From Our Teen Readers
April 03, 2015 11:27 am

Dear 14-Year-Old Me,

Welcome to freshman year. You’ve made it! Congratulations on the hard work leading up to this point. This is the beginning of what many call “the greatest time of your life.” You know better than to expect that, but what you do not yet know is that nobody can control the outcome of these four years but you. This first one will be pretty rough, but I promise you’re going to be all right in the end. This year will begin to define who you are, and that person, my friend, is someone you would definitely want to meet.

My first piece of advice is to take a deep breath. The panic of the first day may be expertly veiled under your excitement, but believe me, it’s there. Breathe in, breathe out. Good. Now remember, as you sort through potential outfits and countless DIY hairstyles, you shouldn’t base your self-worth on how many people like you for who you’re not. If you stop pretending you’re different than yourself and instead radiate confidence from your true identity, you’ll make plenty of friends without any problems.

While on the subject of friends, please remember that even though you may believe yourself to be non-judgmental, everyone deserves to be treated like a person. This means that even though someone may be different, that doesn’t mean that they’re unintelligent, lazy, or malicious. Be kind and outgoing to everyone you meet and you’ll find that the feelings are often returned. Oh, and when you see a girl wearing a Panic! at the Disco shirt or a really tall ginger guy on the water polo team (yes, water polo!), go up and say hello. It’ll be one of the best decisions of your life.

As you venture through high school, several opportunities will be presented to you, and at first you may want to turn some down because they seem like too much work or you’ll feel like you don’t have time. Before you shoot anything down, try it out and see how it fits. You’ll be surprised at how much you can handle in your schedule! As you say yes to more and more things, make sure they all bring you happiness and prioritize self-care. Anything that brings you down week after week can go. You deserve better than that.

Before school starts, let go of any pre-existing anxieties you can and allow yourself to be flexible. This is not to say “go with the flow.” People who do so often do not become leaders. Allowing yourself to relax will lead you to accomplish things you previously thought you were incapable of.

Finally, do not be afraid. In the near future, your eyes will be opened to a world previously unknown to you. So, take another deep breath and soak it all in. There will be a lot of new books to read, classes to take, movies to watch, friends to make, papers to write, hair to cut, bands to love, coffee to drink, sports to play, and places to go. While high school might not be the best time of your life, it certainly is great. I’d like that to take you less than a year to figure out. So, as you set foot through the double doors on Monday morning, look not for what could go wrong but instead what will go right.

– Sophomore Year You

Gigi McGaughey is a free spirit and a student in the International Baccalaureate Program. When she isn’t studying or swimming, she’s usually playing water polo or talking about how much she loves Twenty One Pilots. Her dreams include going to med school and traveling the world, and she hopes you have a very nice day.

(Image via.)

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