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An Open Letter to My Teenage Self

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An Open Letter to My Teenage Self

Dear Teenage Self,

Oh, how I wish you could see what I see now. I’m older, and life has made me wiser. Nothing is the way I thought it would be. It’s so much better.

When I look back, I see you as one person but I know there were two of you: one that the world saw and the private one that only you knew. I remember the nights and days filled with worry, sadness, and confusion. I remember being both of you. I remember the smile I would show to my friends and then I remember the tears no one knew that I cried behind my closed bedroom door.

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Oh, how I wish I knew that everything would be okay someday. But, I probably wouldn’t have believed it at the time.

Oh, how I remember those teenage years as the most painful years of my life. Living under a microscope. Everything was magnified. I know it’s hard to believe, but your teenage feelings, friendships, family, and appearance are way out of proportion. You think that whatever happens will stay that way forever. Nothing is farther from the truth. Nothing stays the same.

Steve Carrell said it best in Little Miss Sunshine after Paul Dano told him that he just wants to go to sleep and wake up when he’s 18.  Steve Carrell answered, ““What? High school—those are your prime suffering years. They don’t get better suffering than that.“ “Do you know Marcel Proust? He had a miserable life. He gets to the end of his life and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, those were the best years of his life because they made him who he was. All those years when he was happy, you know… a total waste. He didn’t learn a thing. Sleep until you’re 18? Think of the suffering you’ll miss.”

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It’s hard to believe, but it’s true. Your teenage years were the best suffering of your life. Those painful breakups, lonely nights, and tears cried are the times that make you stronger, smarter and sculpt you to become the rock-solid adult that you will become.

Peer pressure helps you define yourself.

If it weren’t for your friends testing your limits, how would you know what you believe in? How would you know what you like and who you want to be?  Peer pressure is a mirror that’s held up to your face every day that says, “is that really who you want to be? Which group of people do you want to be with?” Peer pressure is the fork in the road that helps you define your life goals. Even though it doesn’t seem like it at the time, you have a chance to know what doesn’t feel right to you. That’s how you know what does feel right. That’s how you know who you are, what you stand for and what you believe in. It’s when your morals and values become sealed in your soul.

Dramatic moments teach you to manage your emotions.

Your emotional moments feel like your world is ending. Every time your heart breaks from a boy who doesn’t love you (even though you thought he did), or when you feel people whisper as you walk through the hallways at school—these are the times when you learn how to manage your emotions. Through the tears, you discover your backbone. That bone becomes your core, your solid foundation that will carry you through all the losses, sadness, and even the joy of the years to come. Your drama helps you to regulate your feelings and stabilize your emotions.  

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The bedroom is your private place to discover your true self.

Those tearful nights that you spent feeling misunderstood were the nights when you discovered your creative visions. Those were the nights when my pen was my best friend, always there for me to help me work through my pain. Those tearful nights in your bedroom will bring out your creative self. Let it all out. Let your creative juices flow. One day you will look back on those nights and thank them for introducing you to your passions and creative future self.

There is no love like a parent’s love.

As much as you feel like your parents are out to make your life miserable, when you look back, you will see the love in your parent’s hearts. They were just afraid you would make the wrong choices and wanted to protect you, not control you. As my mother said, “You will only understand how I feel when you become a parent.” She was right. Thank you, Mom. I understand now. A mother wants to breathe her child’s air before he does to make sure it’s okay for him. Her heart yearns deeply for your success and happiness. Your father does too, but he probably doesn’t know how to express it. Your parent’s love teaches you how to become a parent.

Your first love was not true love.

You couldn’t eat, and you couldn’t sleep; love was all you thought about it. Nothing mattered but you and him. You thought you would never love like that again. Even though you were sure it was perfect, that was not true love. It was fun; it felt great and looking back, it still makes me smile, but teenage love does not compare to adult love. Love gets even better than that.

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Break-ups are not the end of the world.

Friendships broke up and boyfriends dumped you, and you were sure the world was coming to an end, when in reality, you were just growing resilient for the future challenges. Life is full of disappointments, break-ups, losses, and broken dreams. Those teenage losses taught you to deal with the ups and downs of life.

True friends are there for you no matter what, when, or wherever you need them.

Teenage years all about friendships. Some of those friendships will remain throughout the years. Sometimes you won’t speak to each other for years but whenever you need each other, you will show up and pick up where you left off, as if nothing changed. These friendships taught me the value of a true friend and how to be one.

Thank you dear teenage self, for the best suffering of life. Thank you for teaching me the lessons from those broken-hearted moments, breakups, and tear-stained pillows.

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I learned that I became stronger than I ever thought I could be. I learned how to stand up for what I believe in. I learned that I am an artist, a poet, and a writer. I learned how to show my children love and teach them how to love themselves. I learned how to pick myself up, brush myself off, and continue to move forward through the difficult times. I learned the meaning of friendship and love. I learned that true love is real. Happily ever after does exist, but it’s hard work that’s worth the effort.

Thank you for the pain, mistakes, and heartache that will become the best teachers. Embrace those painful moments. Those are the years that will teach you how to laugh, love and live a meaningful life.

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June Silny

ADHD Coach, Writer, ADDitude Magazine featured contributor

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