Translating My Bad Teenage Poetry

Like many other writers in training, I wrote a lot of embarrassing stuff as a teenager. In fact, from junior year of high school to my sophomore year of college, I kept a word doc called “Writings” that spanned over thirty pages of weird free verse poetry. The subjects are all rather vague and serious (They’re so unfunny that they’re hysterical) so I figured I would repost some of the gems on here and try to explain myself for this horrible no good very bad type of writing. Warning: The following things you’re about to read are from a very scared and sad gay teenager. Do not judge me.

If Someone Asked

If someone asked what our love felt like, I would say that it felt like the paintings everyone saw in the sixties where the color was never well defined but always memorable. And if someone asked me to remember every detail, I would only be able to remember sleeping the days away with a boy naked on my mother’s bed. And the one time when you made me sob & all I could look at was the torn fabric in your jacket because if I looked at your face, I would realize how ugly you were & I wanted to think of you as beautiful.

If someone asked what our friendships felt like, I would say it felt like one of those shows you see on the television with everyone laughing and crying together. And I would say that together we all made mistakes & we put that stuff up our noses because we could and because it was Saturday and there was nothing to do. But at least we were together. If someone asked how close we all felt to one another, I would say that our parents drank & loved us when they could but our friends all drank together & we could love one another all the time. And that time when you let that boy push your face in the ground, we were there to pick you up even though we knew it would happen again. We weren’t going to feel stupid when it did happen again. If someone asked me if we were all perfect, I would say no but it makes perfect sense for us to be all together enjoying one another’s imperfections.

If someone asked me if this what I want, I would say one mustn’t ask so many questions.

But yes.

Sadly, this is one of the best “pieces”. I don’t really know what I was thinking when I compared my relationship in high school to a painting in the sixties, but whatever. Also, I feel like I should clarify that I never did coke in high school. When I wrote “put that stuff up our noses”, I really meant “smoke that joint and have serious paranoia”. I was actually terrified of coke back then. There was a time when all of these 14-year-old freshmen were doing it in my high school and it blew my mind. These kids idolized bands like The New York Dolls, wore glitter to school and occasionally even went gay for each other! Are you kidding? When I was fourteen, I was listening to The Cranberries and looking up photos of Antonio Banderas on the internet. When did everyone become so advanced?

The Evolution Of Our Hearts

Is it easier to know our hearts or anatomy? I would like to know how I work so I can explain it to the boy whose heart I smashed into a million pieces. Do you think he could understand? How long do you think I can get away with it all? I’m just loving people like mother & father do. I should know better by now but I don’t. I pushed him off of me right when he said he loved me & I kicked him when he fell down. There are waves & waves of grief just sitting on my doorstep & I don’t know what to do with any of it. When all your mistakes stare you in the face, it’s easier to punch than kiss. I don’t want to love.

I was obsessed with this idea of our hearts being like a really emotional person instead of a part of our anatomy, and writing “&” instead of “and’ because it looked more precious (Okay, I still do that sometimes on my Tumblr. Blog habits die hard).

Old Timer

Turning twenty isn’t as profound as one thinks it to be. You start paying bills & you start looking for jobs that aren’t such a bummer. This is enough to make you feel adult. But you’re still falling down drunk in the street and sleeping with that guy who doesn’t know how to spell “monogamy”. What does a twenty year-old deserve exactly? You’ve got so many crutches that’ll be there for you now and when you’re thirty. Age really is just a number. You can take those drugs & you can sleep with those boys until you decide to start swallowing vitamins instead of Vicodin and start sleeping with men rather than with boys. Who really wants this change? I guess we all want a simpler kind of life down the road. Everything loses its luster eventually and no one wants to be that obnoxious old guy at closing time. Closing time happens when you’re twenty & it’s up to you to leave or keep treating yourself like the sweet piece of flesh you were at sixteen.

Closing time happens when you’re twenty? LOL. You can’t even go to bars yet. Reading this on the eve of my 25th birthday makes me feel actually old and like I need a big slap in the face.


There’s a pressure to do nothing. To do nothing but pat yourself on the back. It’s a time of indulgence and narcissism. These days, all you need to be a celebrity is a v-neck and a drug habit. Excuse me while I make myself gag because this is already sounding too self-aware, too jaded and too redundant. I apologize. SO where is love, love & love? Love only exists in the pages of books and films. And those aren’t always the right books and the right films. No one seems to be open to love in this city. They love themselves too much to love another soul. They speak in tongues, they speak in names, they speak in dollars. They don’t speak in empathy and they don’t speak in happiness. Today and tomorrow, we will be having more sex and less love. We’re feeding our weaknesses and starving our strengths. All just to be another wasted boy on a hip street corner. As long as there is a camera and as long as people want you, you’ll feel better getting the drip and the come down and the queen size bed you sleep in alone. I want to be funny but you all won’t let me. Let me make you laugh. Let me get something out of you. I’m going to give up soon and just join you. Sniff, sniff, glug, glug. God, you wouldn’t know what was real or fake if it killed you. Blend it all together and you get one confused era. And what are we supposed to tell our children? “Sorry about the global warming and smog but Daddy was too busy masturbating to himself.” Go away internet. Go away Los Angeles. Go away drugs. Go away gossip. Let us all find ourselves again through conversation, late dinners and important records.

