This is a letter to teenagers from a 20 something. This 20-something in fact.
Pull your heads out of your asses and recognize the UNBELIEVABLE POWER that you have! You blow my mind. You have so much freaking energy, limited responsibility, and lots of time to spend doing super fun things. Yes, you should worry about school, friends and family. BUT, I also want you to explore the world around you while you’re still all naïve and innocent.
Here’s what I think is awesome about being a teenager: 1) Your brain hasn’t fully developed to realize the potential consequences of your decisions. You are far more adventurous than those above the age of 24. 2) Every day is a big deal when you’re a teenager because you haven’t had the life experience to make it not a big deal. Each day is a huge percentage of your life up to that point. By the time you’re 90, each day is a much smaller percentage of your total life. You won’t remember Susie Q and her bitch squad; You’ll remember that hilarious party, that board game night or your favourite class. 3) You think you’re invincible.
High school has unfortunately numbed you to critical thinking by giving you a rubric for every little thing and encouraging the simple regurgitation of what you’re supposed to be learning. I sincerely encourage you to get out there and think about things for yourself whenever the chance presents itself. This might mean joining a club, starting a book club with your friends, watching TED talks, or whatever. It’s okay to be creative, in whichever way makes the most sense for you. In fact, check out the book Linchpin by Seth Godin. Totally brilliant, and he lets us know that being creative doesn’t necessarily mean acting, dancing or drawing.
Not gonna lie, we are jealous of you, in awe of you, and super frustrated by you. We get that you think you can do anything – we were all there; and you should totally take the risks that you’re going to be too scared to when you’re older…. Ask that person out, take family studies because you love to cook, or take a bunch of really hard science and math classes because you want to go to university. Wicked. Work your butt off in high school. But learn to think a little bit before you speak. Adults around you know that your brain isn’t developed and you have a shit ton of energy, but they also know that they need to be the responsible ones because you are afforded the luxury of being ridiculous.
On one hand, we are infuriated by the fact that you think you are invincible. On the other, we wish we had the guts you do. I thought about it this way: when I was 16, I was a camp counsellor. I would regularly cook meals over a fire for a group of ~20 people. We took certain precautions, but we were the “adults” out there, and we were responsible for a whole bunch of kids around us. I dove right in, built a fire, started it, and started slapping meat on the grill for all of us. Not a care in the world. Now that I’m 25 and getting ready to cook a meal over a fire, I ask if anyone else wants to start the fire or check the meat. I look around to be sure we have enough water to put it out, and a first aid kit somewhere. I make sure everyone is drinking enough fluids. Ummmm what?! When did I become responsible? DAMMIT!
Oh. Also. GET OFF YOUR PHONE (I’m a hypocrite, I know) AND GET OUTSIDE. There will likely come a day when all of your time is spent staring at a screen. I strongly encourage you to develop hobbies that don’t all require spending hours on your phone/computer/TV. Granted, some days it’s great to curl up and watch a movie marathon. But remember, fresh air is important and it seriously helps your brain to change your scenery. It will also help you to connect to other people in person – a skill that those older than you REALLY value. Learn to make those meaningful connections with as many people as you can. When you want a job, it’s all about who you know, and many of us have lost the art of an actual conversation; you know, something more than 140 characters with a snide comment or an ironic hashtag. Having recently had a concussion, I completely understand how screen time can literally hurt your brain. I can’t spend more than 3 or 4 hours on my computer without having a migraine. It’s kind of awful, but forces me to do other things to take care of myself.
Being a student is friggin awesome. Never again (most likely) will you have so much time to do as you please and so many incredible resources at your fingertips. I’m talking about all of the different kinds of people you get to interact with on a daily basis, all of the clubs and student groups you can join, and all of the awesome health benefits and easy access to doctors, dentists, and mental health professionals. And of course, exams and tests and papers are stressful, but you also have time for piano and dance and soccer and volunteering and a part-time job.
I have a few words of wisdom for you. Some things that I would have liked to know when I was younger: • Nothing good will happen if you don’t put in the effort: jobs, schools, girlfriends, best friends, etc. • Don’t have sex before you’re ready. There are all kinds of fun to be had, so do what works for you when it works for you. My personal rule: no intercourse until I was ready to deal with the consequences. • Explore your body and what you like. • Surround yourself with people who make you feel good, inspire you, and encourage you. “You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.” – Jim Rohn • If you plan to get drunk or high, always have a plan, a safety, or a designated driver. It’s not a great idea to drink around people you’re uncomfortable with. • Apologize when you’re wrong, but don’t apologize for everything. • Tell people how you feel. Sometimes it can be really hard, and it’s usually worth it. • Find a mentor, even if it’s someone online. This is a person who can help you work through difficult decisions, inspire you to make changes, and be a cheerleader when you need it. • Love with your whole heart • The online presence you create has a far greater impact than you realize – on yourself, others, and your future. So, take a breath before you post every little thing going on in your head. That includes selfies and comments on photos/videos. • Take joy in the little things, especially the small victories. For example: I did dishes and two loads of laundry yesterday. Self-five!
So, dear Teenagers, I bid you adieu for now. Use your energy, discover your passions, and appreciate the older people around you who find your energy and enthusiasm overwhelming.