I'll never deny that I had a pretty great childhood but puberty was sort of a bitch, and there are especially things I wish I could tell my 15-year-old self. That was a particular hard year because it felt like I hated everything: school; my parents; my friends; and myself. To me, 15 and 19 seemed like transition years; there's something about those sophomore years, don't you think? Your mileage may vary, but I think this is a hard year for everyone, so see if you agree with my version of the things I wish I could tell my 15-year-old self that might have made the year go by a little smoother.
1. This Too Shall Pass
This is such a simple idea, but it can get you through so many rough patches. It's one of the most fundamental things I wish I could tell my 15-year-old self because it holds true for so many of the hard things you go through during those transitional ages. I'd love to tell myself that puberty will pass, that sophomore year will definitely pass, and that high school itself will pass. It's all transitory, mere moments in time that seem horrible, yes, but also have the power to make you stronger – even if you're dealing with bullies, the mean girls, or the feeling of being an outsider, peering in from the fringe.
2. It's Not Them, It's You
I fought with everyone when I was 15. I have an excellent relationship with my parents, for instance; I had a great relationship with them when I was 14 and things went more or less back to normal when I turned 16, but at 15, they could do no right. The same was true for my teachers, a big deal when you consider that I tended to get along better with my favorite teachers than I did with some of my peers. Everyone rubs you the wrong way at this stage in your life, but guess what? It's not them. It's you. It's not necessarily your fault, but it is your issue. It's hard to realize that at the time, but once you have some perspective, you'll notice that your parents, teachers, and friends weren't changing. You were.
3. It's Not You, It's Him
What is it about puppy love at 15? Maybe it's all the Shakespeare you end up reading in your English classes. Maybe it's those god awful hormones. It's the agony and the ecstasy of love that isn't really love, and it's the one time in your life when you're more apt to fall for exactly the wrong guy. At 15 I had an incredible circle of friends, consisting of two boys and one girl, but things began to change. I was still struggling hardcore with my sexuality and natural inclinations, and naturally fell for the bad boy, mainly because he knew exactly how to prey on my vulnerabilities. The nice guy in my circle, of course, was crazy about me – and my bad boy fed on that too. If you found yourself in some up-and-down, topsy-turvy situation at 15 too, it very likely wasn't you. It was him.
4. Everybody Fails Sometimes
Your sophomore year is when you'll really start to hear about how everything counts now. Your grades, your extracurricular activities, your charity work – it all shows up on your college transcripts. It's important to do well in school and to broaden your horizons beyond the classroom, but that's a lot of pressure – especially for the straight A students who find they rarely have to study because everything has been easy up to that point. For me, Algebra II took me down – hard. I faced a D for the first time in my life and almost lost my mind. For that reason, and for all the other math classes that gave my the business, I'd love to tell my younger self that failure is just an opportunity to learn something else.
5. You Are Beautiful
I was incredibly down on myself at 15, and I bet a lot of you were as well – or maybe you are still, right at this moment. You are beautiful. I was beautiful too, and I couldn't see it. I wasn't even willing to entertain the notion. It doesn't matter what you weigh, how you dress, if you're wearing the same Birkenstocks as all the cool girls, how tall you are – none of it matters. You're gorgeous. You're a goddess. At 15, 20, 25, 30, and 50, you are stunning. Please know that. Please believe it.
6. Real Friends Reveal Themselves
As I briefly mentioned, some friendships go through strange transitions themselves around this point in your life. Some BFFs will stay thick as thieves, and that's how you know you've found a winner. Other friendships lose some of their dynamic. There might be ill-fated crushes involved, a friend might get interested in relationships while you get interested in something else, you might get “popular” while your friend remains an avid fan of drama or band. Rest assured that no matter what happens, your real friends will reveal themselves. They might be friends you've had for years or brand new relationships, but if they stick with you through all the moods and the turmoil, you know you've found someone worthwhile. The ones who desert you can kind of make like a tree.
7. Life Gets Harder, but Better
I would love to be able to tell my 15-year-old self that everything gets easier, but it doesn't. My 15th year was not the hardest year of my life. With some exceptions, it's not the hardest year of anyone's life. The lesson I would share is this: life gets more difficult, but it also becomes richer than you could ever imagine.
8. Your Weirdness is Your Salvation
I fought so hard to fit in at 15. I wanted the popular girls to invite me to their large, sprawling houses or their fun parties. I wanted them to see that I was smart and funny and a good person, worthy of friendship. At that stage, however, and although most of these girls have grown into lovely young women who no longer resemble the cliques they formed in high school, fitting in would have meant changing myself entirely. I would have needed to trade in my Dr. Martens for those Birkenstocks. It would have meant listening to boy bands instead of Eminem, Placebo, and Tori Amos. It would have meant riding horses instead of writing stories. I wish I could tell myself that someday my weirdness would fit me better – that it would define me, even. And your weirdness will define you, too.
9. Your Feelings Are Not Wrong
As I also mentioned, I struggled with my sexuality as a teen, especially at 15. Some of you may struggle with the same thing; some of you will have different struggles. Whatever they are, you're not wrong. Your natural feelings or affinities are not wrong. Don't let your peers make you feel wrong; you're simply you, and you're beautiful – flawlessly imperfect and perfectly flawed.
I can safely say that I have few regrets in my life, not because I've never done anything I regretted but because I've come to turns with them. Still, part of me dreams of a do-over, just for the year I spent as a miserable 15-year-old. Are there any years you wish you could repeat? What lessons or words of wisdom would you share with your younger self?