Ugh, I wrote this when the whole Internet It Girls thing was happening in L.A.. I was living in San Francisco at the time and I remember just feeling this combination of envy and disgust while looking at these pictures of drunk sixteen-year-olds. Six years later, I guess the message is still relevant. This is getting to be mortifying. I can only do one more.


i want to be marie antoinette & i want to let them eat cake. i want fridays off & i want my big apartment to not feel so big. i want to get drunk with people i have nothing in common with, if for no other reason than to get something in common with them. i want to over-accessorize & i want to bare my arms, chest & legs. i want to spend a lot of money on anything & everything. i want to figure out how to love someone who doesn’t want to love me. i want my best friends to develop various addictions & beat them. i want to shoplift with people who like to shoplift & i want to get caught. i want to be engulfed in fog. i want strawberry lemonade & fine dining. i want to listen to “bedsitter” by soft cell & think about why i was friends with the girl who dressed like a dinosaur for so long. i want to discover every nook & cranny of this city & i want to know that i’m happy here & that your homes & my homes have been sanctuaries for all of us. i want us to know that we did it. that we successfully made new homes for ourselves without mom and dad. i want you to know that for as long as i lived in this damn city, i was a homosexual in theory but not in practice. i want to love the stability that i’ve been given. i want to master the art of never going to class but having your grades tell a different story. i want the park, you know the one, with the sunshine & hot boys and girls. i want mistakes made in the privacy of house parties. & most of all, i want the city to know that i care & say thanks & no thanks to all the experiences i’ve acquired whilst living there.

I wrote this after I left San Francisco at age twenty and I stopped writing this weird stuff shortly thereafter. When you’re younger, everything is larger than life and very dramatic but that’s because you don’t know how to feel things any other way. I think that’s what sticks out the most to me about being a teenager—feeling things so much and not realizing that it was cheesy and over the top. That was who I was though and I didn’t know how to experience things in a quieter way. As traumatizing it is to read some of this stuff, it makes me happy to know that I’ve grown up a little. And I’ve stopped talking about out “hearts” and “&&&&&&&&”. Thank the adult gods! But on the real, does anyone else still have the bad stuff they wrote when they were a teenager? If you do, please share them in the comments section! TC mark

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


More From Thought Catalog

  • Michael

    the diminutive I. a relic of bad teenage poetry.

  • Nicole

    OMG. I really love you. This is amazing. 

  • Kelly

    Check it. Age 19, an excerpt:

    “Forever. 21? No, we’re not.

    What’s your name again. shake hands, smile pretty.

    Port Authority, blatant buzzkill. with a cherry on top?

    you’re as cold as ice. Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. why is your
    glass empty.

    we almost saw her britney. bitch?


    this is last night’s party.”

  • Tau Zaman

    Why is hooking up with boys on your mom’s bed apparently such a universal experience for gay boys? I would never be so bold as to try something like that. Couldn’t she pick up a scent, or a stain, or something left behind? Y’all are brave.

  • Michael Koh

    i have way too many

  • TO

    Actually, some of that was pretty good. At least better than much of what is posted on TC.

  • Arkhatron

    Here is an awfully primitive emotional garbage i wrote about 10 years ago:

    I will swim across the ocean to you
    I will fly and touch the sky
    To get you by my side
    I will bring down the moon and the stars
    Just to hold you right here in my arms…

    What the fuck…

    • lia marie

      lol this totally sounds like a lenny kravitz song or something! hahaha oh god

      • Arkhatron

        It was a song actually, LOL… from the times when i used to also SING, not only WRITE music…

    • To

      unfortunately this sounds like the chorus to a katy perry song

    • Guest

      savage garden
      “i wanna bathe with you in the sea”

  • ha?

    this stuff actually sounds like pieces tc would publish any given day

  • Sippycup

    One day you’re going to feel the same way about what you publish on thought catalog. The best part is it will follow you forever.

    I already wget every post on this website and store it under the authors name.


  • To

    had a slam book & burned that shit up in ’05

  • Miss A

    Written at age 15, after my first “real” breakup, which my friends chose not to help me through:

    optimism gets you fucking nowhere
    trusting people is just a big fat mistake
    they screw you over, mould you to their convenience
    no one actually ever cares

    preaching false morality
    smug behind their hypocrisy
    don’t even bother trying to understand
    so assured in their righteousness
    they judge you in the blink of an eye
    selfish, selfish
    as long as they get their way- they don’t even care if you die

    face the truth: its staring you in the face
    they won’t let you be who you really are
    they cant identify the damage they caused
    how they shattered the little girl inside

    she trusted, they abused
    they laughed, made her cry
    she loved, they used
    and when she finally realized (what they were doing)
    a small part of her died

    This was (naturally) followed by an entire page of “I hate my life” in careful cursive in my beloved diary. ew.

