During my teen years as an emotional, pubescent, dramatic, high school teenybopper, there was a few times where I wanted nothing to do with life. I wanted to end it. Life was my worst enemy. Waking up every day and sharing breathing space with other people who “didn’t understand me” was the daily struggle. I invested all of myself into toxic relationships that made me feel like I was never going to be good enough for anyone ever, and most of all, myself. I fought with my parents over the smallest issues. I shut out my friends. I saw a therapist. I was on anti-depressants (only for a short time because they made me spew). Emotion always trumped logic. At the end of the day, everything I did to try and improve myself would leave me feeling stable for only a few hours.
Now that I’m in my 20s, I often reflect back to those dark days, where I was almost stupid enough to take my life because I almost let my teenage woes get the best of me. You think that teens would realize that they have experienced so little in their fifteen or so years of life, but the best is really yet to come. I know what it’s like to think breakups and fights with friends are comparable to a biblical apocalypse. Everyone at this stage in adolescence is experiencing new hormones, and thus, experimenting with their new sexual urges for the first time. You’re staying up past 11:30pm. You’re now crushing on that guy who spit on you in kindergarten, but he has a girlfriend. You’re sneaking out of the house on a Tuesday night to smoke weed with a 25-year-old guy named Thor because he “makes you feel like a woman.” I get it.
I can talk so casually about this now because I know how common teen depression really is, and I’ve come SO far since then. I’m also evidence that, as the cliché goes, it all gets better with time. I am in love with my life now and I thank all of the Higher Powers every day that I am lucky enough to live it. If I could go back in time, twenty-year-old-me would most likely smack teenage-me and say “sack up,” amongst other things. But also, I would probably give myself a list of things to live for and look forward to. It was a gradual process for me to learn that, above all, some things and feelings you just have to wait out. And while you’re waiting, it’s the small victories that begin to help you get a grasp on the fact that life has a lot to offer you.
1. First and foremost, before you read this list, you really have to want to be better. It’s appropriate to mourn the loss of a friendship, relationship, or your will to live, but you have to commit to your well-being more than you did to whatever drove you to feel this way. You WILL defeat this.
2. While you’re going through the process of self-betterment, try to keep it to yourself. I found that in every breakup, I tried to broadcast how “well” I was doing, but I was only fooling myself. When you truly feel good about something, keep it to yourself. It is your moment, your inside joke, your fond memory to ponder over. Work hard, stay humble.
3. Remember, there are people your age, younger, and older, fighting for their lives every day. Whether it be illness, or living through political unrest, you may have it better than millions of people simply because you have certain freedoms. Don’t take that for granted.
4. COLLEGE. If you are still in high school, this is EVERYTHING to look forward to. It is a blank slate and a new opportunity for you to exercise your full potential. You meet new people, join new clubs and teams, and every day is a new learning experience. Networking. Partying. Studying. Hookup culture. Although it is expensive, it will be perhaps one of the most priceless eras of your lifetime.
5. Have you had Chipotle yet? Jimmy Johns? Vietnamese food? If I gave up during my teens years, I would have never lived to try any of these. And plenty of people would argue that Chipotle alone is enough to live for.
6. Learn to cook. Your mom will be stoked, you’ll carry this skill with you for life, and mincing garlic takes all of your focus. Furthermore, experiment with food, not drugs.
7. Clean. Once again, mom will be stoked. (I know she’s not your wife but “happy wife, happy life” still applies.) Also, your basic Google search will show multiple studies proving that cleaning helps to alleviate stress.
8. Look good, feel good. Have you always wanted six-pack abs? Go for a run, shoot some hoops in your driveway, or start a strict workout regimen. It will consume the time that you use to loathe your own existence, and endorphins will combat the overwhelming amount of cortisol in that hormonal brain of yours!
9. Find solace spiritually, like meditation. I like to think that meditation goes hand-in-hand with yoga, because it does for me anyway. It will be very difficult to clear your mind at first, but while you’re sitting like a praying mantis on your mat post-yoga -sesh, replace your mind’s word flow with “OMMMM.” With a smile on your face, eyes closed, say it aloud or in your head. It will silence every other verbal thought. You’re on your way to better controlling your mente.
10. Get a job—another thing to distract you from your ex-girlfriend’s bitter subtweets about your small…ego. Plus, money! Now you can buy that new spoiler for your Dodge Neon! (But I would advise against that.)
11. Commit yourself to a new series on Netflix or Hulu. It will be the best significant other you’ve ever had. Once you’re done with one series, on to the next one!—a valuable lesson in moving on. (Parks and Recreation, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and 30 Rock are a few of my favs.)
12. What’s that one thing you’ve always wanted to do? Travel to another city, state, country? Even if this goal is currently out of your reach, create a vision board to make things more specific, and start saving those dolla bills from your new job. This will help you plan out the details and be more prepared when the opportunity arises!
13. Get a pet. Whether it be a cat, dog, fish, or chinchilla, you’ll begin to realize that this animal is alive to love you. It will only be around for a fraction of your life, but you will be around for its’ entire life. While it’s true that friends and family need you in their lives, this animal is literally dependent on you from start to finish. You are their life.
14. Instead of using that energy to vengefully plot against the girl who spread that rumor about you, donate your time more wisely. Yes, donate—it’s good for your soul. Volunteer your time for community service. You might not be able to help what has already happened to you, but you can help the future of other people. And it looks fantastic on a college/job resume.
15. Who looks up to you? A sibling, a cousin, or your five-year-old neighbor? If you can’t stay alive for yourself, your family, or your dog, stay alive for the person who thinks your existence > the second coming of Christ. If you
16. I always wish that I had time to read more. This is going to sound lame, but reading leaves you more informed, makes you think, and expands your vocabulary. Then you can shit on everyone with your knowledge.
17. Find new music to listen to. Replace “our song” with “your song”—the one tune that makes you feel like a fricken firework. I recommend Pandora, Spotify, SoundCloud, or MySpace if you want to throw it back.
18. Lastly, there are only two days of the year that you can’t control: yesterday and tomorrow. Today, you will be farther from sadness than yesterday, but even closer to happiness tomorrow. I use the term “happiness” broadly. This term is a noun, and nouns consist of people, places and things. Thus, you may come to find that happiness comes in the form of the people, places, and things that make you happy. So, keep an open mind when exploring, because finding something new that makes you happy is the biggest of small victories.