Dear Teenage Self,
Those years between 13 and 18 certainly weren't easy, were they? It's amazing that we got through them. Some of us got through them relatively unscathed, while others are still self-conscious about the very issues that we got teased about back then. We as adults need to express our admiration for ourselves for having survived those years. Sadly, some don't survive them. That is a tragedy, because for many of us, life gets easier as the years progress.
There are many areas in which life improves dramatically over time.
1. In middle school and high school, we had to enter the dreaded lunchroom and hope that there would be a place where we could sit and be accepted. As adults, we can arrange who we eat lunch with or even eat alone without feeling like all eyes are upon us. We can retreat to our desks, cars or even our kitchens. We can even skip lunch now if we so desire without anyone knowing.
2. During our teen years, we were labeled as jocks, nerds, theater kids etc. It was very hard to move from one group to another. We either belonged in one group or another unless we were exceptionally lucky and were allowed to interact with a variety of different types of peers. As adults, we can change our reputation and have more of an opportunity to try on different roles. We meet new people in all walks of life with whom we have no history. We can be seen one way by some friends and in a completely different light by yet other friends or even co-workers. In other words, we are released from the shackles of being pigeonholed as quiet, gregarious etc.
3. For many of us, being part of a family that we were born into was a difficult part of our teenage years. Sometimes our temperaments and the temperaments of our parents/legal guardians just did not work well together. Consider being the teen who was constantly told by a harsh mother to stop being so sensitive. In adulthood, we have the freedom to redefine our relationships with family members. In fact, we can even form our own families. We can modulate the intensity or desired amount of contact and communication with our parents more effectively.
4. In middle school and high school, we tend to have lots of structure in school. We have to take three years of this subject and four years of that subject. We had to read books that held little interest for us. In college, we have more choice regarding which courses we can take. And, as we get older we decide which books we can read. This is a big deal.
5. As teens, most of us were very vulnerable and prone to becoming emotionally upset very quickly. If a friend didn't include us one day, we might have a major meltdown. As an adult, many of us have become a bit tougher, either through life experience or even by going to therapy. We tend to be more emotionally insulated from the stings and arrows of our peer group and other external sources.
There is no question that it is rough to be a teenager. Let's pat ourselves on the back for having survived adolescence. Let's also keep this in mind the next time we want to get frustrated with our own teenagers. Keep in mind that most of them are doing the best that they can.