Recently, I saw an article on Chick Lit Is Not Dead guest-authored by Jen Lancaster, the unfairly funny author of books like Bitter is the New Black. Start with that one and move forward through the rest; that’s what I did. Anyway. The article she wrote was, indeed, her version of what she would tell her teen self and that got me thinking…what would I tell me, if I thought for a second that teen me might halfway listen?
Because my mother would tell you that the likelihood of me listening would’ve been slim-to-none, but you know…whatever, Ma (love you!). It’s not as though I was always averse to receiving legitimate and well-meaning advice, unless I perceived it as someone trying to tell me what to do. My wonderful, sensitive boyfriend tells me I have oppositional defiant disorder but I’m all like, no I don’t. I’m just careful in what I accept into my world. Everyone always says, “Don’t believe everything you hear,” right? So. There you have it. I will simply disbelieve things until I’m presented with evidence that my beliefs are wrong.
Except for ghosts. I believe in ghosts. Fire away with the evidence, folks, because I don’t care.
Annnnnnnnnnddd…now we can return to the point of this blog, which is, what five things would I tell my logically-inconsistent teen self?
1) Put down the cigarettes. I suffered from a misguided sense of what it meant to look cool, so I started smoking as soon as I could; it took me a little more than twenty years to stop again. Once I quit for good, and got over the hump of quitting, and got the requisite string of colds you tend to get after quitting and hacked up mysterious humours that were hiding in the depths of my lungs I realized…even though I was feeling crappy because I was going through the various stages of withdrawal, I felt…good. Not great, but good. I was processing energy more efficiently, I had less of a brain fog, my skin felt more vibrant and I thought…damn…for how long did I let myself walking around feeling bad? And how did that factor into decisions I made? How many times did I think, I just feel shitty, so why bother? How did this limit me in ways I can’t even fathom yet? Sure, the health concerns that surround smoking are also real, but metaphorically speaking, if it makes you feel bad…don’t do it.
2) You don’t have it all figured out. And you never will; you’re not that clever. When you think you do have it all figured out, hit yourself in the face with a hammer and go back to square one.
3) There are better ways to prove you’re an adult than by getting married. I met my future ex-husband at the tender age of seventeen and was engaged four months later. There are many ways in which I can in all legitimacy claim that the friction between the two of us helped shaped me into the mental giant who stands before you today. But I didn’t marry him for his friction, she said unwinkingly. I married him because I fell victim to the blue-collar thinking that the only way to leave my parents’ house was by marriage. I could go on about why, but I won’t, because it doesn’t change the fact that there are, indeed, other avenues toward adulthood one can pursue. Careers! Weirder and groovier jobs! School! More school! Travel! All of these are more than acceptable paths to take and none of them necessitate marrying young and moving no more than ten miles away from your parents.
4) Celebrate your natural athleticism. Think about all the ways it feels good to move around, and then do them. Keep skating. (I don’t mean “skating through things untouched”, I mean “strap blades to the bottom of your feet and hit the ice”.) Try martial arts. When things break or wear out or stop working for whatever reason…and they will…you’re going to have to kick your ass hard at the gym to start getting it back. Defend against that inevitable future and embrace your inner jock.
5) Keep writing. Write like your life depends on it. Write like it’s your life preserver. In a lot of ways, it is.
And a bonus!
6) You’re right to trust your instincts about that hairdresser. When you walk into Supercuts and they assign you a hairdresser that causes you to instinctively recoil? Walk away. Or else, accept that you’re going to have a boy-haircut and will have to spike it for the next few months and will be that weird girl with the spiky hair, until it grows in enough to not be a boy-haircut anymore.