff? Forget about it. You only mourn it because you don’t realize the difference between what you want and what you were told to want.
It’s an important distinction. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Lish McBride (FIREBUG; HOLD ME CLOSER, NECROMANCER)
Dear Teen Me,
Sam at 17!
This is your older, more ragged self from the future giving you a few words of wisdom.
So, what can I tell you about your older self? You still play the piano, you still love classical music and you still spend hours tossing a ball back and forth, but now, instead of it being with your dad, it’s with your daughter. Yes, even though you vowed not to, you ended up with two beautiful children and, even more surprisingly, got married – yeah, I know – utterly shocking!
Your basic personality traits, optimistic, happy and enthusiastic remain. Your less attractive personality traits, impatient, quick tempered and gullible stick around too – you might want to work on those. The good news is, you develop quite a comedic streak and end up loving your chosen profession. I know, pretty impressive for a kid who has absolutely NO idea what career path she will take.
Sam at 18!
You have few regrets, but here’s a short list of things you might consider doing slightly differently when the time arises.
1. When those Wimbledon men’s finals tickets come your way – FOR GOD’S SAKE, take them. Believe me, everyone at work will understand if you play hookey.
2. Do not chase boys who steal your football – it will land you in the hospital with a severed wrist and a lifelong scar. In retrospect, don’t chase boys at all.
3. Yes, your dad does eventually die, but you cope – so stop worrying about it. You have plenty more years left together.
4. You will eventually love your teeth. Might as well start now – they don’t change, plus they build personality.
5. You don’t break many bones during your life, but to avoid breaking even one – just remember – agreeing to be tossed over a friend’s shoulder to impress helicopter pilots is as dumb as it sounds.
6. Pay attention during German – you meet and date several cute German boys during your travels, a basic knowledge of the language wouldn’t go amiss.
7. Conquer your fear of performing before an audience. Singing will be a lifelong love and the sooner you get over this, the more fun you’ll have.
8. Have more faith in yourself. You are marginally smarter than you think.
9. Don’t procrastinate. The ability to see New York from the top of the World Trade Center will not always be there. As with most things in life, just do it.
10. And finally, when you trek into the Indonesian jungle to see Komodo dragons – try and keep up with the crowd. Getting separated from your group with a hoard of ravenous and deadly lizards on the loose was not the smartest thing you ever did.
The good news is, you have lived well, laughed lots and loved often. Life is an amazing ride – get ready to enjoy it, Miss Bond.
Bound Publishing, November 2013.
Sam Bond was born in London, raised in Shropshire and has lived all over the world. She currently lives in Austin, TX with her two daughters and a dog named Sausage. Her first children’s book, OPERATION GOLDEN LLAMA, was released November 2013. The sequel, OPERATION TIGER PAW is due for release fall 2014.
Dear Teen Stefanie,
It’s snowing outside. But not hard enough. I know what you wanted—a blizzard in temperate North Carolina—and let’s be real here, it was kind of a silly wish. But you wished it anyway, because you needed school to be cancelled. You needed just one more day away from people, from expectations, from all of the things you couldn’t face. Always one more day. Tomorrow you’ll get it together. You won’t be so afraid tomorrow. You won’t be so tired tomorrow. You won’t be so sad and so angry tomorrow. How many times have you told yourself that, now?
How many tomorrows have come and gone?
It doesn’t matter, because this time, maybe you won’t make it to tomorrow, anyway. It can come and go on without you. And that will solve everything. One pill after the other, until the entire bottle is gone. And that will solve everything.
Flash forward and there we are, three still-blizzardless hours later. And when the ER doctor raises her eyebrows and uses her “you’re-behaving-like-a-child-and-you-just-need-to-stop” voice, you’ll briefly fantasize about stabbing her with that tongue depressor sticking out of her pocket. But a second more, and the thought will be gone. You’ll just nod numbly instead, because to be honest, you don’t even remember how you got here. You don’t remember, and maybe it’s just the lingering overdose haze, but you don’t care, either. And that apathy feels a lot like relief all of a sudden, so from then on you simply get used to doctors who just want to happy pill you, and to therapists who just want to guilt you into doing all the stuff that seems pointless. To words like “depression” and “anxiety” and “you need help.” Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Stefanie Gaither (FALLS THE SHADOW)
Dear Awkward Teen Me,
Teenage Mary and her epic perm.
Today you were wearing your ratty old sweatshirt and happily making chocolate chip cookies in your mom’s brown and white kitchen when you heard the news. ALL your friends were forming a BAND. A cool one—like the garage versions you’ve always dreamed of being a part of. Like Kurt Cobain and Michael W. Smith and Genesis.
Annnnnd in between bites of cookie dough and batting away your little brother’s greedy paws, you’ve been told you weren’t invited to join said band. In fact, apparently they actually TALKED about you being in it and THEY VOTED NO. They already had enough members. And you were too young. (Do bands have a minimum age rule?)
Okay, deep breath. No big deal, right? I mean it’s just a band. Your friends are still your friends. And your chocolate chip cookies are burning, so go get them out before the whole kitchen bursts into a halo of flames. (It’s always that final batch, dang it.)
Except…before you realize it you’re curled up in a ball on your bed where no one can see you starting to cry. And you’re wondering how is it that such a dumb thing could make you feel so completely unimportant, because for goodness sakes it’s JUST A BAND!
But it’s not the band. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Mary Weber (STORM SIREN)
Dear Teen Me, with the poofy hair and nearly six foot tall skinny self,
Teen Lorie Ann! The hair!
Listen: just because your father chose to leave your family, you are not unloved or unloveable. Right now you are totally denying the divorce holds any impact on you, posing as balanced and strong. But deep, deep inside, you feel like an unwanted, broken chair left on the side of the road. Dig that feeling out and think it through to start some serious healing.
Lorie Ann, just because a man will soon molest you, doesn’t mean that is what you deserve. Your mom will defend you afterwards and fiercely protect you and your reputation. Know this: that man will be hit by a car within a few years and be paralyzed from the waist down—the waist down.
You are going to write about these two experiences in a novel called HOLD ME TIGHT and be an encouragement to others who are standing in the middle of the same road. Later, you’ll write a fantasy novel affirming the value of females, as you wrap up the essence of your experiences. You’ll make a stand for the worth of all female infants in FIRSTBORN. You’ll stand with a fist raised high. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Lorie Ann Grover (FIRSTBORN, HIT)
Lauren at 17!
First off, great boots. You’ll pick up an even better pair in London when you’re backpacking with your brother. It’s something all siblings should do, especially if you’ve grown apart as teenagers.
Travel as much as you can. Horizons were made for expanding and you’ll come into yourself out there. Throw yourself in to strange circumstances that catch you off balance – you’ll find your footing. Curiosity, kindness, perspective: these are the important things.
Stop resisting journalism. It’s a backstage pass to the world and other minds. I know you dream of the indolent life of a novelist, locking yourself in your garrett and making stuff all day, sheer genius leaking out your brain onto the page in great bursts. But creativity needs stimulus and living in the world is more interesting than living in your head. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Lauren Beukes (THE SHINING GIRLS, BROKEN MONSTERS, MOXYLAND)