The Chapters Of Your Teenage And 20-Something Life

Chapter One

You’re thirteen years old and you’ve decided to dye your hair blue. Blue seems like it will give you the right amount of edge. Blue seems like a good idea. This is obviously the first chapter of your life. In chapter three, you’ll be showing pictures of your blue hair to friends and being like, “How could I ever done that to myself? What the hell was wrong with me?” Um, everything is wrong with you when you’re thirteen. There’s nothing but shame in the middle school game. Other things that matter to you at thirteen are: Going to the movies with your parents and sitting three rows ahead of them because you’re too embarrassed to be seen with your mom and dad, putting stickers on your binder that read “You laugh because I’m different. I laugh because you’re all the same” that you purchased at a corporate store in the mall, going to a sleepover with all of your friends and outcasting one person. The mission was to make them feel like shit and get them to call their parents to come pick them up before midnight. Oh my god, so much shit went down at sleepovers. Circle jerks, periods, tRue cOnFESSiOnS, screaming fights etc. This is your life in chapter one. Awful hair, awful attitude, awful everything. This is what matters to you and maybe you felt like it would matter forever. Nope. Turn the page. You ain’t done.

Chapter Two

You’re in high school now and you’re fifteen and maybe things have gotten really bad with your parents. You spend the summer between tenth and eleventh grade at your BEST BEST friend’s house because their parents are never home. You wake up every day and walk around in a bathing suit and spend your five dollars on a hamburger or a movie. You kiss someone in your friend’s backyard and talk about it for two weeks. They are the one for you. That’s it. They’re the love of your life. In other news, you have major drama with this one bitch and it takes over your life. You talk shit about each other every single day. In a later chapter, this person will be pregnant and your Facebook friend—a distant cloud of memory on your virtual horizon. This is your life in chapter two though. Your best friend who you’re with 24/7, this person you’re sometimes kissing, and your # 1 enemy. This is what mattered to you and maybe you felt like it would matter forever. Nope. Turn the page. You ain’t done.

Chapter Three

You’re seventeen and you’re madly in love with someone. You think, no, you know, this will be forever. (Spoiler: It ends at the end of chapter three). But this is your time together. This is the moment you own in their life. You spend your days in school taking the SAT’s or whatever, and then you find ways to be with the love of your high school life. Make no mistake. They are your world. They seep into every crevice and they are it. You know everything about them, you know what they ate for dinner. In chapter eleven, they’ll be engaged to someone else and you’ll haven’t talked to them in a long time. You heard they moved back home or something. Maybe? But they were your life in chapter three. Love, sex, and SAT’s. This is what mattered to you and maybe you felt like it would matter forever. Nope. Turn the page. You ain’t done.

Chapter Four

You’re a freshman in college. Sweet Christ. Even though you miss your best friends back home so much, college is so fun and insane that it almost doesn’t matter. You become friends with people who won’t even matter to you at all. They’re here for five pages to do mushrooms with you and tell you that you have pretty hair. Chapter four will be littered with cameos from complete randoms. Your life is drinking, experimenting, hanging out with lame freaks and reading Foucault. This may be one of the few chapters of your life when you know none of this will matter later on. Freshman year is so specific and circumstantial that you understand it could never bleed over. Turn the page, honey. You know you’re done.

Chapter Five

This is the summer after freshman year when you moved back home, worked at a menial job, and smoked a lot of pot with your best friends from high school. You tried to wear your “Life Before College” pants, tried to go back to chapter three, and it sort of worked and sort of didn’t. Your life in chapter five was all about looking back with your best friends, your childhood home, and smooching a random summer fling. Turn the page. You need to be done.

Chapter Six

You’re a junior in college now and you’re stealing things from Target for no reason. One day you woke up and decided to steal things so you did. For six months, you take everything that isn’t nailed down. This is your life in chapter six. Who would’ve guessed it? Oh yeah. You. In other news, you’re failing every class and you’re not sure why. Your roommate is stealing slices of turkey from you and pretends she’s a professional ice skater. You’re sleeping with someone who can’t look at you when you’re having sex. God, chapter six sucks. That’s your life though. Kleptomania, weird roommates, and dating a complete freak. This is what mattered to you and maybe you feared it would matter forever. Don’t worry. You can turn the page. You ain’t done.

Chapter Seven

This is the summer before your senior year when you had a healthy amount of sex and wondered if you were becoming addicted to drugs. For three months, you did a lot of illegal substances, never slept, did a great job at an internship and slept with someone who liked you. It was like you put “Youth” in a bottle and poured it all over your life. It was both magical and so completely dark. You will later refer to this chapter as “That summer I lived in Astoria and sort of became addicted to coke.” There was a moment when you thought this could maybe matter forever. Nope. Turn the page. You ain’t done.

Chapter Eight

You’re almost graduating and you’re more sober than you once were. You’re in love with someone in a real way. They sleep over every night and cook dinner with you. You think about life after college and imagine them in it. Remember the love of of your life in chapter three? They’ve never seemed more like nothing. This is your life in chapter eight: Being with someone you really love and trying to chill out. This is what mattered to you and you hoped it would matter forever. Nope. Turn the page. You still ain’t done.

