Listen up. I made it through and so will you. I have a few matters I’d like to discuss with you, but it is out of respect and compassion that I am bringing these matters to the surface. I will deliver this “tough love” with all the sincerity, understanding and honesty I can muster. I will try to be gentle when I can, I will always be kind, but I will never lie to you. I am here because I was once one of you. I feel you. I get it. I wish somebody on the outside had taken the time to sit down with me and explain some of these things to me. We have a few issues to discuss. Have a seat.
First of all, unclench. I’m not your principal, your guidance counselor or either of your parents. I bet it feels like they are all pretty hard on you sometimes. I bet it feels like they are attempting to make your life as a teenager miserable, while sucking the fun out of everything that you feel teenagers are supposed to be doing. I’d also be willing to bet that those people are acting that way because they love you. They care about you. They want you to succeed. No? You don’t believe me? Check this out. Those clothes you’re wearing, the lunch money you spent on that chicken patty in the cafeteria today and the roof over your head didn’t just appear one day. Believe me; I thought I was SO above having my room clean and listening to my parent’s rules when I was your age also. Why make your bed in the morning when you’re just going to mess it up again. Am I right? This was my casual mindset, until I moved into my own apartment and started paying rent. Self sustainability isn’t cheap, so unless you have an extra $1,200 in quarters sitting in your piggy bank, do yourself a favor. Go to a coin star. Complain less. Be grateful more.
Your skirt is too short. Yes it is. Yes it is! Look, we can go back and forth all day, but I’m doing you a favor. I come from the age of boy bands and girl groups. You’ll probably think I’m a dinosaur after I tell you this, but when I was your age, Christina was still a genie in a bottle and I had just as many insecurities about not looking like Britney Spears, as you do about not looking like Kim Kardashian. Here’s the thing though, Miss Kardashian is 31 years old (Sorry Kimmy, I know you’re not supposed to reveal a woman’s age, but it’s for the best). No matter how many parents around the world disapprove of Kim’s attire or her decisions, she is an adult. You are NOT an adult and the sooner you accept that, the easier your life will become.
Just a heads up, I don’t care what the legal age is, 18 is NOT an adult. I’m 24, and being an adult is still something I’m working my way through. You have a long way to go. So do us all a favor and pull down your skirt. I’m not asking you to wear a ball gown, but I’m also not asking to see your knickers. Your body is beautiful, and it looks the way it’s supposed to for the age you’re at. That means, take the chicken cutlets out of your bra and put away the padded booty spanx. I’ve been there, I’ve done that and it looks as awkward as it feels. If you’re fifteen, enjoy looking like a fifteen year old.
Put your smart phone away, for like, two minutes. Go outside and get some fresh air. Climb a tree. Be creative. Paint something. Go for a bike ride. Volunteer. Make a bucket list. Have goals. Have a real conversation. Never mind the fact that when I was thirteen, I was still fascinated by The Guinness Book of World Records and actual books still had value. If it’s dinner time, don’t worry about that text from Johnny. Johnny will still be there after you eat. Trust me, as someone who has been through middle school, high school, college and now lives on her own, real human interaction is important. Take a break from your iPad, your Nook, your iPhone, your Mac, your iPod and any other mode of virtual reality and technology. Sit face to face with somebody, anybody, and ask how their day has been.
Whether you’re a teenage boy or a girl, kissing your best friend’s significant other doesn’t make you cool. Actually it makes you the opposite of cool. It makes you sneaky, hurtful and more often than not, it makes you a liar. Even if you’re up front about it, let me just warn you that you’re probably going to lose a good friend in the process. It doesn’t matter how many times you say it wasn’t your fault, it doesn’t matter how often you tweet about being sorry and it doesn’t matter how you try to spin it, it is an action that will never be forgotten.
Remember that time your friends told you that drinking alcohol was SO cool. I can tell you after being of legal drinking age for three years, it’s really not THAT cool. Sometimes it can actually make you feel pretty crumby and truth be told, it’s not good for your body either. The legal age of twenty one wasn’t picked out of a hat, kids. The liver doesn’t fully develop until the age of twenty one. Also, on the whole issue of drugs, save your brain from the frying and just say no. If your friends make fun of you, I guarantee that when you become my age, you’ll look back and realize that they weren’t real friends. You’ll probably also be pretty happy that they aren’t still your friends, because a good amount of them will have already been to drug and alcohol counseling.
That boy that says he loves you and is pressuring you to go further physically than you’re comfortable with, or at ALL, does NOT love you. That boy who puts something in your punch at the school dance does NOT love you. That boy who tells you that you’d be prettier if you lost five pounds does NOT love you. That boy who hits you or calls you names does NOT love you. None of these things are symbols of love, or qualities that you want in a boyfriend. I’ve dated alcoholics, aggressive guys and narcissists, and looking back at my younger years it is more than clear that none of them actually loved me. Focus on your studies, on your sports, on your friends. Focus on your future. It WILL pay off.
Lastly, dare to be different. Stick up for the kid who is getting picked on. Rock out on your electric guitar in front of the whole school at the talent show, if that’s your thing. Wear that outfit with the bright colors (as long as it’s age appropriate). Be the artist, the sculptor, or that kid who can do 20 back flips in a row and land in a perfect split. Doing what EVERYONE is doing isn’t going to get you very far in life. Take a look at Gandhi, Madonna, Elizabeth Gilbert, Suzanne Collins, JK Rowling, Steve Jobs and Martin Luther King Jr. What do all of those people have in common? They did something different. They protested peacefully, danced their hearts out, wrote about the unknown, shared their experiences, started revolutions and stood firm in their beliefs. At one point, they were also teenagers.
Believe it or not, we ALL were.
You can read more from Carley Barton on her blog.
Feature image via.