I have been noticing a lot recently that many of my readers (my teenage girl readers) have been linking some of my posts to their tumblrs. If you’ve linked to me, I’ve probably read your tumblr. And every time I go through another tumblr of someone dealing with depression, an eating disorder or self-harming behaviors, my heart breaks. Not because I feel pity for you, but because I’m having an empathy attack. Like you, I was once a teenage girl. And it sort of sucked. And a lot of the time, it super sucked. Being a teenage girl is its own kind of hell. Teenage depression is so… lonely.
It’s been close to twenty years since I was a teenage girl and I understand that it was a relatively brief time in my life. But sometimes I find myself fantasizing about finding a time machine and going back to my teenage girl self to give her some advice.
If I could, here’s what I’d say:
You are fourteen years old right now and you’re in love. You are so in love that you ache all over. Your stomach is so tight that you can’t eat, you can’t sleep, and all you want to do is cry. You love him so much you want to vomit. You love him so much that you can’t think of anything else. You love him so much that the only thing that matters in the world is being with him, moving to Manchester and listening to the Smiths and drinking Earl Grey tea for the rest of your life. You love him so much that you want to slit your wrists in anguish. But he’s not worth it. In fact, if you want to know the truth, he kind of grows up to be a loser. Listen to me, you know what you should really be thinking about right now? Biology. And I’m talking about 7th period biology. You’ve really been blowing it off. Do you know that you only have one regret as an adult and it’s that you didn’t go to medical school? Okay, so pay attention and think about mitochondria instead of Adam. Side note, you totally get over him and you find someone awesome to marry when you become an adult, so all this worrying and crying is fruitless, be done with it and stop spending all this time and mind energy thinking about a boy. You are smarter and better than that.
You are fifteen years old right now and you hate your mother. She won’t let you do anything. All the other kids get to ride on the subway and go to parties at night and do all sorts of things that you can’t. You are pissed. But just let it go. It’s not worth the arguing and the angst. Your Mom is far from perfect but she loves you more than anyone else in the world does. And she’s not going to be around forever. In fact, I’m sorry to break the news to you, but you’re going to lose her sooner than you think. So be nice to her. She’s a single mom, and she’s stressed out and she’s tired and she’s just trying to keep her head above water and make sure that you are safe and well cared for. I know that she doesn’t let you do the things you want to do, believe it or not it’s because she loves you so much, too much some might say, and she wants to keep you safe. She might be going about it the wrong way but she loves you more than the people you want to hang out with. Be kind to her, this time with her is short and precious. She needs your love and she needs your support. I’d give anything to cuddle in bed with her on a Friday night and eat pizza. You should do that while you have her. And by the way- stop smoking. No, seriously, stop smoking- do you know how much money you spend on cigarettes? I’ve figured it out, between 1989 and 2004 you spent $17,804. Know how much you’d have right if you’d invested that? Lots. You’d have lots.
You are sixteen years old. And you’ve caught that love bug again. I don’t even remember this one’s name or who it was, but seriously, stop thinking about boys and focus on school or sports or some kind of hobby like jewelry making instead. Really. You can’t expect someone else to make your life better or to make you happy- especially not a boy. You have to learn to do this for yourself. Find something you love doing and do it often.. It will make you feel so good about yourself. Try lots of different things! Take saxophone lessons, join a band, start building furniture, start running track, play volleyball, take gymnastics, weave on a loom… who cares, just learn many different things and have lots of fun hobbies and do things that you are about you. It’s not that love or being in love is bad- in fact it’s the most amazing thing ever. But don’t wait around for someone who doesn’t seem to feel the same way about you as you feel for him. It’s just going to make you feel worse. And the waiting, the wishing, the hoping the pining after someone… it’s so much wasted time. Once you learn to make yourself happy and to love yourself, you will stop looking outside yourself for someone else to complete you.
You are seventeen years old. You think you’re fat. You start a diet pretty much everyday. You eat nothing but black coffee for breakfast and sprouts and popcorn for lunch but you’re starving by the time you get home and you binge on chips and ice cream. Then you hate yourself. You think that if you could just be skinny that your life would be better. You live on processed foods and Diet Coke. Stop dieting now and never, ever go on another diet again. You are fine and you always were. You are perfect, whole and complete just the way you are. You don’t need to change the way you look on the outside to make someone love you. Just be kind to yourself both emotionally and physically. Eat real foods, eat whole foods, eat nurturing, healthy, life sustaining, excellent fresh foods. And eats cookies sometimes too! And don’t feel guilty about it. Eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re satisfied and you’ll always be okay.
Don’t worry about what other people think about you. In fact, the truth is, most people are not thinking about you at all. They are too busy worrying about what other people are thinking about them. The only person whose thoughts you really know for sure are your own, and those are the thoughts that affect you the most, so you might as well make them good thoughts.
Don’t try too hard to impress anyone or many anyone else proud of you, not your teachers, not your parents, not your friends. Figure out what your values are and make yourself proud.
Don’t gossip about your friends. In fact, don’t gossip about anyone at all. Everyone has it rough in this life. Seriously, life is hard for everyone, so give people around you a little break. If you have something mean to say about your friends, then you probably shouldn’t be friends with them. It’s totally okay to let go of people in your world who are toxic. In fact, it’s imperative. There’s no reason to spend time with mean people. Friends who talk about you and who make you sad and who hurt your feelings are not friends. Being around them is poorly spent time. There are plenty of nice people you can spend your time with. In fact, most people are nice, but in high school, people wear invisible coats of armor to protect themselves because everyone is so vulnerable at that age, so be nice to everyone.
Life is short and kindness is a path to happiness. Be as kind as possibly can to everyone you meet. Everyone including teachers, doctors, parents, friends’ parents, siblings… everyone! If you go out of your way to be kind to people, people will be kind back to you. Kindness returns to you a million-fold.
I wish I’d been able to go back to my teenage self and tell that girl these things. But- she probably wouldn’t have listened.