Some of you probably caught the #gimmeacall hashtag on Twitter yesterday and today, where folks tweeted messages of advice to their former high school selves (in honor of the release of Sarah Mlynowski’s new novel Gimme a Call). A few of my favorites:
- “Dear high-school self: don’t worry, you’ll put those bitches in a book one day” (@abbymcdonald)
- “Dear 15-year-old self, those comics you feel guilty for spending your barmitzvah money on each week will save your life one day” (@neilhimself aka Neil Gaiman)
- “Dear HS Self: You have a page on wiki now. The guy who chased you w/a knife cause he thought you were gay doesn’t” (@adamselzer)
This (in addition to a bizarre dream I had starring my 7th and 8th grade boyfriends) made me start thinking about my teen years, about all of the things I wish I could tell the younger me that might have prevented a whole lot of pain and embarrassment. However, if it weren’t for that pain and embarrassment, I probably wouldn’t be writing to you now. Why on earth would I want to write teen novels if I had no personal need to revisit that traumatic period of my life? There are far more lucrative things to do with my time. If it weren’t for the pain, I probably wouldn’t be a writer at all.
It’s a strange thing to think about–how much experience forms a person’s identity, how so much of who were are is really just a matter of chance. What if I hadn’t moved when I was twelve? What if I stayed in my safe, small town until I graduated from high school? What if I had never had those particular friends and boyfriends? What if I had gone to a different college? I could be someone totally different today, someone unrecognizable. I could have had a safe, uneventful life. I could have made “smart” choices. But honestly, what fun would that be? If it weren’t for all those less-than-smart choices, I wouldn’t have had so many opportunities to learn, to be challenged, to grow and build character.
I can say that now because I’m a safe distance away. I’ve lived through it, learned my painful lessons, and built myself a hard-earned happily-ever-after. If my teen self read this drivel, she would probably want to punch me in the nose. God, how I hated those patronizing adults who kept saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” or “You’ll look back on these years and laugh.” Well, I’m not laughing. I look back on those years and they still make me shudder. The difference is I can now see that all those painful moments were not actually the end of the world, and they would in fact come in handy later. And what better revenge on the past is there than taking it and making it yours? I have taken those years, transformed them and turned them into fuel, made them into something useful and beautiful.
Blah blah blah. There are still a lot of things I would have liked to get through my thick teenage skull.
- That friend who says she can give you a tattoo in the park with a sewing needle? Don’t listen to her.
- Go with your first instinct and skip prom. It totally sucked.
- Don’t let that creepy hippie guy hug you. There’s a reason he’s always hanging around teenage girls.
- This whole boyfriend thing? There’s a reason “friend” is in the title. You’re supposed to like them.
- Just consider going to a different college than the one you had your mind set on since freshman year. Seriously, it won’t kill you to change your mind.
- STAY AWAY FROM THE GREEN-HAIRED GIRL!
- Hide your journal somewhere your mom can’t find it.
- You could try being a little nicer to people who aren’t like you. That rich skinny girl who’s always smiling and tan even in winter–she’s actually not the devil.
- You may not get caught for stealing that car, but you will pay karmically. Oh yes you will.
- There’s a girl in seventh grade who will save your life with her friendship. Don’t let her drift away. Your heart will break for the rest of your life if you lose her.
- Trust your instincts about people. If they scare you, they’re probably not the right people to hang out with.
- You don’t have to be so lonely. There are people like you. You just have to open your eyes a little wider to see them.
- Don’t spit. It’s really ugly.
- Your body is yours alone. It is your choice what happens to it.
- Your parents love you. Ask them for help.
- Those best friends of yours in high school? They still are. They were in your wedding party, including the boys.
What about you? Do you have anything you wish you could say to your younger self?