Every now and then, when the world has gone still and my mind begins to wander, I think about the teen girls we used to be. How we were awkward and wide-eyed and naive. How we were carefree and golden and bright. How we felt everything so deeply, so intensely. We were such beautiful messes, weren’t we?
I look back at those days now and it’s like peering through a veil of fog. I can still remember what we did, but I can’t always remember why. The truth is, most days, I forget what it was like to be us. I forget what it was like to measure myself up to my classmates or vie for my crush’s attention or get pissed as hell at my parents for setting limitations that felt somehow unjust. I forget what it was like to feel pressured to be more, to be enough, but to never be too much. Even though I once swore to myself that I would always remember, I often forget what it means to be a teen girl still trying to figure everything out.
It’s strange to think that so many things that mattered so much in the moment are just afterthoughts now. How I once hated myself for the way I looked, but now when I see old photographs, I wonder why. How I couldn’t stand that girl from our chemistry class, but now I can’t even remember her name. How I cried every night over a boy who broke my heart, but now he only ever crosses my mind when someone else speaks his name. I always cared so much about what everyone thought of me, but why? All their names are just footnotes in my life now. Why did we always give so much power to people who never mattered in the first place?
I’m not trying to say that the things that we’ve been through—the things that you’re going through—don’t matter. They do. Every emotion that moves through you is valid. But when we’re young, we give everything so much weight. We convince ourselves that how the world is in the moment is how it’ll always be. Just know that it won’t break you the way you thought it would. It won’t ruin your life the way you always feared. You will grow past this and look back and be thankful for what it taught you. You will tell stories about it and maybe even laugh. Some days it will seem so far away that you’ll wonder if it ever really happened.
That’s just part of growing up. It’s sad, but it’s also beautiful. Throughout the years, we become so many different versions of ourselves. And sometimes we’ll grow to resent those versions, and sometimes we’ll grow to pity them, and sometimes we’ll fall so head-over-heels in love with them that we’ll want nothing more than to go back to who we were then. But we can’t. That’s what growth is—it’s change, even when it’s not quite what we were looking for. That doesn’t mean you can’t continue to become someone you’re proud of. There is always time to become who you’ve always wanted to be.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is that these days are important, but they aren’t everything. You’ll fall down, you’ll get your heart broken, you’ll break down, but you’ll always get back up. That’s what being young is for, after all—it’s for making mistakes. It’s for failing. It’s for choosing the wrong person, sometimes again and again and again. It’s for breaking the rules and dealing with the consequences. It’s for learning to stand up for yourself and fight for what you believe in. It’s for learning what you believe in. It’s for reinventing yourself, sometimes several times a year. And god, it’s so messy. It’s so painful. Some days you won’t want to get out of bed at all. But you will get up eventually, and despite all odds, you’ll keep getting up. That is strength. That is growth.
So maybe we aren’t those teen girls anymore. We’ll never be those people again. But please know there is beauty in everything that we’ve gone through. There is beauty in all those people we have been—even the one you are now. So be easy on yourself. Be kind. Never let anyone convince you that you don’t have the right to be exactly who you are right now. Because one day, when you too look back, you’ll feel so much love for those teen girls we used to be.