I am not overly nostalgic about my teen years, my niece turning 13 last month reminded me of that. She and I talked briefly about what it’s like at school these days. 7th grade pecking orders, puberty, mean girls, bullying (only this time with death threats because the internet has made all of that so much worse). The timing sounds about right, 13 and beyond were brutal. When I look at myself back then—usually a visit to Dad’s house, looking at graduation photos frozen in time behind the china closet glass—I wonder how any of these pictures can make someone happy, taken at a time when I was so miserable. I feel different in all ways possible now, so it’s hard to know who that person is anymore.
Long before I knew the incredible strength of being weird and following one’s own path, I felt the traumatic pain of being awkwardly different.
When I’ve come across the occasional photo of my 13-year old self, I used to only see a frizzy mound with braces and hair—so much hair—and I remember how hideous I looked and felt back then. Then there was the dysfunctional home life tacked on. That didn’t go unnoticed, as it was the perfect blend to make a kid become the perfect target for teasing. A self-conscious, sweaty, hairy, frizzy, socially-awkward, mess. Even though I may not consciously be thinking of those years, they left a fair amount of invisible scars.
Those battle scars are how I got here today though, and I gained insurmountable strength and empathy as a result. Since life is the most awesome it’s ever been, it’s bittersweet to think back to that time now. I know if it weren’t for that teenage hell, I wouldn’t be the adult I am today. That’s a hard trade. You really can’t be a badass warrior if you haven’t been to battle and slayed some real life dragons. Aside from all the painful, embarrassing (and downright humiliating) memories of my 13-year old self, I admire her greatly for sticking through it.
I think of teenagers as werewolves (girls and their periods, hello moon). All that growing, changing, unwanted hair, mood swings, morphing, shape shifting; the blood, sweat and tears; the darkness and light. This article just popped up on NPR:
It's difficult to have a teenager's mind. The brain develops rapidly during the adolescent years, which partially explains why teens experience anger, sadness and frustration so intensely.
Since old feelings were being summoned up as a result, I wrote a quick letter to my inner teenage monster in order to face her pestering presence:
Hey kid, love ya, but can you do me a favor and please comb that indeterminable mass of frizz shaped like a Christmas tree on top of your head? It’s also totally okay to start shaving your legs now, above the knee, but I’m not here to body shame you. Seriously though, things are gonna get good. So good. Life-changing, mind-blowing good. You wouldn’t even believe me if I told you how good life can get, but believe me. Good. It’s just that it’s going to take, like, enormous work and a few coupla decades! You’ll suffer quite a bit, but no big. You got this. Well, you will eventually get this. It will make you stronger. I wish I could go back in time and give you the tools needed to not suffer as hard, but what can you do. It’s a tough trade considering how life will turn out after all that school crap is over. Stop caring what other people think (don’t worry though, you’ll get over that too) they’ll have their own monsters to deal with. Trust yourself. Be okay with being the weirdo that you are, make lots of art. You will eventually have all the answers you need. Other people are pretty stupid, and you will eventually not look like a massive ball of fuzz and teeth. I promise.
Monster: Teenage Werewolfster
Description: a moper, doper, and all around gloomster because the world is only as big as the inside of their head. Sometimes they wear all black, sometimes they wear bright colors. It really doesn’t matter what they look like, or if they’re smiling on the outside, or what music they listen to, the insides are all the same; feral and frustrated as their internal wires are being tampered with. Sometimes Wolfster still visits as an adult, your moody gloomy old self moping in the corner. Tends to pop up at a time when your self-esteem is most fragile. They’re annoying and kind of a drag. Be nice to this monster though, they really need it, even though they act like they don’t