As a young adult writer (and that’s writer for young adults not a young adult who writes, much as I’d prefer the latter), I often imagine what my younger self would do in certain situations. How would I have reacted to the news that my sister wasn’t who said she was? How would I feel if I was rejected by someone I loved? It’s never hard to gain access to those feelings because, although my teenage years are far behind me chronologically, they are so very close to me emotionally.
When I find myself channeling my inner teenager, I often wish I could transport my current self back in time and tell her stuff I wish I’d known. Assuming I would believe this curly-haired weirdo with the bell bottoms and flip-flops was me in the future (impossible! We were so preppy back then!), I would take her aside, maybe bring her back a Starbucks latte so she would truly know the wonders of the future, and tell her the following things:
1. Put the cigarette out. I know it’s cool right now to light up at parties but trust me, it ages our skin and it’s a pain in the butt to quit. It’ll take us fifteen years and three attempts before we actually quit for good and then we’ll be so happy that we wish we had never started. So don’t.
2. Use a good moisturizer. Oh, you don’t think we need it? You think we have perfect skin and don’t need sunscreen when we’re at the beach (2a - stop baking in the sun every summer) but let me tell you, years from now that sun will give us freckles that the doctor will call moles and he’ll remove them every chance he gets and scar us for life. And wear a hat. And sunglasses. Yes, stop squinting. More wrinkles.
3. Develop a passion for something. Lest you think all I am hear to warn you about is sun damage and wrinkles, I want you to think about our future. You’re blithely cheerleading through life, not paying any attention to what we’ll be doing to earn a living. I’m glad you’re not assuming we’ll get married and be supported by our husband but that means we have to do something. So pick it now. And I don’t care what it is.
3A. Don’t listen to Dad. He means well, he does. But he’s an accountant which is a very practical profession plus you know, he’s our dad. He wants us to be safe and fiscally secure. Personal happiness doesn’t enter his equation. For some strange reason, he finds happiness in tax returns. Good for him. We need something more. Trust that you will find financial security by following your passion. Eventually.
4. Travel whenever you can. We’re not interested in traveling. I know. We’ve moved all over the place and we just want to settle down. I know this too. But I also know that you’re going to want to see things that are in other countries, other parts of this country. So go. Go now while you’re young and don’t mind the crowds and the cheap hotels and can get the student discount for the Uffizi. You will never regret traveling.
5. Take more risks. Ask the guy out that we like. The football player? The cute one that you think will never go out with you? He will. Trust me. We look good now. We think we’re fat but the guys see curves. We’re shy so we have to get over that. Be bold. Take the classes that other kids don’t think are cool but we want to take. Raise your hand in class. We know the answer! It’s okay to be smart.
6. Keep in touch with friends. We’ll go to college and forget them. You don’t think so now. You don’t think that could ever happen. You think you hang out with them and party with them and they will be your buds for life but they won’t. They will go to college somewhere else and we will lose touch. And this will be a pattern we establish wherever we go. We pick up and move and forget. Don’t do this to us. Starting now, vow to remain friends. Do what it takes, even if it’s hard, even if it’s time-consuming, even if it feels like no one reciprocates. They will. Plus there’s thing called “email” in the future which will make it all much easier. So do it. Make our friendships last.
That’s a lot for my teen self to take in. I would probably be more focused on what I look like in the future (flip-flops? Are you serious? We like duck shoes and Topsiders and the new Nikes with the red swoosh) than on what I would be telling myself. I know this about me. But if I could get my younger self to remember even a couple of these things, we could be a lot happier. Or at least less wrinkly.
Your Hollywood connection,