Dear Teen Me,
Ah, grumpy girl.
Wipe that scowl off your face and put a smile on instead.
I know, I know. Life as a teenager can be totally suckish and hard. You think I don’t get it, but I do. I was there with you, remember? I bear the emotional scars.
I don’t necessarily wish to save you from all the scars. Some, maybe, but not all of them. They’ll teach you empathy. They’ll make you a better sister, friend, partner, and mom. They’ll make you who you are.
Still, maybe life could have been easier, lighter, and you could have enjoyed it a bit more. So, I’m teleporting you a few essential teen rules, some you applied to your benefit, some you should have, but didn’t.
Insides over Outside: You’re a quality person with depth and humor and intelligence. Pay more attention to that, and less attention to your feathered hair, skin-tight jeans, and never-perfect-enough outward appearance. So, you go through a gawky stage with braces and glasses, and your back has a curve (yes, I remember how we hid that Boston brace in the closet each morning, dragging it out and strapping it on after school, slipping it off when friends came over…). You’ll grow out of the brace, and you’ll end up with a lovely smile.
Pick Better Friends. Yes, this Means Boyfriends, too. Here. I’ll make it easy. The boys and the girls you spend time with are often mean. The girls talk behind your back, call you names, and often threaten and accost you. They aren’t loyal, but you stick by them because they are popular.
Instead, maybe you could…
Stick with the Right Things. Yes, your sister is better at some things than you are, like dancing, but that’s okay. Quit trying to do everything she’s doing, and find the fortitude to dig deep and hone your own unique talents. Like writing, it turns out. Focus on those things like the arts, acting and musical theater. But, of course, those aren’t aren’t cool enough, are they?
Okay, fine. Never mind. Quit those voice lessons, finish that Jane Fonda exercise tape, lie flat on your back so you can possibly zip on those skin-tight Jordache, slip on your spike-heeled Candies clogs, then come here and sit with me. We’ll blow dry your Farrah-Fawcett hair for the gazillionth time today, smooth on some Bonne Bell Lip Smacker, and add a few minor rules that might save you:
Read this Book (or any similar book) Daily: I AM LOVEABLE AND CAPABLE, Sidney Simon, 1974.Your mother left it on your bed for a reason. I know it looks silly. Just read it. And every day, when you leave for school, and your mother calls out “IALAC” to you as you walk out the front door, whisper it back. To yourself. Better yet, say it out loud. “I am loveable and capable.” You are loveable and capable. Let others see that side of you NOW.
Act as Smart and Funny as You Are. Don’t be afraid to let your smart show, and always, always keep your sense of humor. Teachers love smart and funny. Deans love smart and funny. Employers love smart and funny. And, yes, quality guys, like the one you will grow to marry, love smart and funny.
Be Brave. It’s not overrated. Try new things. Think outside the box and don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t wait until you’re forty to be brave. Do it now. I’m here, rooting you on.
(Um, Smart Brave, not Stupid Brave). Yes, there’s a difference. Trekking across a bridge to new places: smart. Jumping off that bridge on a dare, probably stupid. Don’t take that ride in a handsome carriage through Central Park with that good-looking French guy you just met on the corner (who must be twice your age). Don’t go to that concert with a bunch of college kids in another town with no other ride home other than the motley crew that’s been drinking.
Be Kind to Yourself: You do well in school. You write well. You’re smart. Heck, one day you will be a lawyer and a published author. You will end up with an amazing man and two smart, wonderful sons and a whole slew of quality friends. Be kind to yourself. There’s a learning curve, and it’s a process.
Now, go fix your jeans. I think I see a small wrinkle of space that crept in there.
Love, Present Gae
Gae Polisner is the award-winning author of THE PULL OF GRAVITY. She is a family law mediator by trade but a writer by calling. She lives on Long Island with her husband and two sons. When she’s not writing, she can be found in a pool or, in warmer weather, in her wet suit in the open waters of Long Island Sound. THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO is her second novel for teen readers.