Advice to Our Teenaged Selves
All of us here at SparkLife have made it out of our teen years alive and relatively intact, which makes us automatic experts on teendom, adulthood, card tricks, shortcuts, really pulling off a fashion cape...and realizing that half of what we once worried about was so not worth the noise. Given a time machine or a magical mailbox, here's the advice we'd give to our teenaged selves:
Josh Perilo: Take off the brown suede fedora. And, for the love of all that is holy, cut your damn hair. Please.
Lauren Passell: Never, ever, evereverever do anything to impress anyone, if that is the only reason. Ever. And date the dorks. They'll be cool later.
Melissa Albert: Everything that seems huge and embarrassing and crucial in high school will suddenly, magically become unimportant 5 minutes into your first day at college. Especially the social hierarchy stuff—after graduation day, nobody will care whether you were cool in high school.
Also, that hot mean guy you’re crushing on, who’s too cool to give you the time of day? A Google search reveals that he now has a super cheesy haircut, and did NOT become a professional skateboarder. Hah!
Emma Chastain: Don't feel bad about using polysyllabic words. Someday you'll move to Brooklyn, where it's cool to be smart! Stop picking your cuticles until they bleed—it's upsetting to watch. And quit wearing those gigantic rugby shirts. You're hiding your lithe young form under a terrible fashion mistake. You know what else you should really stop doing? Making out with other people's boyfriends. But keep reading all the time, and keep being a huge musical theater nerd. Oklahooooooooooma! Yeow!
Kathryn Williams: No one can define you but you. As a teen, so many people are trying to label you or tell you who you are. Don't listen to them. Discover and define yourself. Also, grades don't matter nearly as much as you think they do. And nothing good happens after midnight.
Rebecca Jane Stokes: There are many, many, many things I'd like to say to teenage self. Like, if you don't want to have a curfew until you are roughly eight hundred, don't tell your poor parents you're going to be out "late" and then show up at 4 a.m. with a smile and not a care in the world. You might think it's a good idea to cut up all your pants and make them wide-legs jeans now, but I'm here to tell you that there is photographic proof that this is poor choice and you are a terrible seamstress. If you like a boy, and he's too chicken to ever look you in the eye after you tell him you like him, don't hang out with him anymore. He has proven himself unworthy of your awesomeness. Learn how to drive, because if you wait until you're 30 people will give you major attitude about it. It is not a charming affectation, I promise you. Be a little bit braver! I'm not saying be a law-breaking, outrageous fool, but maybe speak up when someone says something you don't think is right. Sing every musical just as loud as you want and don't care what anyone thinks.
Josh Sorokach: If I could give my teen self two pieces of advice, the first would be: stop wearing so many bowling shirts! You're not Pacey Witter. The second would be to step outside of your comfort zone. It's impossible to evolve as a person without taking a few calculated risks and placing yourself in new and sometimes uncomfortable situations. New experiences, as scary as they may be, help open you up to new opportunities. Don’t let the fear of the unknown dictate your future. Say yes! And change up your wardrobe every once in a while. Teen fashion cannot subsist on bowling shirts alone.
Alicia Thomas: If only my teen self had known how bad trying to dye your own hair can turn out, or how silly it is to act less intelligent than you are to attract a guy. Also, I wish I'd known not to bother reading Twilight and that I should have been reading Game of Thrones instead. But most of all, I wish I'd known how little it would matter to anyone else what I did in my spare time—I shouldn't have skipped out on knitting club or karate classes just because other people might think I was a weirdo. Being a weirdo is synonymous with embracing life! Weirdos are the coolest. You become one eventually anyway.
Danielle Kraese: Recently, I unearthed my high school yearbook. As I flipped through photos of all the fun events from my senior year—the school fashion show, the talent show, Senior Follies—I came across tons of goofy pics of my friends, all having a great time. But there was one thing missing: me. I completely forgot how awkward and self-conscious I had felt all throughout high school, and how I let that hold me back from trying anything out of my comfort zone. If I could hop in a time machine and give myself one piece of advice, it would be to have the courage to try new things, even if it feels terrifying and uncomfortable at first. Also, I shouldn’t get so mad at my younger sister for telling me I dressed like a grandma. She was right.
Valerie Byrne: In high school, I kept an extremely detailed diary. This is a double-edged sword: some of it's really funny and I'm proud of myself for being smart. On the other hand, some of it is pretty depressing, sad, and pathetic. For about a year, I was kind of obsessed with two different guys. I kept bouncing between the two, trying to decide who was meant to be the love of my life forever. I took every last interaction as the most meaningful thing ever. And, of course, recited this in excruciating detail in my diary.
In rereading these old posts, I realized two things. One, I was dramatic and bored and annoying. And two, neither one was interested in actually dating me.
If I could go back in time, I'd tell myself to snap out of my completely self-created drama and stop worrying about boys. If only I had channelled that energy into something creative or, like, productive. I'd probably be president right now.
Erik Bergstrom: Dear teenage me,
You’re doing great! Don’t change a thing! Except maybe you should get some friends, talk, do your homework, and actually try at life. But those are little things and will come later. Now I can tell you’re worried that girls don’t pay attention to you. That’s because you’re a zit-faced monster! It’s just a phase, but go easy on the Neutrogena acne soap. We don’t want your face to turn bright red so you have to lie and say you got sunburnt AGAIN. You know how you have a crush on that girl Sarah? Good news! You get to go to prom with her! But then she’ll dump you at prom because you don’t know how to swing dance. My suggestion to you is to mope around and wait for death. Just kidding! Now you might be upset when Sarah starts dating Mike Grell from the football team. Well, they’re going to get married and you’ll be depressed, but it’s not the end of the world—you have no idea how much world there is out there. Oodles of it. It will make you sad too, but in a fun way. You might feel like a weirdo all the time now...but that sorts itself out. No, not by being less of a weirdo, but by being more of one and not caring. So, my message to you is: man up, keep working, be the most yourself you can be, and don’t care.
Brandon Specktor: Hey, Teenage Brandon. I know you'll read this, because it's Friday night, you can’t drive, and honestly have nowhere to be but slouching in front of your slow, virus-addled Dell desktop.
I'm sorry, man. I'm not writing to bust your chops. I want to tell you that things turn out very well for us. We are happy with our job, our friends, and our—get this—girlfriend!
We owe this to you. The habits you form now, both good and bad, will last for many, many years. Your aversion to exercise and meeting strangers will persist, as will your poor posture and general fear of "making the move." However, all these seemingly pitiful nights spent alone at your computer, writing online chain stories with your two friends who also have nowhere to go, are going to pay off. For all of you. You will all remember these nights when you think about the most rewarding things you did in middle school. These are the nights that will make you love writing. Keep it up, and maybe try to go for a jog now and then (they’re great for inspiration!)
What would you want to say to your OLDER self?