1. Stop looking in the mirror under fluorescent light. Mall dressing rooms, school bathrooms, locker rooms — they’re all bad for you. Yes, you look bad underneath them. But so does everyone, and it’s not a real indicator of your looks either. You’re going to feel badly enough about your skin as it is, don’t make it worse by looking at yourself in slightly green swamp-light.
2. Don’t be jealous of the girls who are going to grow faster than you, because there’s nothing wrong with you. And there’s nothing wrong with them. When boys compare your proportions to a piece of plywood, remember that they’re young and just as insecure as you are.
3. Middle school is going to be terrible. I wish that there was some way to soften this blow, but it’s just a terrible place. Everyone is mean and smelly and not adjusting well to their changing bodies. If it’s any consolation, though, middle school is terrible for everyone.
4. Actually, I take that back, some people will enjoy middle school. But you don’t want to be them.
5. Eat what you want. You’re not going to be much older than 11 or 12 the first time you really consider the implications that burger will have for your stomach and your legs and how much people will like you. But your body is so resilient and this is the time in your life when you should be chasing pixie sticks with Pepsi and dinosaur chicken nuggets. Enjoy it. You have your whole life to demonize food.
6. The popular, mean people in high school are not all going to end up in that peaked-in-11th-grade, hometown hero cliché. Some of them are going to get to be popular in high school, and then popular in life. But it doesn’t matter. Even the ones who end up sad aren’t going to give you any satisfaction, because it’s not going to make your life any better.
7. Don’t try to get vengeance on people, because you can’t. They’re going to do and experience what they’re meant to, and the only way to get even is to be happy and forget about them.
8. When people around you at 14 are doing drugs and you think they’re cool and interesting, don’t. Don’t struggle through smoking a single cigarette behind your friend’s house to try to impress them. Anyone who is already doing drugs at 14 is not headed for good things, or at least not without a serious struggle.
9. Losing your virginity is not the worth-determining experience you think it will be. First you’ll be insecure that you haven’t, then you’ll be insecure that you have. And none of it actually matters.
10. You won’t be emotionally ready to care for a hamster at 11, no matter how much you try to convince Mom and Dad that you are. Sorry.
11. Some people are going to have really bad, chronic skin problems throughout their entire teens and into their 20s. Some people will have flawless, pore-free skin all their lives. No, it isn’t fair. But the sooner you accept that you just got the raw end of that deal, the sooner you’ll be happy.
12. The boys who seem like they mean everything at 13 will mean nothing at 15, and the boys at 15 will seem hilarious by the time you graduate high school. Every time you feel like you’re going to collapse and die from heartbreak, you are somehow going to move on. But that doesn’t mean you should stop caring in the moment.
13. Your parents aren’t out to get you, they’re trying to save you from yourself. And you’re doing everything in your power to make that job difficult.
14. Not having a certain brand of clothing means nothing about you, and isn’t going to prevent you from living a good life. It may feel like the end of the world at 13 or 16 not to have the same name on your shirt as everyone else, but if it’s any consolation, you will be thoroughly humiliated that you wanted to wear Abercrombie so badly in a few years.
15. Save your money. Even when you get your first job at 14 at that terrible ice cream shop, put as much as you can away. One day you will be really glad to look in your account and magically see the money there that you had the good sense to save.
16. When you and a girlfriend like the same boy, you are going to make the crucial mistake of hating her instead of hating the guy who is playing both of you. You will lose friends this way. As soon as you can, stop doing this.
17. You’ll see girlfriends fighting over guys well into your 20s — make sure not to take sides in these scenarios. No good can come of it.
18. When someone tells you a secret, keep it, even if you could use it to impress or get close to someone else. Don’t betray people like that, because people will do it to you, and worse, they will know that you’re the kind of person who can’t be trusted with secrets.
19. Get over the idea that you can prevent people from talking shit about you behind your back. It’s just a natural facet of life, and honestly, it means you’re interesting enough to someone else to occupy space in their mind. And let’s be real, you do a fair amount of shit-talking yourself.
20. In about a year, back pocket-less, bell-bottomed jeans that lace up in the front (???) will come into style. Avoid these if possible, because they are horrible. Also avoid body glitter, because it smells cheap and it makes you break out. And why do you want to be sparkly in the first place?
21. Don’t rush into wearing makeup. You have your whole life to wear it, and to look like the grown woman that it turns you into, and to deal with all the maintenance and upkeep and struggles that come with it. Enjoy being a little girl, and looking like one. You’ve got at least two or three more years for it.
22. Remember how it feels when someone makes fun of you. Remember how it destroys you from inside, and lingers in your insecurity and comes back to haunt you at the worst times. Remember it, and don’t do it to other people.
23. When it comes time to go swimming, get in the pool. Don’t be the person lingering at the side, afraid to get cold or get your hair messed up, dipping just a toe into the water. You don’t know how much you’ll miss summers at the community pool, and besides, the water always feels great.