    • karen

      “face the truth: its staring you in the face”
      redundancy…i like it

  • hmmm......

    Ya know, your old writing actually sounds a lot like that article on TC that one woman wrote about lyyke lii (sp?)

    • Harveymilkman

      your old writing actually  sounds better than “if we could be boring”

  • hmmm......

    Ya know, your old writing actually sounds a lot like that article on TC that one woman wrote about lyyke lii (sp?)

  • Chelsie

    ” we put that stuff up our noses because we could and because it was Saturday and there was nothing to do.”

    ^When I read that, I wasn’t thinking of coke.  I was thinking of carrots.

    • Guest

      I was thinking of tampons like in that amanda bynes movie….

  • Guesty

    So glad my poems from high school are stashed in a closet at my parents’ or I’d be looking at them and dying of shame right now, and I’m too young to die

    • ikr?!

      Samesies. I wonder if they read our old diaries and laughed at us….

      • Guesty

        what a terrifying thought oh my god

  • Jessica Prescott

    We all write crazy stuff as teenagers. At least it’s practice writing what we’re feeling, and teenagers think and feel crazy stuff. Thanks hormones.

  • Arkhatron

    Here is another ridiculous piece i found:

    Open up your eyes and look at us
    Don’t you see it’s not the same, not like it was
    You still say i’ll be the one who will miss “us”
    C’mon baby, you really think i’m crazy?
    Did you ever think my heart would brake?
    Now i finally understood your love was fake
    And i will never make the same mistake
    I just want to let you know,  i got to go.

    ‘Cause i don’t wanna see your face again,
    I don’t want you looking after me again,
    Every time you talk to me, you bring me pain
    No, thank you very much, 
    Thank you VERY MUCH baby.
    Don’t you call me tryin’a give me your advice
    ‘Cause i’m tired of bein’a one who’s got to sacrifice,
    Now i know that i don’t need you to suvive,
    No, thank you very much,
    Thank you VERY MUCH baby…

    Just copied from my original writing from 9 years ago…
    Honestly, disgusted the shit out of me while i was typing. Especially those capital “VERY MUCH” and “tryin’a”  “bein’a”  bs. I was pretty hurt when i wrote this originally, but reading it now i personally only see BAD POETRY and nothing that can touch anyone even half intelligent. 

    Once again: What the fuck…

    • ANG

      I’m dying laughing at what you have posted in this section… you have made my night thank you

    • Guest

      LOL. Amazing. You should send it to Justin Bieber or one of the tween gods, I’m sure they’d make it into some sort of horribly catchy song.

  • Brenda

    RYAN!!!!! I heard you on IMBOYCRAZY! the two internet people i love alexi wasser! and you! you should totally co-host! 

    • Ryan O'Connell

      thx beb!!

  • Guest

    change.i hate it so much.i’m in denial that i’ve changed, but so aware that other people have.people just aren’t who they used to be, and the people who they used to be are the people i i guess i don’t really know them anymore.everyone is living this fast paced and rushed life,and i don’t want to move that fast but i almost have to, or have to start to at least.i’m scared of something bigger than myself,but curious and almost anxious to find something.i just don’t know what we’re all fucking looking for,we’re definitely looking in the wrong places.drinking and pot and sex, it’s all that ever gets talk about and it just feels like nothing else matters, but it should.i’m not the most outgoing person,and that’s probably the root of the problemi hate taking risks,and everyone else is being so careless.i’m not complaining or anything about my life or about my friends, but i’m just frustrated with most kids in general.i know that i’m no better than anyone else at all and my opinons probably dont matter to anyone reading this but meh. -livejournal age 16.

    • Guest

      i was a lot cooler that that when i was 16

  • Guest

    what? i’ve been a prodigy my entire life. i feel so bad for you!!!!!!!!!

  • sadhna rao

    I have a diary stashed away somewhere in my closet. Lies, I know exactly where it is. From the age of about 11 to 15 I wrote utterly puerile verse and prose. I don’t have the balls to read it. There’s nothing else I think that’s in equal measures both touching and nauseating than that teenage grandstanding and histrionics.

    Wait, scratch touching it’s- it’s horrifying.

  • sadhna rao

    I have a diary stashed away somewhere in my closet. Lies, I know exactly where it is. From the age of about 11 to 15 I wrote utterly puerile verse and prose. I don’t have the balls to read it. There’s nothing else I think that’s in equal measures both touching and nauseating than that teenage grandstanding.

    Wait, scratch touching it’s- it’s horrifying.

  • Anon

    I’m still writing my bad teenage poetry C U IN A FEW YEARS.

  • Dan Smith

    this sent me into a timehole where I wasted about 2 hours looking at old xanga posts. thanks, Ry.

  • Molly B

    awww that last one is lovely!

    Were you on Livejournal? I copied and pasted ALL THE TEXT OF MY LIVEJOURNAL CIRCA AGE 12-18 into a word document somewhere on a flash drive somewhere… i should dig it up and share. 

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