As a novelist for young adults, I spend a lot of time trying to recapture the emotions I had in high school. For me, there wasn’t much joy in being a teen. I wrote poetry back then, and a lot of what I wrote captures my self-loathing and fear and confusion. I sometimes wrote about wanting to get life over with. But I also wrote about hope. I hoped things would get better. I only half-believed they would.
So if I could go back in time and talk to my teenage self, this is what I’d say:
All those feelings of inferiority you have? Don’t sweat it. Everyone has them, even the popular people. Even the ones who make fun of you. And someday? When you’re an adult and have control of your own life? Yeah, that’s when life gets good. Because you’re smart. You’re self-aware. You have the ability and the will to make good decisions. There will be a time when you won’t be afraid. When life won’t be something to merely tolerate.
In your early twenties, you’ll be high on independence. In your late twenties, you’ll be high on life and love and other substances. Life will be good, but along the way, you’ll screw up. A lot. And then, sometime in your thirties, when things get pretty bad, you’ll find yourself. You’ll become the person you always wanted to be. You’ll be happy. Content. At peace with who you are.
By the time you’re in your forties, you’ll realize that all the crap you went through was a tradeoff for the person you’ve become. And you’ll realize it was a good trade. From where I stand, I’d do that trade again. Because being a kid, being a teen—that’s just a blip in your lifespan, a distant memory.
Believe me when I tell you (after all, I’m living proof), life is beautiful, and you know what? So are you.