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9 Harsh Truths I Wish I'd Known As A Teenager

Your parents are almost definitely not trying to ruin your life.

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1. You are not mature for your age. You are exactly as mature as your age.

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Look, I get it: You often feel isolated and alienated from everyone around you, even your close friends. While everyone else is happily living their lives and enjoying things you don't really understand, you seem to be the only one faking it. And since you feel like the sole person going through this, it's easy to think that your maturity is miles ahead of the "typical" teenagers you know. I was exactly like this in high school — I was convinced I was the only really mature person and I was surrounded by idiots who just didn't get it.

But here's the big secret: Every single teenager you know feels that way. Although your feelings seem so unique and specific to you, everyone you know is going through their own version of that. Everyone has their own mask to hide how they're really feeling, but they all feel something-or-other of the same thing: Alone. They all think that nobody understands them, and that they're secretly way more mature than everyone else.

And that means you're exactly as mature as everyone else your age, whether you realize it or not. But instead of focusing on all the ways you feel separated from them, use this newfound knowledge to empathize and connect with them. You're all a little lost, and you're all trying to find a way through adolescence. And it'll be a lot easier if you try to make it through together instead of alone.

2. Don't date someone just so you can be in a relationship.


It's so difficult to accept this. People tell you all the time that you should love yourself, but when you're in high school, it's so hard see anything about yourself to love. If you could just find someone else to love you, maybe you'd finally see all the things that make you lovable, too. Other people telling you how great you are is so nice sometimes.

But take it from me: Dating someone just because they like you is not the path to happiness. The attention is nice, but you'll be so aware that something is missing. The longer you stay in a relationship that's not right, the longer it will take you to find the right person. And it's not fair to the un-right person you're dating to use them for their affection. You should both want a good relationship, not just any relationship.

Don't just look for someone who will love you. Look for someone you will love back.

3. If someone a lot older than you hits on you, it doesn't mean you're super cool. It means they're super creepy.


When I was 17, a 25-year-old guy started showing interest in me, and I thought it must be because I was so mature for my age (see point number one on this list). But once I reached my twenties, I realized that I hadn't been an especially cool 17-year-old. No, that older guy was just a creep.

Think about the kids who are currently several years younger than you. Would you have any interest in dating them? Of course not. The same is true for people in their twenties: They shouldn't want to date high schoolers, no matter how cool that high schooler is. Someone older who does show interest in a teenager is probably looking for someone they can control.

And yes, once you turn 18, you can legally date anyone you want, and it can be extremely tempting to go for someone well into their adult years (especially if you're guilty of the "I'm mature for my age" fallacy previously mentioned). But a lot of the maturity required for a healthy relationship can only be found through time and experience, which are both things you haven't had a lot of yet. There are people who will take advantage of that, and you.

Of course not all relationships that feature large age gaps are bad. But before you embark on this kind of relationship, take a long, honest look at how this person treats the other people in their life. Who else have they dated? How do they speak about their exes? Are many (or all) of their exes supposedly "crazy?" Do they push you to do things you’re not entirely comfortable with? Do they make you feel guilty for setting your own personal boundaries? You deserve to be with someone who makes you feel safe and appreciated, not just someone who makes you feel "cool."

4. Your parents are almost definitely not trying to ruin your life. Really.

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I know that it feels like they are. They grew up in a different time and they don't get what being a teenager is like today, so they keep making rules and decisions that are based on a reality that doesn't even exist anymore. They mean well, but they just don't understand you.

And you know what? Some of that might be true. But here's the thing: They want to understand you. They want to have a good relationship with you. And the only way you'll ensure that they never do is to shut them out completely. Sometimes they'll make mistakes, but so will you. Cut your parents some slack, and give them the chance to get to know you. And, at the same time, allow for the possibility that while you have a view of the world that they don't, they also have a unique understanding that you don't, so they'll sometimes make decisions that you vehemently disagree with.

"But how can they just do that? I'm practically an adult!" you're probably saying.

And to that I say: Please refer back to item one on this list. No, you're not. Please keep reminding yourself of that.


5. Take classes outside of your comfort zone.


You probably already have an idea of which subjects you're good at, and it's tempting to arrange your electives to pander to your strengths. Why take English literature when you know you want to go into engineering? Why bother with auto maintenance when all you're interested in is art class?

Because if you're a teenager and you already know everything there is to know about yourself, you're in for a really boring life. And your teen years are your chance to discover new facets to your personality that you never knew existed. Try out classical guitar, or take an accounting class, or see if calculus is something you end up really enjoying. Figure out what makes you a little scared, and try it out. Maybe it doesn't work out, but maybe it does and a new world of possibility opens up to you. You won't know if you just stick to what you're already good at.

Plus, I promise that in a few years, that auto maintenance class is going to come in so handy.

6. After graduation, do what you want to do, not what you think you should do.

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You've heard a variation of this before, I'm sure: Don't let other people pressure you! Be true to yourself! But I'm not talking about external pressure. I'm talking about the pressure you put on yourself.

When I graduated high school and went to university, I was so worried about being taken "seriously" that I initially majored in political science and peace studies, intending to work at the U.N. one day and fix the world. But while I certainly wanted to be the kind of person who would do that, I didn't think about whether I actually wanted to do it. (Spoiler: I didn't actually want to do it.) It took a mediocre first year of university to realize that what I really wanted to do was write — which, if I'd really thought about what I enjoyed during high school, should have been obvious from the beginning. I had to accept that what I wanted was OK, even if I wasn't saving the world.

It's OK to go after your goals, even if you think they're a little strange. Your dreams and desires are worth just as much as anyone else's. Don't waste your life trying to become the person you think you should be; work towards who you want to be.

7. Almost none of your problems actually matter.

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Or, rather, they do matter, but they only matter right now. But in a few years, you'll look back and wonder what you were so worried about. That student council election you lost will be a distant memory. The teacher you hate will become a funny story you tell. Those friends you're currently fighting with will be vague acquaintances you only talk to on Facebook. (Or, like, SnapChat or ButtPhone or whatever you young whippersnappers are using nowadays. I'm sorry, I'm an old person.)

This is a pattern that will continue for your whole life, too. Huge, stressful problems I had in university became trivial the second I graduated. Devastating breakups I went through in my twenties turned into fond memories in my thirties. You will always be a work in progress, and the magic of time and distance will turn your problems into learning opportunities. You are going to be fine.

And if you think you have real problems right now, just wait until your first foray into credit card debt. Oof.

8. You're probably not going to listen to any of this advice — and frankly, I'm not sure you should.

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The only reason I have any of this advice to give is that when I was a teenager, I did pretty much the exact the opposite of what I'm telling you to do. I dated people who were bad for me, I screwed up in school, I was a jerk to my parents, and I still thought I was secretly better than everyone else.

But it was because I made all of those stupid, embarrassing mistakes — and then dealt with the consequences — that I learned how not to be such a complete turd person. It wouldn't have had the same effect if someone had just told me what to do; I had to figure it out for myself.

So, no, don't listen to me. Make your own mistakes. Experience the disappointment and the pain and the heartbreak, and then refuse to let those things defeat you. Learn from them, and come out the other side a stronger, smarter human who knows better.

However, there is one piece of advice I really, really hope you do pay attention to...


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