Remember being a teen and reading all those warnings about pimple-popping, questions about your millionth mood of the day or month, your horoscope sign, and explorations into your sexuality? NOTHING mattered unless you had the right clothes, cosmetics and gear advertised in the publications. It was enough to make a kid feel self-conscious, and that’s what teen magazines are all about: Cashing in on a person’s developing identity concerns, self-conscious fears and peer pressure. But what about the other teen-oriented advice you heard or read about? Some of that affected you in positive ways.
Savvy editors and publishing company administrators know all that, and they’ve cashed in on essays about “Memos to My Teen-age Self.” So has YouTube. Here’s what they have in common: Addressing the importance of developing resilience, putting life into perspective and ranking your priorities in self-supporting ways. That’s a mouthful. Let’s look at the issues one by one.
Resilience is the mindset, the will power, the decision to bounce back from adversity. A refusal to surrender to miserable circumstances, resilience is the reason that some people laugh at their mistakes, refuse to dwell on them, and/or work on finding .ways to recover from mistakes. Resilience is a conscious choice, made when a person decides that problems such as poverty, illness, bad bosses or other circumstances will not limit their levels of happiness.
It takes a lot of inner resolve plus trial and error to build resilience. The people who bother to invest their energies that way tend to solve problems familiar to all of us, and even some that nobody could have expected.
Putting life into perspective means seeing a bigger picture, understanding that one incident is not the be-all or end-all of a situation. Comparing some specific problem to other situations and realities, and eventually reaching an understanding that the incident is not a defining moment, that it is temporary instead of permanent, enables a person to lower the pain of a given problem.
Ranking priorities in self-supporting ways allows a person to decide what is most, less and least important, then to deal with those issues accordingly. The result is that a person doesn’t end up spending too much money on trivial things but instead invests in long-term benefits such as wholesome foods, long-lasting clothing, enduring household goods, rewarding relationships and excellent hygiene instead of trendy items with limited shelf lives, people who damage your quality of life and “Omigawd I regret this” actions (e.g., bullying, piercings, tattoos, flame wars, whatever fits the “This was so wrong, in the end” description).
When a person wants to write a Letter to My Teenage Self: Don’t Give Up they can consider all the above ideas and more before writing the message. It might even read like this:
I’m wiser than my former teenaged self. I had so much to learn, and so much to appreciate before I became an adult with self-respect. Don’t let people push you around, even if they’re kids you know, relatives or authority figures. Listen to your gut, do what’s right in your heart. You know what you need. Take some time to think about the criticisms other people make of you, think about what they said. Some of it might be true. Not every critic is an enemy. Fix yourself. Be willing to fail. That’s how life lessons are learned. Use them to become an adult you respect. Try again. There’s so much proof that people who struggle to get good grades and good jobs turn out to become leaders or innovators who help the public. Popular kids lean on being liked. Some of them never figure out how to grow up. They expect people to do stuff for them. Lust isn’t love. Just because someone made your stomach jump or your knees feel like they disappeared, it’s not a sign that they’ll support you when you need it. They might not even be loyal. Maybe they’re manipulative or just immature. Save yourself for the adult who proves that you are more important to them than some foxy competitor. Go with the adult who admires your personality, who shares life and responsibilities with you. And hey, be willing to listen to older people. They did the hard work and made the mistakes I don’t have to repeat. Read a lot. Think a lot. Confide in people who respect you. Those things can build a strong mind and character. Life’s tough. Be ready to face it. And while you’re at it, laugh more. You won’t feel so depressed when you smile. Don’t give up. You can make it in life.