This post was inspired by a random thought from a meeting of Blog Squad Anxiety Support Group in the hotel parking lot at Woodhull. I was feeling extremely relaxed and happy, having a great time with some amazing people, and I wished I could go back and tell my awkward, anxious teenage self that things are going to get better.
Dear Teenage Me,
This is your future self writing from the year 2016. It’s been an interesting trip getting to our forties, and I can assure you that your fear of becoming “old and boring” has not come to pass. At the risk of sending our life off in a totally different direction, I won’t reveal any serious spoilers, but there are a few things I’d like you to know.
High school has been rough at times, and the less said about middle school the better. But hang on, because college is coming. Pretty much no one will know you there 1, so you’ll be free from a lot of the baggage that you’ve accumulated over the years. You can strip off the labels that were stuck on you and start writing your own account of who you are.
You know all those times you’ve looked sadly down at your not-even-a-B-cup chest and wished for more? Be patient…someday, you will have cleavage to flaunt.
The Internet. You’ve heard of it, but you don’t understand what it will make possible. Instant communication with friends. Vast troves of information at your fingertips. Online shopping for anything and everything you can imagine2. Also, porn available 24-7 without the need to brave the creepy adult video store you’re planning to visit as soon as you can legally get in. Most importantly, the Internet is where you’ll learn that all those “weird” feelings you have, the “strange” things you like…well, they’re not all that weird and strange. You’ll explore, you’ll find your voice, you’ll find your people. They may not be geographically close, but technology will let you keep that support group in your pocket.
I know it’s an exciting fantasy at this point, but 69 is not all it’s cracked up to be. It will end with choking, gagging, fear of smothering/drowning your partner, muscle cramps from compensating for misaligned body parts and one bloody mess from kicking a guy in the nose during the dismount3. 69 is like communism: Looks great in theory because everybody gets a fair share…but it’s unstable and prone to catastrophic collapse.
In general, if you’re wondering whether to take a particular risk, or do the thing that scares you, you probably should. Mostly it works out, even if you spend some time feeling queasy and wondering what the hell you’ve gotten yourself into. So be bold…well, except for that night senior year when Mom tells you not to drive her car in the snow. That one doesn’t end pleasantly. Yes, this is a spoiler Teenage Me, use it wisely.
You think you’re almost done figuring out who you are, what you want from relationships, but this is just the beginning. You’re living in a world where the only conceivable happy ending is settling down with one person and only one person forever and ever. You still see gender as a strict binary, and you’re only aware of pieces of the sexuality spectrum. As your perspective broadens and your mind opens, you’re going to learn so much about relationships, other people…and yourself. Keep an open mind.
Your ability to find humor in stressful situations will be important. Laughter breaks tension, puts people at ease, relieves the fatigue of carrying a heavy emotional burden. Don’t stop laughing in the face of fear, sadness and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. That skill will serve you well.
Finally, the experiences you’re having now, the awkwardness, the shame-filled and wildly incomplete sex ed, the things you wish you’d been told…remember those. Remember how it feels to have no idea what the hell your body is doing or why you feel so weird. Remember how much you hated adults belittling your early romantic attachments, or when they acted like they knew more about your feelings than you did. Those memories will be valuable as you guide your own teenage kids through the struggles of growing up, helping you do a better (or at least an authentic, honest and well-intentioned) job.