Dear Teenager

Hi, teenage girl.

I remember that. Oh, my god, I was miserable. I felt like every other person wanted something different, and all I wanted was someone to love me. Me, for who I was right at that SECOND, and then a second later when I was somebody else.

It was a mess in my head. Sometimes I wanted to punch the wall, sometimes I wanted to break down and cry. I had all this power, and no place to put it. I wanted sex, I wanted rock ‘n’ roll, I wanted to throw myself onto a motorcycle and ride. I wanted to curl up on the couch watch a Disney movie, holding a stuffed animal.

I never knew if I was doing it right. Whatever “it” was. My parents didn’t understand, because nobody could understand what it was like in here. The confusion, the aching, the extreme joy and the bitter darkness. It was all in there, and I was so small. How could I hold it all? Where did it come from?

One minute I was a pretty happy kid, wandering along, and the next I was this freakish thing with body parts I didn’t know how I felt about, and desires I really didn’t want to think about, because who the hell was I, anyway? Suddenly I was careless and argumentative, and I didn’t call when I was supposed to, and I stayed out too late, and I kissed people because it seemed like a good idea at the time, even when I knew it wasn’t, and all the time it felt like someone was shrieking at me. Only that was me, too.

And all the time, the question, the brutal, endless question: Who was I going to be when it was over?

Because intellectually, I knew this was only going to last a few years. I was a teenager. My brain was crazy. But I was so alone. Sometimes it felt likeI was trapped in a box, only the box was still myself.

It was very lonely. I didn’t know how to talk about it, because it sounded stupid. Sometimes people were assholes to me, and it felt awful. But I thought if I said anything, my parents, or my teachers, or my friends would just tell me not to let it bother me. But it did. Oh, it did.

This is going to last a few years, babe. I’m sorry. I really am. We all go through it. Every adult around you was a teenager once, and honestly, they just want it to be easier for you than it was for them. That’s what they’re trying to say, whenever they give you advice you don’t want, or yell at you because you didn’t call when you were supposed to, or your grades dropped, or you started to scream at them when they asked you if you did your laundry.

They just want it to be easier for you. They just want you to avoid as much pain as possible, because they love you more than they ever thought they could.

But don’t listen to them. Listen to me. I did this ten years ago, and I was a lunatic. I have the chops.

You are lonely because you have realized the stunning, terrific weight that is your self. You are like no one else, but you are similar in a lot of ways, so you can build on that if you have to. Maybe you dance. Maybe you draw. You have things you love. Hold on to them. They’re going to save you.

Read books. Go to movies. Listen to music. Do your goddamn homework, do your goddamn laundry. You can be miserable and angry while you clean something. Work with that. Lie on your bed with the pillow over your eyes for five minutes every afternoon and listen to a song or two on your iPod, and just let it all go away.

You’re going to make mistakes and hurt people, you’re going to make mistakes and hurt yourself. Do not make any of these mistakes fatal. I’m serious. Do not drink too much. Do not smoke any pot you haven’t grown yourself. Do not trust the people who know how attractive they are. Band together with the confused ones like you, who are also driven by the things they love.

People are going to want you to do things. It’s okay if you don’t want to do them. Your cousin Miranda, who knows a thing or two, is here to tell you that you don’t have to do them. No matter where you are, or what time it is. Just pick up the phone, and call your dad, and tell him you want to come home. Tell him you need a rescue.

Even if they aren’t good at showing it the way you need them to, there are people who love you so much. Who want to help you more than anything. Who would throw themselves in front of this train if they could, but it’s your train, and your tracks, and I’m afraid no one can cut in on this dance. But they can help you. Let them help you. Let me help you.

You’re smart. You’re beautiful. You’re funny. You’re silly. You’re big. You’re little. You’re graceful. You’re clumsy. You can hurt. You can help. You’re the world. You’re an insignificant speck on a planet that is itself an insignificant speck. But you are the world. And you can make the world better by smiling whenever you can find it in yourself.

You’re going to make it through this. You’ll stop feeling so raw. And you’re going to have fun, too.


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