Dear Future Teenage Daughter:
How was your day? Did you do anything exciting? Did something (or someone) really piss you off? Tell me about it. What’s on your mind? If your experience of teenagedom is anything like mine was, nobody has asked you this in a while. At school, either teachers are asking, “Which college have you decided to apply to?” or other teens are caught up on what happened Saturday night at Sam’s house (ugh, drunken nightmare). At home, I am probably trying to give you space but end up getting annoyed because you hung around all afternoon watching movies instead of doing homework. It’s a crazy time, and even though four years seems like infinity to be in high school, it won’t last forever.
To be honest, I still have not completely gotten over high school. Yeah I was bullied and tormented, but now that I think back, I bullied and tormented a couple people too. Nobody comes away unscarred. In fact, I have felt so ashamed and angry about who I was in high school that when I’ve seen people who knew me then, I eye them with suspicion, waiting for them to hold it against me. Like they have a piece of evidence to blackmail me, threatening all the good relationships I have since cultivated. But you know what? Just as I have changed to become a more mature and loving person, so have most of my contemporaries.
Believe me, I know what it’s like to only care about who will sit at lunch with me this week. I’ve been there. It won’t make any difference for me to tell you, “It’s gonna be ok.” As a person ten years out of high school, I want to let you know that I feel you, I know what you’re going through. Tell me about it. I sincerely want to know how you are doing and so do many of the adults around you. They just don’t know how to express it.
Many older people have forgotten that the main anxiety in teenage years is not how well school is going, that’s why this is one of the first questions they ask. I have often thought that teenagers should not have to deal with school on top of all the other developmental work that needs to be done during this period. There’s body development, social skills, not to mention that your prefrontal cortex is a mess. What a shame that much of our adult life depends on where you went to college, which is a result of how well you’ve done in high school. I’ll tell you a secret though, even though I was not a stellar student in high school, my life has turned out just fine. In fact, I got into my stride academically AFTER college.
What I mean to say by all this is, you have time. Nobody expects you to be a fully functioning adult with your life figured out by eighteen. Your indiscretions will be forgiven because most adults won’t tell you that they made (and still make) mistakes too. Focus on what you need to do to make it through high school, take care of yourself. Not just for you but for all the people who love you and want to see you succeed. Next time someone asks how school is going, understand they are asking how YOU are, so tell them what’s new in your life. They’ll be happy to hear about it.