Advice I Would Like To Give To Teenagers

Hi teenagers,

Don’t roll your eyes at me. This is serious. I’m here to give you some helpful advice and it will only take a second. Then you can go to In N’ Out and eat your animal fries, drink Smirnoff, sulk in your bedroom, or whatever it is you kids do these days.

First and foremost, I want you to know that what your feeling right now is 90% bogus. Like it’s just not real. Your brain is just freaking out and doing somersaults right now. It’s not your fault. You’re actually mentally deficient. When you go to college, it will start to even itself out and you’ll settle into who you are. When you’re in high school, it’s like you’re going personality shopping. You’re browsing through the racks wondering, “Do these straightedge pants fit? How about these druggie ones? What you’ll learn later on (like three years max after you graduate) is that you can be lots of different things. When you’re a teenager, you’re constantly searching for things that can tell you who you are. “Does this Smiths record adequately explain who I am? What about this Who poster?” Sadly, some people never grow out of this. They’re always looking to the external to define the internal and it’s super sad. What most people learn however, is that music, clothes, books, are like added seasonings to an already flavorful personality. They don’t make up the inner core but they certainly make for nice dressing.

Everything you’re crying about will make you laugh in about five years. Every meltdown you’ve ever had will bring you immense joy later on. You don’t have the beauty of hindsight when you’re in the throes of teenage grief but you do in your twenties! And, boy, is it a wonderful thing to know that most of the melancholy you experienced ultimately didn’t matter. Your parents were right about that one. Your parents are right about 60% of the time. The other 40% are lies that are meant to scare you straight. Or because they’ve actually forgotten what it’s like to be a teenager.

Oh, your parents! Unless they’re actually terrible people and you are the child called It, you’ll like them again. Honestly, you’ll like them the second you move out. As you get older, you begin to see your parents as real people (“Oh, weird, I think my mom is the black sheep of her family. That must really hurt her feelings.” Or “My dad worked really hard to keep us above the poverty line. How did he do it? I can barely write a ten-page paper on gender politics.”) Distancing yourself from “Mom” and “Dad” and embracing then as flawed individuals will humanize them, and then you’ll feel like a total jerk for all those years of hell you put then through.

You know your best friend? The one you call your “wifey” or “twin” and spend literally all of your waking hours with? The one who, like, really knows you? Yeah, they might not be your best friends in a few years. You might get into a major fight and never speak again or, worse, slowly drift apart like a needle being pricked on your skin over and over again. Your goals might change, they might move far away and build a different life for themselves. It sucks but it’s what happens when you have days, months, and years working against you. So cherish the moments you have now. There is no friendship quite as electric as the best friend you have in high school.

Don’t do anything harder than weed. Your brain is not fully formed yet and you will be forever altered if you mess with the serious stuff. Save it for your twenties.

A lot of the things you’re learning in school won’t matter BUT it does teach you how to do things you don’t want to do, which is a valuable lesson.

Have sex but not with too many people. Your body might be saying “Let’s go” but your heart is whispering “No!”

Lastly, get ready to feel intense nostalgia for this period of your life for, like, ever.


A psycho 25-year-old TC mark

image –

Ryan O'Connell

I'm a brat.


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  • Guest

    I love these pieces.  Can someone in their 30s write a piece on advice for 20 somethings?

    • April

      I would actually love that. 

      • Yasmin

        Someone please write that article… I’m in my 20’s and would love to hear it from someone in their 30’s!

    • Kai

      I suspect that Advice From a 30something to 20somethings is: You don’t know everything. Worry less about other people and deal with your own shit.

  • _____

    I want you to know that what your feeling right now is what your feeling

    • Imama K.


    • guest

      it’s ryan, what do you expect?

      • beatrice

        You don’t. You don’t have any expectations then bam, he surprises you with an article remotely good.

    • beatrice

      everyone makes mistakes. Ryan’s mistake is being the editor but not editing

  • Anonymous

    I am a teenager and that honestly sounded like serious good advice, Ryan i am surprised :D
    Some of the things you have described have left me l

    • Anonymous

      Long ago and i am only 17

  • Guestation

    -16 year old

  • xtina

    sadly, teens won’t get that genie in a bottle reference


      Yeah, because Ryan fucked up. My heart isn’t whispering like some sad little girl, it’s proudly saying no.

