Dear Teen Me:
So there you are in first period English class. Three minutes before it starts. The place is up for grabs.
Kids are yelling, papers are flying and then here comes The Routine.
We stand. We pledge. We listen.
Today is not like any other day. The principal is on the loud speaker this morning and it isn’t the usual announcement about supporting the jocks and not littering in the hallways.
Dr. S’s voice sounds really serious. And then he says words that make the entire school go silent.
It’s The Announcement. The one he dreads to make.
“I regret to inform you that a classmate died last night,” Dr. S. begins, but he has to stop because his voice breaks. How else could a caring man react to the fact that a 16-year-old boy lost his life last night?
I didn’t know Scott well. By choice.
He was a junior, more popular, and hung with a different crowd. But he was nice. He smiled. He waved. He paused and let you get on the bus first.
He was that guy that guys and girls liked.
And now he was no more. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author C.L. Gaber (THE ASCENDERS, JEX MALONE)
Dear 15-Year-Old Luke,
Luke Reynolds, age 15!
So, you want to make the basketball team at Windsor High School. And you believe that making this team will be like a lighting bolt that rockets down from Heaven and picks you up and then suddenly—whoa!—you are on a firetruck in a big parade and—look!—there are people waving flags and—look!—on the flags are written the words LUKE IS AWESOME and you feel like you belong, and that you are somebody, and that your dad’s screaming and your mom’s overeating, and your own intense fear of LIFE ITSELF all vanish in an instant because, hey, you made the basketball team!
I am sorry, Luke.
I know it probably stinks to get this incredible transaction from the future only to begin reading and find that it’s all doom and gloom. It’s all, here’s what doesn’t happen, Luke, and here’s how Life doesn’t just miraculously make everything better because of basketball.
So, again: sorry about that. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Luke Reynolds (THE LOONEY EXPERIMENT)
Dear Teen Me,
Don’t be afraid to go after what you want.
Well, except for that ex-boyfriend of yours, that is. Go ahead and let him go. Trust me, he’s not coming back—no matter how much it seems like he might. No matter how much he flirts with you—he doesn’t want you as his girlfriend anymore. And it’s a waste of time and energy to keep putting yourself in front of him, hoping he’ll see that you’re actually perfect together. (Trust me, you’re not.)
Okay, if it makes you feel any better, you will reconnect with him around age twenty-three and you’ll spend one amazing afternoon wandering around Boston and end up making out on the grass by the Charles River. He’s still a good kisser. But you won’t really care. You’ll be moving on to bigger and better things. In fact, it may be hard to believe now, but today you can go on his Facebook page (I’ll explain Facebook later) and look at pictures of him and his wife and baby girl and feel absolutely nothing.
So yeah. Save your energies for something more meaningful long term. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Mari Mancusi (SCORCHED, SMOKED, GAMER GIRL, the Blood Coven series)
Dear Teen Me
Darren Groth at 14, parachuting through puberty.
Mitchelton Opportunity School.
Heard of it? Of course you have. It’s where the local handicapped kids (you’ll call them ‘special kids’ in the not-too-distant future) go to class, separate from regular Aussie schools like the one you go to – Marcellin College. It’s a small joint, isn’t it? Nestled in next to Doyle’s lumber yard, tucked away behind the Mitchie train station. Its plain black and white sign whispers towards the platforms, discretely inviting commuters to acknowledge the school’s existence. You don’t need any invitations – two, maybe three stone throws further up McConaghy Street is your house, the only home you will know for the entirety of your youth. Mitchelton Opportunity School should be more familiar to you than most.
It’s not, though.
You don’t know it at all.
The infrequency of crossing paths – or crossing the overpass in this case – is partly to blame. You can count on one hand the number of times you’ve seen the buildings and the playgrounds and the undercrofts beyond the black and white sign. A far greater mystery than the physical campus, though, is the students. You’ve encountered them several times: at the train station, huddled on the platform with half a dozen adults, wearing regular clothes instead of a uniform, looking odd, acting strange. Do they make you uncomfortable, dear Teen Me? Rhetorical question: I know they do. Not a lot – just a little. But enough. It’s this uneasiness that stops you getting to know Mitchelton Opportunity School. And if you can’t get to know it…well, yet more unease results. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Darren Groth (ARE YOU SEEING ME?)
