Navigating modern life is tricky. Pressure, being constantly “on”, consistently being bombarded, no gaps in knowledge or expectations. The gorgeous Pip wrote about the contrast between past and present here. But, if it’s hard as an adult and parent, it must be so much harder for those growing up.
I have some beautiful teenagers in my life. This one’s for you …
The teenage years can suck. I want to be clear on that. You might have a lot of people telling you how lucky you are. That these will be the best days of your life. Maybe they are right. My experience of being teenager was that everything was intense and difficult. Even the easy things were hard.
But in the long run, it won’t matter. It really won’t. That’s not to diminish any pain you’re currently feeling. But it will pass. All things do.
A few things I think you should know…
Maybe you’re being tortured by your peers. But let me reassure you, when you look back on your teen years, it’s won’t be what happened to you that stings. It will be the moments you let your integrity slip and you were mean to others. Anytime you stoop, you will regret it.
Don’t try to figure out why people do why the things they do. It’s not worth analysing. Maybe she’s jealous, maybe she’s not. Maybe she’s just an asshole (it happens) but it’s not your job to figure it out. You can’t predetermine how people act or what they say. Your control extends to yourself only. And that’s a whole life’s work. May as well start now.
That control extends to protecting yourself. You can say no. You don’t need to be friends (or more than friends) with people who make you feel bad.
Be careful with your heart. Your friends are everything right now. They are the loves of your life. So be friendly with everyone but choose your close friends selectively and wisely. Have each other’s back. Always.
Be on social media. It’s part of our culture and you need to know how to manage it. But do manage it. Take breaks when you need. Unfollow the negative. Don’t get sucked into online conversations that belong in the real world only.
Know it’s additive. Be aware of the research about what it’s doing to your brain. Stay informed.
Understand the highlight reel. You know people post the moments that make them look good. Even when it’s real, it’s fake. That’s okay but just don’t assume it reflects the way your friends are really feeling.
Touch base with them. Talk to them. Have the 3am conversations about all the deep things.
If you need a pick me up, don’t ask the folk on social media. They can’t be trusted. Don’t post a photo and ask for comments on how you look. If you get one hundred people tell you that you’re gorgeous, it will be the one person that tells you you’re not that will stay with you.
Create things. Make music or art or clothing or stories or whatever. Just have something you can call intrinsically your own. Be unique because you are.
To be perfectly honest, you don’t want your teenage years to be the best of your life. People get better. They gain more perspective. Life gets larger. Things hurt less.
The kids that are gifted teenagers don’t turn into gifted adults. We don’t really have gifted adults. Adulthood is too vast and wide-ranging.
So celebrate the wins but recognise them for what they are. Moments in time, not the validation of life.
Don’t get too upset when things don’t go your way. A bad exam mark, not making the team, a lost friendship. It all hurts but it’s all part of living.
The kids that are adaptable, resilient and work hard get ahead. They end up the success stories. Not the prettiest, or the sportiest or the most popular.
Be nice to your family. Even when they are annoying. After all, they are the ones that will always have your back.
Get out and wear the sunshine in your hair. Just also wear sunscreen.