Blogger | Teacher
As H.W. Longfellow once said, “Youth comes but once in a lifetime.” Your teenage years are a time of exciting discovery and transformation, moving into the freedom of adulthood with a certain whimsy leftover from childhood. But teenagers are also constantly bombarded with difficult questions that are hard to answer, even for adults.
There are a lot of things I wish I’d known when I was a teenager. I hope this letter to my teenage self can help other teenagers to realize that things don’t have to be as stressful and difficult as they seem – sometimes it’s okay to just step back, take a deep breath, and enjoy the ride.
You Don’t Need To Have It Figured Out Yet
I think the biggest thing people wish they could tell their teenage selves is that you don’t have to have it all figured out yet. There’s so much pressure on teenagers to know the grand plan of their life: where do you want to go to college, what do you want to study, what kind of job do you want to spend your life doing? There are too many big questions to answer and the pressure of making the “right” decision can feel overwhelming.
But, honestly, there is no “right” decision. There is no one way your life can go – there are a hundred, thousand options and paths your life can take, and there’s always time to change it up if you don’t like what’s happening.
Here’s the thing: there’s almost no way for you to know what your life is going to look like in five to ten years – so much changes as you grow up that you won’t even be the same person by then.
You don’t need to put so much pressure on yourself to have it all figured out because, inevitably, something will go wrong and you’ll have to change the plan anyway. It’s okay to not know.
Be Ready For Nothing to Work Out Like You Expected
Another realization that I wish I could tell my teenage self and teach teenagers everywhere is that it’s important to be ready for things to not work out the way you expected. Very little actually goes the way it’s supposed to – in every plan, there are so many moving factors that can change the outcome completely. You may not even realize how things can go wrong, but they will inevitably.
One of my biggest tips for teenagers is to learn to be flexible. Growing up means figuring out how to adjust to unforeseen circumstances or surprise problems. Maybe you don’t like the major you chose, or maybe the job you thought you’d have isn’t what you expected. There are so many ways life can throw curveballs at you, so you have to just learn to ride the waves.
Life is full of unexpected blessings and curses, and if you figure out how to be okay with those, you might find you like where your life is heading – even if it wasn’t what you planned.
Being a teacher and a young adult myself, I have a lot of experience every day with being around teenagers. And what I’ve realized, more than anything, is that some teens really just need to relax. I feel like an impossible problem of those teenage years is feeling like you have to carry the whole world on your shoulders without really knowing what your world is supposed to look like.
Should you go straight to college after high school? And if you do go straight on to undergrad, should you already start planning for graduate school? When is a good time to get married and start a family? How do you find an occupation, where do you buy a house, and when should you start a retirement fund?
There are so many impossible questions that teenagers feel like they need to have the answers to, and more than anything I wish I could go back to my teenage self and just say, “Chill.” It’s okay – the answers will come eventually. You don’t have all the answers and you’ll make hundreds of mistakes, but that’s okay! It’s all a part of the process.
Being in Love Won’t Fix All Your Problems
I think I really wish I could tell my teenage self and all the other teenagers I knew growing up is that being in love won’t fix all your problems. While finding someone you want to spend your life with is a beautiful, wonderful, incredibly satisfying experience, it won’t make all the other complicated problems in your life go away.
Also, having a partner isn’t a requirement for living a fulfilling life. You don’t need another person to feel whole or valid – you’re a complete person all on your own.
So even though those weeks, months, and years where you’re single may feel like they last a lifetime, don’t wish them away too quickly. They’re a great opportunity to reconnect with yourself and learn what kind of person you are.
You’re Stronger than You Think
To all the teenagers who are scared of this next unknown phase of life, please always remember: you are stronger than you think. Human beings can withstand intense mental, emotional, and physical struggles, so never doubt your own abilities to face the storms in your life.
Don’t be afraid to try something completely different or to change your mind, and never limit yourself because you don’t think you’re capable or good enough. You are so much stronger than you believe and you may be surprised how much you can handle.
People Don’t Notice You as Much as You’re Scared They Do
I think one of the biggest struggles teenagers face is the fear of rejection from the people around them. Young adults are constantly terrified that they’re being watched and analyzed every passing second, that every embarrassing thing they do or say is going to be used against them later.
And while it’s true that the era of the internet makes it a lot easier for our embarrassing moments to be replayed over and over, most of the time people aren’t paying as much attention to you as you’re scared they are. Most people are just trying to get through their day the way you are, and they probably don’t even notice the little flaws that you’re afraid are super obvious.
And even if they do notice, who cares? You only get to live one life – don’t limit your happiness because of what you’re afraid other people will think or say about you.
It’s Okay to Ask for Help
The biggest advice I wish I could give to my teenage self and to teenagers everywhere is that it’s okay to ask for help. I know you think you have to do this alone, but I promise there are so many people who want to help you and make sure you’re happy, healthy, and fulfilled in life. Never be afraid to ask for guidance or assistance in life.
It’s important that we as people do our best to help and guide each other when we can. Life can be hard in general, but the more we can do for each other, the better our overall quality of life will be. You’re in a phase of life where you’re growing and evolving, so it’s okay to ask for help as you try to learn what the next step in your life is going to look like.
About Draven Jackson
Draven is an avid writer and reader who enjoys sharing her opinions on movies, books, and music with the rest of the world. She will soon be working as a teacher in Japan and hopes to use her experience to connect with other teachers and students around the globe. Draven spends most of her time at home with her family, her dogs, and her ferret.
To see more, view all posts by Draven Jackson here.