Dear Teen Me,
Matthew De Abaitua (the tall lad on the right with the ears) and his late friend Neil Barber in their new jackets and ready for a night on the town.
Before we begin. Personal hygiene. You’ve been raised with the personal hygiene routine of a Depression-era slum. Baths once a week and then, when a shower is finally installed, showers once a week. I know mum says that, as a child, you gave off a lovely smell of lamb chops – but as my wife has pointed out, a child with a heady meaty odour is a child in need of a bath. You’re a teenage boy now. Have a shower, and then we can talk.
Let’s meet in your bedroom.
Christ, open a window. How old are you now? Fifteen? The worst year. Really. I mean, bad stuff will happen to you in your life but you’ll never be as incapable of dealing with it as you are right now. Your instincts are that of a hunter-gatherer. A pack animal wanting to prove yourself so that you can attract a mate. Instead, you have to deal with GCSE Chemistry in the 80s in Liverpool.
Oh, the misery of it!
Do you mind if I sit down for a moment? Just here, on the edge of the bed?
That reminds me. You should know that duvet covers do not wash themselves. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Matthew De Abaitua (IF THEN, THE RED MEN)
Dear 16-Year-Old Jean,
Teen Jean, behind the kit!
I come to you from thirty years in the future with knowledge of the utmost importance. But first, here are a few things you need to know right off the hop: 1) You’re never going to be a rock-star drummer in an all-girl band bigger than the Go-Go’s and the Bangles combined. 2) Don’t ever get a perm again. Ever. And 3) In the next century, you will learn of a thing called a “drunk text.” This you must avoid doing at any cost.
As you can probably tell, you’re going to grow up to be a no-nonsense, self-assured kind of a woman. I’m sure that’s hard to grasp right now being such a train wreck, agonizing over how well, if at all, you’re hiding those scary, confusing emotions; the girl crushes, feeling weird and different, wishing you’re like all your other friends. All that anxiety and those stomach implosions that stimulate urgent sprints to the nearest bathroom. Not very pleasant growing up lesbian in the 80s—I remember. But here’s the good news: it’s all going to work out—no really, it will, and not just because Facebook memes say so. Decades from now you’ll be living in a world of burgeoning LGBT acceptance. Yes, you read this correctly. You may need to take out a dictionary to look up “burgeoning” since you don’t have smart phones back in the 80s like we do…Oh, right. Smart phones are another thing you’re going to find amazing about the future, but remember, drunk text = Bad. Very bad. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Jean Copeland (THE REVELATION OF BEATRICE DARBY)
Dear Fourteen-year-old Shane,
THE Author and his rad sisters at an Xmas photo shoot, 1983.
First off, you’ve always been wrong about your hair at that age. It is feathered. You nailed it. This is one disco-themed regret you can cross off your list. Your sister Tina was the Laura Ashley roller rink queen with the cowl neck sweaters, gold chains and duck wing hair. You were just comparing yourself to her and there was no comparison. Second, don’t ever ace that chill wardrobe for all that undertaker black you wear now. Church cords, fly collar V-neck sweaters and beeswax suede Clark’s Wallabee boots make for an R. Crumb-inspired Keep on Truckin’ look that gains the trust of square parents while scoring you endless make out sessions.