  • Ian

    I think it’s a little misleading to say teens’ feelings are bogus.  I think I know what you mean in that they worry over stuff they shouldn’t.  But if we didn’t feel that way about our problems at the time, I’d be more worried.  It’s just natural.

  • Lauren

    I just lost a lot of respect for your writing. Using the wrong kind of your/you’re up there. I love most of your articles, but that was disappointing.

    • GUEST

      Jeez way to be a bitch.
      Like you’ve never made a typo.

      • ENDI

        Only peasants make typographical errors. 

  • Kequay

    I’m in college and all of these feelings still apply to me. Can someone write out the actual mechanics of this transformation or… 

  • Anonymous

    it seems like teens reading thought catalog don’t need this advice nearly as badly as twenty-somethings reading it do lol (y???)

  • Gregory Costa

    Work hard…be miserable in your AP classes…take those calculus classes that I didn’t…have some fun (you’re only a teen) … Four years after high school, we can only hope you will be savoring in the fruits of your labor. 

    There’s a bunch of advice that’s missing in there…keep your legs closed and your mind open…we’ll discuss all that another day.

  • beatrice

    Good advice. Good article

  • zelda

    i just graduated from high school in new zealand and ahh i can so relate! Made me quite nostalgic to go back, I can’t believe school is over forever. Scary yet exciting! This made me cry, thanks Ryan

  • Diana Z.

    I’m sorry to say that it took me a while to catch the genie in a bottle reference. But I got there! I guess my brain must be failing in my old age.

  • lane

    I am 26 and feel no nostalgia whatsoever for my teenage years.

  • C Robinson

    Why is this so accurate?

  • Amiraazhar

    Haha I love this (:

  • Rei

    As a psycho 21-year-old, I have zero nostalgia for my teenage years as a whole. They sucked.

  • ENDI

    I could write a list of why this article sucks, starting with the fact that it was written by Ryan and ending with the fact that it was written by Ryan.

    • guest

      then don’t read it weirdo

    • Reid

      Don’t be a twat, Endi. Now go to the corner and eat your lollipop.

  • Visakan V

    Dwayne: I wish I could just sleep until I was eighteen and skip all this crap-high school and everything-just skip it.

    Frank: Do you know who Marcel Proust is?
    Dwayne: He’s the guy you teach.Frank: Yeah. French writer. Total loser. Never had a real job. Unrequited love affairs. Gay. Spent 20 years writing a book almost no one reads. But he’s also probably the greatest writer since Shakespeare. Anyway, he uh… he gets down to the end of his life, and he looks back and decides that all those years he suffered, Those were the best years of his life, ‘cause they made him who he was. All those years he was happy? You know, total waste. Didn’t learn a thing. So, if you sleep until you’re 18… Ah, think of the suffering you’re gonna miss. I mean high school? High school-those are your prime suffering years. You don’t get better suffering than that. – Little Miss Sunshine

  • Aja

    I loved this.  The last journal I wrote was about watching your parents play different roles through out your life and how interesting it is, once you detach “mother” and “father” and look at them from other places like “friend”, “colleague”, etc.  What prompted this was watching my Father with my niece and thinking what an awesome Grandfather he is.

  • Anonymous

    GOD who the fuck actually feels nostalgia for being a teenager. It was terrible. You’re broke, terrible fashion sense, and everything MATTERS SO MUCH.

    I don’t miss it. 

    And you know what?

    I KNEW I wouldn’t miss it. My teenage self was so fucking smart. 

  • daphne

    christina aguilera ftw

  • Brandon h

    Seriously, give up the coke completely, that shit will fuck you up. 

  • Anonymous

    My teen years have so far been extremely uneventful and depressing…Maybe it’s got something to do with being in a TINY (14 people in my class)  all-girl catholic high school…
    I hope my life will never get so  shit that i have to yearn for my teenage years.

  • Sock1121

    As a legitimate teenager, yes we exist, I thought this was pretty condescending. When will TC stop trying to make up for their sad high school experiences by creating self indulgent stories of nostalgia to show that they did indeed enjoy being a teenager. I’m 17, I can’t wait to be 25. Don’t waste your twenty’s thinking about your teenager years, leave not living in the moment to us. 

    • Asdf

      That’s not quite how it works. If you skip living in the moment right now, you just regret that later. Either way, you spend the rest of your life thinking about the part you’re in right now.

      You’ll either miss living in the moment, or spend your days regretting that you didn’t.

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