In looking at my teenage students, I end up biting my tongue when addressing certain issues a bit too much. I catch myself saying things like “enjoy these problems while you can” and “it only gets harder from here”.
That is not what I want to say, and it’s honestly not what they should hear.
The trials that all kids face are important and necessary to become strong and successful adults, and things feel like the end of the world at that age because in all reality, it is, at least to their world.
So with that being said, here are 10 of the things that I find myself not always saying. Maybe it is because these things become too filled with personal anecdotes for me to get into in my workplace, or could cause controversy with parents and other staff members.
But if I could, here are the 8 things I think are important for them to know, and wish that maybe I known as well.
1. Boys aren’t the only ones who will “say anything” to have their way with you.
There is this misconception that boys are the only one’s with bad intentions, and to clear this up, I had plenty of bad intentions myself as a teenage girl. Looking around now I see more emotionally invested boys than I every would have imagined based on my fathers dating advice. Not that they don’t have their mind focused on one thing, but so do girls! Whether they are driven by attention seeking antics or actually do involve sex depends on an individuals wants and needs, but girls manipulate for all kinds of reasons too. If it’s not to have sex, it very well may be to make the world think they had sex, or think that their friend did. I am not trying to make this all about sex, but indeed it is high school, and whether we admit it or not it does all come down to that now doesn’t it?
2. Those interests that you think might make you weird now, actually make you interesting later in life.
College provided me with time to take art classes like Print Making, and study Buddhism. It was a place where being environmentally friendly and/or extremely driven was important. I want to tell them that finding someone to converse with, that has a passion in their eye and an excitement in their laugh over something educational is one of the best feelings in the world. The kind of excitement two people share in common interests over Gregorian Architecture or Molecular Science creates a real bond. This doesn’t just speak for college though.
For me, there was a secret rule that I couldn’t try a talent that was already “spoken for” in high school. By the time I was 16 and found out people thought I was a good singer, I couldn’t sing. There were already singers and girls who dressed as hipsters and played guitar, and others in chorus, and they weren’t me. So I was afraid to do it. It didn’t fit on the path I had chosen and it was hard to come back from that identity shift at their age. It’s not that the girls that sang weren’t cool, or the change would make me weird, but more that it seemed impossible, like changing colors or shapes.
3. Passion can’t be traded for “likes” or “favorites”.
So he finally DM’ed you because your lighting was on point and your insta-theme caught his attention. How many times can you say “nm u” before the conversations run dry? Even if it is “just a high school relationship” find someone who finds you exciting, interesting, and smart. I want to tell them that they are worth it and the habits they create now in dating or the kind that they will keep for a long time, whether they believe it or not. Don’t settle someone who doesn’t really laugh at your silly jokes or even your emoji combinations.
4. Even if you have sex responsibly with someone you love, you may still feel empty after.
This is obviously one of the ones I am more nervous to say. And parents, I apologize but as we all know there’s always a chance it will happen, and to be realistic if they’ve done it safely half the battle is won. People always worry about protecting from pregnancy and STD’s which is very important, but I also worry about protecting their emotions and mental state. I’ve never had a conversation with a girl who’s first time was great, and who didn’t leave it feeling even just a little empty. Whether it is hormones or not, letting someone “in” often makes us feel like we lose a part of ourself. They don’t call it Gaining Experience, they call it Losing Virginity. But it’s a loss you come back from and eventually later in your life, you own. We all experience differing levels of acceptance and enjoyment over sex, and however it happens know that it will eventually.
5. Find friends with common interests, not common histories.
If you look around your oldest friends from high school it is probably common that you met in second grade, or on a sports team, maybe your parents have been friends forever. Something I wish I would have considered would branching out to consider real interests beyond gossiping and after school activities. I eventually found out my friends and I from school had different goals, intentions, and interests, and that’s okay, but our relationships would have been stronger if I would have picked based on commonalities. I wish that they would know that it’s okay to be friends with different groups from different times, and that it doesn’t make them a traitor or bitchy.
6. If you can’t talk about your hardships with them, they are not your friends.
I used to hate going places with people in high school when I was really upset about something. If I brought it up, and they talked about themselves I was disappointed, if they didn’t say anything, I felt ignored. I know it’s common to be told a hundred times you don’t keep your friends from high school, and that may be true, because we grow and change, but it may also be because we pick the wrong kinds. I want to tell them to ditch the girl that takes selfies the entire time you talk, or the guy that is just friends with you because you have a car. There really is nothing like the feeling of being thirty and looking into the eyes of a childhood friend who has always been there, but that friend has to be able to listen and relate to you, and not just be there for the good times or through social media.
7. There is no such thing as a small decision.
At fifteen I often felt like I had picked up the weight of the world, which was coiled in emotions and confusion, and placed in my shoulders, hung up by a question mark. What was I to do with the things I felt? How did I know what I wanted for my future, my life, when I was really just starting it. I never really understood that would never be decided by me, but my small decisions would decide that for me. I never know that the best part of figuring all of this out, like who to talk to and and eat lunch with, or which classes to take, would result in later deciding when to travel abroad and drop everything for a friend, or how to finance my first car and pay off a student loan at the same time.
The little decisions snowballed into the bigger decisions and every day that I mad one, I become more prepared for the next, and so simply picking at the pile made things better. This isn’t meant to scare them, but it actually to make your realize if you don’t know what you want five years from now, start with what you want today. I so often hear students say, I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up. Focus on who you are now. Our largest successes stem from our smallest choices.
8. Even when it feels heavy and chaotic, this is normal.
The thing I most often want to say is “everything is going to be okay”, but I am afraid that students think it’s the cliche brush off that so many get from adults. That’s not what I am shooting for here. What I mean is that they will stress over things that someday will seem so minuscule they will laugh, but not only is that NORMAL it is good for them, and necessary. I don’t know that your girlfriend will take you back, and honestly I don’t know that is the “okay” I am talking about. I do know that you will learn a lesson of how to be independent and pick yourself up from a situation and move on. No one ever handles tough situations with ease and grace, at least none of the “adults” I know. There is just a more clear road map laid out to us based on our past experiences. Those experiences send you on your way to being the person you want to be.