Lessons from My Teens


Today is my 20th birthday and if things have gone my way, I am currently trawling the streets of Paris, dressed to the nines, a little tipsy, with a shit eating grin plastered on my face.

My teens saw some of the hardest moments of my life--on top of the usual teen angst bullshit, there was also a lot of family bullshit to deal with. There was getting my first job, quitting my first job, and getting fired for the first time. I made lots of friends, I lost just as many and passionately disliked some of my closest friends. Through it all, I made a bunch of mistakes, did lots of things I regret but that I'm wiser for.

In honor of saying goodbye to my teens (Sayonara! Adios! Á bientôt! I won't miss you!), I put together a list of things that I've learnt in the past 7 years.

You can never change yourself to please others

I spent all of high school trying to make myself likable to people who really didn't like me. Me suppressing parts of my personality never curried me any favor and it didn't make me happy. I wish I had focused on doing my own thing and working on being a good person. 

It's easier for people to undermine you if you undermine yourself

In my last year of high school, I directed a play for a few months and faced a lot of criticism from fellow student directors and their casts. Even worse, people often shared their criticisms with my actors which undermined my authority. Although I knew it came from a place of spite, I couldn't help but take their criticisms to heart and often felt like a phony. Reflecting on that experience, I realize that you can't control people's perceptions of you, you can't stop them from making hurtful comments, but you can control the way you react to it. That doesn't mean it won't hurt, but that it's up to you to make sure that it doesn't get in the way of achieving your goals and celebrating your successes.

You're true friends will be your greatest supporters

I had a lot of conversations with myself over the past year about why I felt so uncertain about continuing certain friendships. I eventually realized that it was because those friendships were the ones that put me down, that always made me feel like I was failing in someway. These were friendships in which I felt I had to constantly prove myself. At first I thought I was being too sensitive but soon realized that in comparison I had friends who were really supportive, who cared about me and never patronized me. Those were the friends I always left a conversation with feeling refreshed and happy. When life is tumultuous all on its own, it's important that your friends are a source of comfort and support, not the source of your problems.

Go to the party to get drunk and dance--not to get the boy

I wasted a lot of energy and emotions trying to create romantic entanglements at parties and attempting to kiss boys that would barely look at me. I started having so much more fun when I stopped thinking about that and just danced, even if I was the only one dancing. 

Stay in your lane

Getting involved in other people's drama can seem like a lot of fun in the moment. Sometimes, it can be a little fun. But most of the time, getting involved in other people's business will never work out in your favor, it will only make them dislike you. I wish I had stayed out of the drama, if only to save myself a few tears.  

No matter the lessons you learn and the work you put in, things will still go wrong

It's really appealing to think that once you become more aware and knowledgeable, you'll be able to control things to work in your favor. You think that you'll be able to shape the way your sadness feels. You think that by making a plan you're guaranteed that everything will go as planned. Sadly, that's never the case. And I think accepting that makes it easier to tackle the challenges that come your way. 

What lessons did you learn in your teens? What lessons are you learning in your twenties?