Dear Teen Me from author Jen McConnel (DAUGHTER OF CHAOS)

Dear Teen Me,

Jen on the last day of senior year.

Jen on the last day of senior year.

You made it. You’re finally a senior! I know this is just one of many milestones you’ll encounter, but I’m proud of you, girl.  There’s so much I want to tell you, so I hope you’re listening better than you usually do.

The seeds of who you will become have already been planted, but you’ll still spend a lot of time and energy searching for your authentic self.  It’s all there, though, if you could just see it; you’ll take your first yoga class the same year the Twin Towers fall, and both experiences will transform you and your world.  You’ll even teach your first yoga class that year, although this will mostly consist of your friends lying in the halls in corpse pose while you guide them through a meditation, trying to see how much you can get away with during school hours.

You’re going to spend a lot of your senior year testing the boundaries, searching for the place where a “good” kid finally gets punished, but I have to tell you, you’ll never find that edge.  No one will be able to see past the constant smile, even when it’s forced.  I know you’re ready to leave your small town, and I know you’re ready to get away from your dad, but otherwise, you aren’t as ready to grow up as you think.  It’s okay to slow down, but I know you won’t.  Just remember that all the things that make you cry and crack you open are part of your story.  No one else is living your life, and that’s a scary beautiful thing.  Your experiences shape you, and you are exactly where you need to be, even when you think you’ve made a mistake.

Grown-up Jen!

Grown-up Lisa!

Things are almost over with your high school sweetheart, but you won’t believe that until it happens, and even then, you’re going to put a lot of energy into trying to keep it together.  He’s familiar, and safe, but trust me when I tell you there’s an even better love waiting at the end of college.  You have to learn to be lonely first, and that’s going to suck, but know that, even when things seem impossible, you will not be alone forever, and the best is not behind you.

Senior year is the last time you’ll share your writing with others for a long, long time, but you’ll get there again.  Oh, and don’t be so angry at the people who say you’d make a good teacher.  Eventually, you’ll discover the truth in their words, and you’ll realize they weren’t trying to limit you; they were trying to reflect your truth back to you, but you weren’t ready to look in that mirror yet.

Speaking of mirrors, it’s not the best idea to color your hair the morning of your graduation open house, but it’s an even worse idea to use a strip kit to try to fix the damage.  Your hair is going to match your orange dress, and everyone will think you did it on purpose, so even though it makes you want to cry, it will be something you laugh about later.

You are a sparkly, beautiful, whacked out, crazy soul, and I love you like crazy.


Future Me (circa 2013)

Month9Books, 2014.

Month9Books, 2014.

Jen McConnel first began writing poetry as a child. Since then, her words have appeared in a variety of magazines and journals, including Sagewoman, PanGaia, and The Storyteller (where she won the people’s choice 3rd place award for her poem, “Luna”).

She is also a former reviewer for Voices of Youth Advocates (VOYA), and proud member of SCBWI, NCWN, and SCWW.

A Michigander by birth, she now lives and writes in the beautiful state of North Carolina. When she isn’t crafting worlds of fiction, she teaches writing composition at a community college. Once upon a time, she was a middle school teacher, a librarian, and a bookseller, but those are stories for another time.

Her YA debut, DAUGHTER OF CHAOS, is coming in 2014 from Month9Books.  Jen also writes NA fiction (Bloomsbury Spark) and adult nonfiction (Weiser Books).

Connect with Jen on Twitter @Jen_McConnel, and visit her website to learn more.