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)
Dear Teen Me,
In a flash of science fiction, I (your older self) have come back to give you one of the cheapest – but truthful – forms of wisdom. Hindsight.
Think of me as your Hindsight Fairy.
I’m here to help you do the disaster checklist of your miserable life. School? Check. Um…everything else? Yep.
Okay, you’re in a really good school – it’s just really not a good school for you. The school day is nine hours long (yes, nine) with hours more of homework piled on. It’s tiny with few course options and you are forced to take what’s offered. (Physics? Why, I ask. Why?) While you have some truly wonderful teachers for art, French, and history, and a group of awesome friends, none of them can compensate for what effectively is incarceration with a pleated skirt.
(You will never be objective about Nova Scotia tartan again.)
On top of the thirteen-hour days, you’re working on major piano and theory exams and you’ve started taking flute lessons – all privately, and out of the school. You’re barely holding it together so you drop the flute and resort to writing harmony during class. Until the day Miss N. catches you at school and yanks your sheet music from under your desk and rips it to pieces. You feel like you’re at the bottom of a well.
But strangely, sometimes miracles come in the form of orthodontists. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Suri Rosen (PLAYING WITH MATCHES)
School portrait, year unknown, ability to use makeup apparently also unknown.
There’s a girl in your school everyone hates. You know who I’m talking about. Tina. Why? You’ll never know. Sorry, but that will remain one of your life’s great mysteries, more personal than where Jimmy Hoffa’s body is buried or who killed Jon Benet Ramsey.
She rides your bus, goes to your church. You know her better than most. You don’t really like her either. Maybe her voice grates on your nerves. Maybe it’s her braying laugh. Maybe it’s her superior attitude. You aren’t sure exactly why you don’t like her, but you don’t hate her either. Why does everyone else seem to hate her? Why are they so mean to her?
You can see her pedaling frantically down that dusty unpaved road in rural New Jersey. Her home is probably a half mile back, not that you can see it much through all the sandy soil her wheels have kicked up. Farmland. God’s garden. Hot and humid.
The people here have sharp edges to them and if you aren’t careful they’ll cut you to the bone. You weren’t used to that when you first moved north from the Deep South. You were a Georgia peach—sweet and soft and easily bruised. You eventually learned how to handle the blades properly, avoid those edges, toughen up from the rogue nicks. You learned to love the blunt honesty, the transparency of their regard for other people. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Iris St. Clair (LOUDER THAN WORDS)
Dear 14 year-old Mary,
Happy Mary BBD (Before Being Dumped).
How can I put this gently?
Sadly, no matter how I say it, you aren’t going to like it so I’ll just spit it out.
You are about to be dumped.
I know, you don’t quite believe it. Just on Saturday, the two of you were laying on your best friend’s couch in the dark making out hot and heavy. In dark corners of the house your friends were making out too. Everything was good. But come Monday morning, trust me, things are going to change.
The worst thing is, you won’t even know why.
But at lunchtime he won’t come over to eat with you. He’ll avoid you. He will never hold your hand again. The truth is, he will never even speak to you again. You are well and fully dumped.
At first you’ll feel like someone has punched you in the gut. His best friend will tell your best friend that he just doesn’t want to go out with you anymore. No explanations. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Mary E. Pearson (THE KISS OF DECEPTION, THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX)
Dear Teen Me,
Teen Kate! (Kate is the one in the patchwork pants.)
Go ahead and roll your own cigarette while we sip muddy black coffee and bob our heads to the teenage jazz quartet in the corner. I promise, I’m not here to complain about your smoking habits– not the tobacco or the dope.
No weird Michael J. Fox moments where I arrive from your future to say all the drugs and drinking will make mid-30s you totally disgusted with the way 17 year old you treated your body. I won’t lecture you about skipping school or ignoring assignments or sliding over to the district library’s typewriter room to turn report card D’s into A’s. And even though part of me really wants to shake you until you swear to stop having sex with way, way, way too many boys (including that jamming saxophone player, who is your friend and who never quite respects you again in about six months…), I won’t.
I don’t want to judge you, and I don’t want you to feel ashamed.
Because somewhere along the way, you’ve gotten lost. I can’t pinpoint the moment, but I know it was a long time ago. The thing is– you’re just a kid with a big imagination and deep emotional well, searching for the truth. Your truth. I can’t help smiling when I look at your patchwork overalls and long, tangled red hair (the wooden beads might be hiding some lice though. Please use the damn nit comb). Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Kate Bassett (WORDS AND THEIR MEANINGS)
Dear Teen Adi,
Teen Adi in “the best picture ever.”
I know, I know. You’ve been waiting for a magical letter like this one to appear for a while now. Sorry. The logistics were tricky to figure out. Internet in your day is slow.
Listen: You are doing better than you think. I know it doesn’t feel like it. You’re 17, a few months away from graduating high school, and most days, you feel like you will never know what is to become of you. Guess what. That’s a thing now. You have to get used to it. Your teachers, your parents, the whole world; they’re wondering what will become of them. You’re not special enough to get to find out, at least not for more than a few months at a time. Trust me, this not knowing will lead to good things. It also leads to a spattering of gray hairs when you’re 22. But mostly, good things.
