YA Tuesday: Lessons to My Teenage Self, Part 1

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(Oh the horrors of the teenage years…I look so goofy!)

I just want to say to all of the young women…I know it’s hard. So damn hard being female. I think back to my teen years and remember so many stressful, awkward situations. I never remember my parents saying “this is hard, we know.” Instead, they seemed wrapped up in their own frustration of having teenagers in the house. As a teenager and a young adult it was difficult to never have my feelings validated. I have glimmers of that years later whenever my family deflects my feelings about a particular issue. My teenage, resentful self rears its head, except now I have a husband to (at least pretend) to be on my side 🙂

I think that’s the point. Everything is so much easier if somebody is on your side. Young women need mentors, role models, other women to let them know that these are shared experiences. Despite the trials and tribulations of the teen and early twenties years, the good news is that other women have plodded down the path ahead of you and they can be an invaluable resource.

I want to share my stories in the hopes that it will inspire you to know that you are not alone and that this journey is so much easier with other women–young and older–as support.

We have all heard the wistful confessions from an older person wishing there was a way he or she could go back in time for a re-do, but only if they could know now what they didn’t know then. Sort of an intellectual and emotional time travel, but swapping the physically older-you for the younger version, because you know, youth is wasted on the youth, right?

We can never quite understand that when we are young. We think our limbs will always be limber. We can’t imagine wrinkles, backaches, or the random ailments that will plague us. None of it seems possible, or at the very least it seems so far in the future that we don’t need to worry about it.

I think it’s Mother Nature’s fault. Somehow we’re born with a lack of urgency in life. Our brains are numb to how fleeting time is. We mistakenly think we’ll be young forever, and it’s one of those things where we don’t know what we have until we lose it. One day we wake up 10, 20, 30 years later wondering where time went.

Goodbye, energy.

Goodbye, free time.

Hello, bills.

Hello, full-time job.

Hello, gray hair.

Hello, retirement.

Goodbye, flexibility.

Damnit.

A life re-do would be awesome if you could keep your knowledge and experience but still fit into junior sizes, have baby smooth skin, and be able to jump in bounce houses without getting a headache.

I remembered my teenage self wearing gawd-awful zip-up sweatshirt jackets, struggling to keep unruly curly hair contained, a mouth full of braces and rubberbands, and crying into my pillow after my 15485484th argument with my parents, wondering when I was going to “grow up” and move out of the house. I felt like a prisoner locked up for life. Sometimes I still have nightmares where I’m living with my parents with no chance of moving out. I wake up in a cold sweat absolutely terrified. I like to call it PTSD from going through the teen years!

Oh, the teenage years.

You worry about your body. You’re stressed about your period. Will it come during second period when your teacher doesn’t give hall passes? Can people see your pad the size of a bus? Will people know your mom only lets you buy cheap shoes from Payless? I can’t walk across the quad by myself. People will think I’m a loner. Where are my friends?

Looking back, I filled my mind with so many useless, draining thoughts that were negative and undermined my confidence.

I wish I would have had a life coach. A mentor. Not my mom or dad. A successful woman who could relate to my thinking, but be old enough to have the wisdom to share with me, and to be an example of womanhood. In college I had a boss who sort of fit the bill, but not quite. I should have had more of them.

Being female isn’t easy. Being female and a teeanger can be hell.

I want to dedicate this series of posts to the teen girls and young women out there.

Lesson #1: Choose your friends wisely.

I’m sure you’ve probably heard this already. Bear with me here. If I could talk to my teenage self, I would let her know that her friends are her referent group, and your referent group can influence your future.

Your referent group is everything. I realized over a decade after my teens that I kept friends just for the sake of keeping friends. We didn’t necessarily have anything in common. If I had to go back in time, I’d be choosy about who I spent my time with at school and home. I’d have stronger criteria. I would have included a wider circle of friends, but carefully selected my closest friends.

Do you have friends criteria? You should, at least for the people you spend a lot of time with in your life. I’m not saying you should never associate with people who don’t meet this criteria. I’m just saying you should be picky about your closest inner circle of friends.

If I could go back in time, I’d spend time with people who inspired me, encouraged me, and people who would make me want to do better. I wanted to be a writer in high school, but I didn’t seriously pursue it. I often imagine what life would have looked like if I hung out with fellow-writers. I’m competitive and self-driven by nature, so I can only guess what that would have done to my drive. The Internet was still in the juvenile stages of AOL chat rooms and instant messenger back when I was in high school. There are so many ways today to connect to various like-minded individuals.

My friends would be people who got good grades and had ambition. I would have talked to more people in my classes. I would have worked on my networking skills. In order to be choosy about your inner circle of friends, you need to cast your net wide and make lots of friends from lots of different groups, and then figure out who the close ones would be.

I would have deliberately chosen friends from a variety of ages, backgrounds, and interests. One thing I did right was have friends who were older women (40s+). These are the women who can teach us how to be women. I still have older friends to this day and they are so valuable. You should have younger friends too. It’s all about diversifying. Friends who are different can also be inspiring.

My last bit of advice: learn who to keep close and who to keep at a distance. Some people are emotional suckerfishes. Keep them at a distance. Some people are inspiring and you learn from them. Keep them close. Not all friends should be in that inner circle. Be strict about how you guard that inner circle.Nobody in that inner circle should be bringing you down. No negative energy.

Anybody have any friends horror stories from their teenage or early twenties years?

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