The reason I wanted to talk to you at this age is because I know that’s when everything pretty much went off the rails for you. You were about to start your first year of high school (the 3-year high school is gone now, can you believe it?) and you were a nervous wreck. Ken Kuhn, your sports obsessed dad, had been preparing you for years to become the world’s greatest athlete. You were constantly training, lifting weights in a homemade basement gym that would make Wes Anderson’s Production Designer drool, doing roadwork, clipping the lawn with hand shears to strengthen your grip, and eating enough chow for a platoon of marines. Remember that time you ate two large pizzas in one night? How the hell did you do that? Anyway, dad wanted you to be Bruce Jenner (you’re never going to believe . . . never mind) and you wanted to be David Bowie, or maybe Lee Majors. Bottom line is you were already fed up with being a jock. It was all too serious, with the crazy parents; talk of college scholarships and letter jackets, blah blah blah. They killed the fun that you had in little league and even junior high football. There was way too much pressure for you to do things you barely cared about, and that was killing you. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Shane Kuhn (HOSTILE TAKEOVER, THE INTERN’S HANDBOOK)
People see you as outgoing, but they don’t know that you’ve become a master at masking your pain. You’re hurt. Broken. You don’t realize the potential that is inside of you for greatness. You always feel like you’re not good enough . . . smart enough . . . pretty enough. Those are all lies that you’ve allowed to settle into your spirit, which, in turn causes you to make decisions that only add to your pain.
I wish you would see more than your scar when you look in the mirror. I wish you would see your smile. I know whatshisname embarrassed you in the hall when you were a freshman by saying that you had a messed up face. (He actually used a harsh expletive.) I also know how much it hurts when other boys call you “Scarface” whenever they want to be mean. You already have a complex. These things only make it worse. You spend a lot of time wishing you were someone else — anyone who had more manageable hair, clearer skin, a smaller nose, and a thinner waist.
You lack confidence, not only in your appearance, but also your gifts. You often hold back from singing because you don’t sound like so-and-so. You write, and though you’ve shared a few poems with others, no one has ever seen your true talent displayed. You practice your laugh so that it sounds real when you’re in the presence of others. If you were to admit that you don’t feel joy when you laugh or you’re not sure that you can really laugh, then people might think you’re crazy. Perhaps some already do since you’re different in many regards, at least that’s what you tell yourself. In your mind, everyone has the perfect life except for you. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Yolonda Tonette Sanders (SHADOW OF DEATH, DAY OF ATONEMENT, WAGES OF SIN)
Dear Teen Me,
Lori Rader-Day celebrates her 14th birthday.
I mean, you’re not. In a few years, your parents will get divorced. That is not going to be a good time. And it will take you a long time to find in life some of the things everyone else seems to have, like a boyfriend, and the friend who makes you feel like you’re exactly the person you should be, and a life. And you won’t find these things in the order you might want them. You might have to get the life first, before you attract these great new people into it.
But fundamentally, in all the ways that count, you’re OK right now. I know it doesn’t feel that way. You’re chubby, though not at all as chubby as you think you are. You’re shy. You’re pretty smart, but you say dumb things. You’re also fourteen, kiddo. Fourteen year olds—this is going to hurt for a second—don’t know as much as they think they do. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Lori Rader-Day (LITTLE PRETTY THINGS)
Dear Teenage Self:
You might take this letter as a warning. You might, but you won’t. Your overly analytical and frankly pedantic adolescent brain won’t allow you to believe this letter is real. I’m wondering whether or not I should bother sending it. Perhaps I’ll just post it “online” on somebody’s “blog”—two words that won’t make sense to you for a few years yet.
On the off chance you do believe this letter is genuine, there is a piece of advice I would like to pass on—or rather, pass back—to you. It is this:
Girls don’t like flow charts.
No, wait. That isn’t quite true. Some girls—management consultants, maybe, or insurance adjusters—they love flow charts. They give these elaborate presentations full of them. I’ve seen it happen. But those aren’t the girls I’m talking about. I’m talking about the girls you’re going to call on the telephone and try asking out on dates. I won’t name names. You know the ones. Those girls. When it comes to them, my advice stands. So when you finally pluck up the courage, when you lift the receiver, when you jab the numbers, please, please, please don’t try to run the conversation with a flow chart.
Please. Continue reading Dear Teen Me from author Robert Paul Weston (DUST CITY, BLUES FOR ZOEY)