Monday, October 29, 2012

Dear Teen Me...

This post was inspired by this awesome website!

I've already posted my defense of teens...and when I found "Dear Teen Me" I started to think about what I would say to my teen self...I'm going to go with beginning of senior-year me.

So, here we go.

Dear sixteen year-old Alex,
You're going to be seventeen soon, but I promise you're not the youngest one in your class (you're pretty close, though!).  I know you've always felt a little self-concious about that whole "being a year younger than everyone" thing, but I just want you to know that it doesn't matter.
Sure, it's something you'll deal with for a long, long time. 
But you know what? 
There are other things to worry about.
More important things than your insecurities.
I promise.

You're about to start looking at colleges, without any damn idea of where to start.  Sure, you've gone on a couple of campus tours, but you haven't gotten that magical "this is home, this is where I HAVE to go," feeling that everyone promises you'll get.  You're wondering how hard it's going to be to pay back those dreaded "student loans" (and, honestly, you'll still be wondering that six years from now), and if you'll be placing any extra stress on your single mother, who's started working two jobs to help pay for your education.

You might want to go and thank her now.  I'll wait.

Have you thanked her?  Good.  Never stop thanking her.

Now, about the college search:
Stop worrying about it!  When your lab partner in Bio talks about going to Virginia Tech and asks if you want to be roommates, just go with it.  Apply early decision, go to an Open House, and get those oh-so-desired "I belong here" butterfiles.  Because you do.  You always did, and you always will.  Oh, and when it comes to picking your major, I know you have the desire to be the next Jack Hanna.  I mean, what doesn't sound appealing about going on late night talk shows and telling the world about  how awesome jaguars are?

Don't get me wrong.  Jaguars are awesome.
But you're going to want to beware of trees.  Dendrology will break your spirit and persuade you to switch majors, and you'll promptly abandon Wildlife Sciences for Psychology.
Yes, you will get weeded-out by a weed-out class.
And you'll be so glad you did.

But enough college talk.  Let's go back to high school for a moment, as you sit in your second semester of "Theory of Knowledge" and try to understand whatever the hell Kant was trying to say.  I know you're busy with "Sweeney Todd" rehearsals and, in a few months, "Oklahoma" will take over your life (because those two musicals really pair well together), and you're wondering if that guy you like also likes you back.

Yeah, you know the one.
Well, here's some news for you: he might have liked you back...but you'll never get the chance to figure it out.  You'll go away to college, and he'll start hanging out with your best friend...and, inevitably, they'll start dating while you're dissecting things in lab, trying to figure out calculus, and learning all about why hunting deer is a really good thing for the environment.

Don't get too heartbroken over that one guy.  It'll suck for a while, but there are other fish in the sea.  I promise.

So stop worrying about your crush.  I know you can do it.  Instead, enjoy senior year.  Go to the movies with friends, watch "The Happening" on your other best friend's bootleg cable connection (or save yourself the trouble and just stay away, 'cause you'll get emotionally scarred by trees in college anyways), and just enjoy being a teenager. 

I know, I know, why would you enjoy being a teenager?  Being an adult seems like so much fun, right? an extent.  Don't get me wrong - being able to do your own thing is pretty great.  But then there are other things.
Like grad school.
And bills.
Job Searching.
And bills.
Uncertainty about where you'll be after May.
And have I mentioned bills?

I know you'll appreciate this, because you're me and obviously that means you're awesome (not as awesome as a jaguar, but still).  Let's look at your life like a movie.

And not just any movie.  We'll go with "Midnight in Paris."  It hasn't been released yet, but trust me, you'll love it as soon as the opening song starts playing.

This movie looks at how everyone always wants to think that a past decade/epoch was "The Golden Age."  For the main character, his Golden Age was the 1920's.  In Paris.  And I know you totally agree with this point.

But the main character learns something throughout the course of the movie - and his realization will become one of your favorite quotes ever.

You ready to hear it?

"That's what the present is. It's a little unsatisfying because life's a little unsatisfying."

I'm not trying to confuse you or anything.  I know I told you to enjoy being a teenager, and then I throw this quote at you like I'm Yoda.  But, just stop and think about it.  Yeah, the present may be a little unsatisfying.  But the same can be said for the future, too.  I'm not trying to bum you out or anything - these past six years have been great, don't get me wrong.  You'll be going to grad school for something you love, and you'll be giving yourself carpal tunnel while you try to crank out a pretty amazing story (that you also love).

Nothing's perfect, and everything's a little unsatisfying.  But there's a bright side to all of this: YOU can make it better.  YOU and only YOU can focus your life, your thoughts, and your actions, on what YOU want to do.  What's fun, what's fulfilling, what makes you excited about living. There are two things that do this for you.

The first, you're already doing.  Scribbling ideas for plays, writing short stories about polar bears going extinct and re-reading every. single. Harry Potter book that's come out.  Keep this up.  Write when you can and as often as you can.  And never, ever quit.
Never, ever quit.

The second you won't find until college - but, once you switch majors and think about grad school, you'll see the light.  You'll spend the rest of your life explaining to people what Student Affairs is, but it's totally worth it.
I promise.

I guess what I'm trying to say in an overly wordy way is this: Figure out what you love to do.  Then do it.

There.  Simple.

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