Chapter Nine

You graduated and moved to a city to start your career or something. You’re happy that you won’t have to move for at least a little while. You’re trying to anchor yourself so this is when the chapters of your life become a bit longer. Your life becomes less defined by seasons or boyfriends or places. Things begin to stick like glue and become less ephemeral. At least that’s the goal. Your style, friendships, and opinions stay consistent. The person that exists in this chapter closely resembles the person in chapter eleven. The differences become more subtle. The stories contain a similar narrative. You betray yourself less and less. You’re not going to ever dye your hair blue again because it’s fucking ugly. You know that now and it makes you feel good. Changing chapters isn’t easy. Having someone be your everything and then become nothing can be a bummer mindfuck. You can rest easy now though. What matters to you now will most likely matter to you later. But you still have to turn the page. You ain’t done until you’re dead. TC mark

image – All About Me

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • Ljrandall

    I won Did Ryan Write It, but I lost in the related game Did Brandon Write It on either the Twitter or FB post earlier today.  Batting .500

  • Le Beeetch

    But in which chapter do you tell her “you love her … you love her with all your heart” ?

  • Katgeorge

    SHUCKS. I'm all weepy.

  • Alina Trifan

    I can't wait to be 20.

  • Joshocampo

    this is eerily accurate  – mostly chapter 6, because i had kleptomaniac roommate who would actually steal from me.

  • Aelya

    The “Did Ryan Write This” game is getting easier and easier.

    Once again, cute article, Ryan :)

    • :-|

      Dislike. Ryan O'Connell writes the same article over and over again seven days a week. “How to be in college”, “how to be in high school”, “your first love”, “young in the city”, blah blah blah. He just writes the same thing but in a different format. Will it be a how to? Will it be a list? If he's feeling bold, he might even construct an actual essay with full paragraphs. How trite.

      • yj

        Well, If you haven't noticed, this is his life right now. Would you rather he write about being forty?

      • Aelya

        He writes what he knows, and what he knows best is his life. He puts out articles every day, sometimes more than one in a day. TC is more of a commitment to him, it seems, than any of the other regular contributors. If I'm wrong about this, forgive and correct me.

        Also, it seems as though your annoyance with people who are fans of his writing has been transferred to him. Every contributor to this site has a specific style of writing, and one can predict how each article written by that person will flow.

      • Devin Howard

        Ok, fair enough, now please explain what topics should be written about. What according to your position, are the themes, topics, events, or recurring situational narratives that most define the universally shared human experience of personal development following a rough temporal framework? 

        This site is clearly oriented toward a certain demographic, the millenials or whatever buzzword you'd like to employ. We all share, to a certain but not necessarily uniform extent, common experiences as cohorts. You are actually correct in saying this is 'trite', but thats kind of meaningless when you consider that literally everything that has ever been written is trite, shakespeare lifted storylines from earlier authors, as has every writer living or dead. 

        Exploration of a social or cultural environment unique or relevant to a certain period in time is not actually trite, its just exploration, discussion, making sense and having fun with where we are and what were doing right now.

        Anyway, whatever. I'm kind of a boyscout and always leaving positive, upbeat commentary, which is far more trite than any article on here, but I usually only comment on articles I enjoy so uniformity is kind of hard for me to avoid. There is room for criticism, but yours veers far more into the boring, insufferable territory of compulsive, and thus trite, negativity than it does rational critique.

  • Jin Stella Kwon

    so true.

  • azmimalik

    is life taking its tool on me or am i missing my home/or my past??? damn this article left me with tears.

  • average girl

    ryan, when is your book coming out? i'd like a new bible soon.

  • ashleywr

    I was definitely with you up until Chapter 6. Never actually fell in love in college, scrapped by but had a ton of funs with friends. No hard drugs. But after college, aka Chapter Nine, I feel like is nothing like how I'm feeling a week after graduating. I feel lost, without my college friends, without real direction, just working my job because I have to.

  • Liva Paudere

    it's great – this is the best kind of funny – truthful, from heart and is not written for the sole purpose to be funny.

  • Susie Anderson

    aw ryan bby

  • federico

    cant relate at all bro.  my cats keep opening all the doors of my house

  • Grant Sorenson

    I'm turning “Nope. Turn the page. You ain't done.” into my response to anything people say to me from now on.

  • ashtonrebecca

    I can't even begin to explain what reading this did for me. You just helped me grasp life a bit better. Thank God I won't be stuck in this chapter forever.

  • devin howard

    Your ability to synthesize the vague and subtle transformations of maturation in a way that is accessible and understandable in multiple different articles without ever lapsing into crass self-plagiarism is frankly quite astonishing.

    • Ryan O'Connell

      thank you!

  • Lyndsay Chapman

    And THIS is why I read every article you write for thought catalog. Amazing.

  • Marcellis Cutler

    I wasn't able to relate to this at all. What the hell am I missing in life?

    • Reallyyyydude

      you're not a white hipster?

  • FC

    Chapter 10: Mid-Twenties-Life Crisis. It's real #dark

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