For a while, you will keep most of the best parts of you under wraps. Wait. Before I get to that, one thought I want to emphasize (I’m sure you’re happy to see we still like digression, and parentheses): You are fortunate. You have a good life, your troubles are small, and one of the things people love about you (now and later) is your ability to recognize this. It’s hard to be a teenager and know you have a good life, but deep down you do. It’s fun to complain, especially as a teenager. You want to complain. But you understand you have it good, and it’s this understanding that will one day unveil the parts of you that you know are waiting to spring to life. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Adi Alsaid (LET’S GET LOST)
Dear Teen Me,
Hey you. Yes you, the idiot who was convinced the AC in your first car was broken. And in your second car. Don’t be a ditz and wait until college to discover that you have to push the AC/frost button instead of simply cranking up the amount of air spitting out, un-cooled air blowing in your face as you curse the blasted car. Good thing you’re always cold. Bad news, that won’t change. Or maybe it’s not such a bad thing since you end up living in Arizona.
Despite this, you’re actually pretty bright, and if I could tell you something now I’d tell you to never doubt yourself. You’re a hard worker. You end up getting good grades, graduating from college and finding success. As Dr. Seuss said, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.”
Laura Johnston with best friends Emily (left) and Amy (right) at their senior homecoming.
Life isn’t all peachy though. During your senior year of high school your dad is diagnosed with a brain tumor. The prognosis isn’t good. Despite faith and prayers, he passes away after an impressive two and half year battle with cancer.
Ironically enough, those years hold some of the sweetest memories. You quit high school sports and other extracurricular activities so that you can spend more time with Dad. You teach him how to read again. You play the piano while he rests. Your daily afternoon walks with him become a treasure, and as is always the case with Dad, you learn a tremendous amount from his wisdom. And you become best friends.
This is one thing you learn from the experience: what is most important. And “what is most important almost always involves the people around us,” as Thomas S. Monson said.
On that note, I have good news. You know that super hot guy down the street? Yes, that one. You end up getting married and making beautiful babies. His confident personality becomes contagious, and his encouragement gets you thinking you can accomplish things you never dreamed possible. Like writing novels. No lie.
Sure, you were among the worst of readers in elementary school. That changes. You finish novels within hours now, and you begin writing. Both your experience in high school and your experience as a high school teacher inspire you to write young adult novels. Coming of age, familial relationships and other contemporary teen issues become common themes of your novels. Your debut, REWIND TO YOU, is even inspired by the loss of your father as a teenager.
“The best way to predict your future is to create it,” Abe Lincoln said. (Can you tell you develop an obsession with quotes?) Work hard. Create your future. Laugh a lot. Cry when you need to. Smile often. Life is good.
eKensington, September 2014.
Laura Johnston lives in Utah with her husband and two children. Growing up with five siblings, a few horses, peach trees, beehives and gardens, she developed an active imagination and always loved a good story. She fell in love with the young adult genre both through her experience in high school as well as her job later as a high school teacher. Laura enjoys running, playing tennis, sewing, traveling, writing, writing and more writing, and above all, spending time with her husband and kids. REWIND TO YOU is her debut novel.
Dear Teen Me,
Oh, sweet girl. You are so, so wonderfully, innocently, laughably, squeezably certain of your future. If intention boards were a thing in your time, you’d have already run out of magazines to clip from. Type A much? You had a five-year plan back when your years were measured between visits from Santa Claus.
Well. You know what they say about the best laid plans…
Remember that buzzer on the Family Feud when a player guessed wrong? Oh, please. You so do. You probably heard it yesterday. Do not even pretend you’re too cool to watch Richard Dawson make cheesy innuendo-filled jokes because I was there. (I even know you usually laughed at them, even when you had no idea what he was referencing.) Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that same jarring bzzzzzzzzzzz is about to sound in your life.
That hoity-toity college you are convinced will swing wide its privileged gates for you?
You have always been an overachiever and you’ve always been a people-pleaser (seriously, who skips kindergarten? How great for you, mastering nap time and show-and-tell like that!) You and your parents tackle college applications like it’s your damn job. SAT prep classes, and charity work, and extracurriculars all carefully crafted for their appearance on an application. Every road trip from junior high forward carefully orchestrated to pass through as many prospective campuses as possible. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Jen Malone (AT YOUR SERVICE)
Dear Teen Me:
Believe it or not, J.P. in a halloween costume circa 1989. This is what he thought a “thug” looked like.
I have a one-word request of you.
Actually, I lied. It’s two words: “Please stop.”
Please stop being such a great thundering prig. You’ve survived up to this point by dispensing judgment like some hellish gumball machine of scorn. It hasn’t won you many friends, has it? I don’t entirely blame you, either. Building yourself up in your own mind is a defense mechanism. Inside, you’re still that pudgy kid who was chased down and beaten without mercy on the elementary school playground. You’re still hiding in the restroom, praying to an uncaring God that the thugs will ignore you today. You’re still the terrified little child who was told that there were “men in vans” around the corner of the block, waiting to abduct you and inject you with drugs. I have a bit of news, Sparky. This was a lie fed to you by a person who was, in turn, taught to be scared of the world. It’s a legacy of paranoia, a dark and self-destructive fantasy. So, I understand why you wall yourself off in your personal tower of superiority… but you have to stop now. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author J.P. Sloan (THE CURSE MERCHANT, BAIT AND WITCH)
Dear Teen Johnny
You will spend your high school senior year in Europe. Confident and adventurous, buoyed by your successes both socially and academically, you become an exchange student and spend a year abroad in Scandinavia, Denmark to be precise.
You will be far from home and your friends. You will be alone. You will be tested and tried. It will be the hardest year of your entire life and it will nearly destroy you.
You will overestimate yourself. It will take you half a year before you can converse with anyone in their own language. Being foreign will not make you interesting or popular as it did the European students visiting your American school. Actually, you will find that being an American is a disadvantage and liberal Denmark will color you with the same animosity they feel for an unpopular American government. The Danes will be polite, but you will make precious few friends and you will fold in on yourself like a deflating balloon. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Johnny Worthen (ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN)