While the words "2013" and "teenagers" may conjure up images of selfies and twerking, here at HuffPost Teen, we don't buy it. Reflecting on the year, all we see are inspiring accomplishments from teenagers around the world -- and 12 months of fearless, introspective writing from young authors.
In honor of the new year and new beginnings, we sought out some of the most thoughtful posts from our bloggers. Scroll down to read quotes from wise-beyond-their-years teenagers on happiness, high school, self-love and everything in between.
1. "Finding yourself" starts beyond the walls of school and outside the words of your parents.
I am not cynical. No, no. I am simply an insecure senior wondering if the person I've been made to believe I am is even enough. Enough to "make it." Enough to continue my parents' unassailable praise; Distorting myself until I am the mold, yet aware that the mold is what's truly distorted ... Life is a scramble; a lot of this is luck. I just hope that who I am, who we are, is not lost in translation.
Through sleepless nights of mulling over who I was and if my passions were worth what I had invested in them, I realized that I don't need anyone's permission to be proud of myself. In fact, life would be pretty miserable if I went around asking everyone for permission to value myself.
I should be learning, growing, finding myself, and doing a million other things that have no place on a college app. We all should, really. There is no shame in taking the time to be happy. We won't find the future we have in mind if we just stop searching, working, altogether. But if we calm down and look around, we just might find something better.
2. You are smarter than any adult when it comes to understanding technology and what it really means to your generation.
Feeling complete should never be reliant on someone sitting at a computer pressing a button. Regardless of how many times I tweet lyrics to a song, my ability to express what those words mean to me will remain limited. And no matter what photo effect I apply to my posed and eager face, no one will appreciate how truly beautiful I am. The real me exists outside of the confines of a Wi-Fi connection and you don't need a username or password to get to know me... just say hello. See you offline.
I can easily have a "conversation" with someone throughout the day simply by how we send images back and forth. As far-fetched as it may seem, selfies help strengthen friendships. With goofy faces, they can catch us at our worse and most intimate. While they may sometimes just be a form of teenage vanity, I believe they are important in the digital age as a form of communication, self-expression and documentation.
Why do we spend hours of our life cyberstalking people we either hate or will never speak to? I couldn't tell you. I wish I could say it's because we have nothing better to do, but we actually do. We just chose to do this instead. With skyrocketing amounts of data usage, our self-esteem levels plunge, and for what? I'm tired of wasting my time obsessing my dependency on social media attention.
3. Your identity is so much more than your ethnicity, race, religion or body.
Being a Muslim-American my religion gets the same classifications -- a woman wearing a niqab, hijab, and long sleeves is labeled off. To me, these women showcase their modesty -- modesty that I respect and admire wholeheartedly, and on the other side of the spectrum, understand just as equally. So, do not tell me that covering up, or showing too much skin dictates the character I posses.
When I was 14-years-old, I joined indoor track and field, earning a varsity letter at the end of my season. My parents were horrified. To be considered physically wholesome, I had only two options. I could be that famed guitar figure, or that rosy-cheeked niña gordita. I had chosen a third option, one not accepted my family or its associates. I developed an athlete's body, angular and wiry like a colt. I developed an athlete's appetite; eating three plates ofarroz con guandules wasn't a challenge. My body felt energized; running put me at peace; it made all of the fuss over my body insignificant.
My acne gave me character -- well, that's not quite true. More like my acne made me develop character, because a teenager with acne is little more than a teenager with ACNE. My acne made my face public property. It was an instant conversation starter; it gave perfect strangers the right -- no, more like the need -- to advise and counsel me. It made me approachable, and God, did I hate being approachable.
4. Don't let a college acceptance or rejection letter define your self-worth.
I framed NYU's rejection letter ultimately to serve as a reminder to my future self of where I have gotten as a result of what I have overcome. I'm not going to graduate as the valedictorian or the salutatorian of my class. Heck, I'm not even graduating in the top 20 percent of my class. Sure, some people may think of that as not being successful. But to me, just being able to walk the stage, take that diploma, and leave as a high school graduate -- that is success to me.
So, what should you ask a high school senior like me instead of the overused questions about college? Ask how my senior year is going so far. Ask me about the activities I'm involved. Ask me about my friends, my job, my family or my classes. Ask me about my life right here and right now.
We make the admissions process more painful than it needs to be. We're forcing order, as we tend to, to disguise the chaos. And this process is chaos. Don't ignore it. Embrace it. When we cheat the process we cheat ourselves. We look past the schools that might be right for us ("I've never even heard of that school") while we can praise those that might be right only for the "methodology," the science, of Forbes Magazine.
5. You can find heroes in unexpected places.
My mom is deaf. There is no need to feel bad for me, or her, or her situation. She is my hero and would be whether or not she was deaf. My whole life people have asked me questions. How does she wake up in the morning without hearing an alarm clock? How does she talk on the phone? How does she drive? I've answered all of those questions easily.
Lying on the stretcher in the hospital, I didn't notice the two paramedics who worked so hard making sure I was OK, slip out. I didn't get to thank them for helping me when I was in such pain -- for making sure I didn't feel anymore frightened than I had to be and for being there when I needed them. Although I didn't get to thank them, they didn't want to be thanked -- me being fine was thanks enough.
Now, as I sit at home with my family glued to the news while the city is on lockdown, I cannot help but be stirred by the same terror and sadness I felt on Monday. But today as I remind myself of the strength and love I felt at the memorial, I am able to reassure myself that we will overcome this together.
6. Sometimes, being a "fan" is more about you than the person or thing you love.
Fangirling or Fanboying creates a world inside the world we already live in. It might sound crazy but "fandoms" (a group of people who admire the same thing; ex: Beliebers, Directioners or Nerdfighters) become support systems for one another. You create bonds with people all over the world. It takes you out of the little bubble most teens are in where we think mostly about ourselves and opens our minds.
I love Rachel Berry [from "Glee"] because she is a teenage girl. She sometimes hates herself, yet still thinks she's the best person in the world. Her identity is malleable, and she changes herself to fit in. She chases after a boy who doesn't know she exists, and she gets her heart broken. She gets jealous, she can sometimes be mean, and she deals with a lot of emotions. Rachel Berry is a dreamer.
The first time I read ["The Fault In Our Stars"], my heart broke. A friend of mine said it made her feel emotions she didn't know she had. That wasn't the case for me. John Green was able to outline every emotion I had felt since cancer became an option without ever meeting me. That meant more to me than any "I'm sorry" or "It'll be okay" I had gotten.
7. You can't grow unless you change.
Things will change. Let them. The activity that you love in freshman year will not necessarily be the activity you dedicate most of your time to in senior year. The friends you make in 9th grade will change by the time you reach 12th grade. And that's okay. Don't be afraid of change. Change, for the most part, is good. Necessary even. You can't grow as a person without change.
In the midst of all the changed relationship statuses, ice cream tubs, and Taylor Swift songs, we forget that falling out of love isn't entirely bad. People break up and stay broken up for good reasons. Ending a relationship -- of any kind -- is hard. But staying in one with the wrong person or at the wrong time can be even harder.
I am the leader of a great and powerful nation: The Procrastination. I'm going to finally admit it. I could wait until tomorrow, because well, as a procrastinator, that's my nature, but instead I'm going to take ownership of it today.
8. Speak up for yourself, the people you love and the injustices you see around you. Every single time.
"Sue-Yonge... Is that your Korean name? Cute, so Asian!" "Look at you in this photo! So Asian, really Asian." I have always had difficulty in expressing discomfort with such remarks. Sometimes, I am scared that I will seem uptight or unable to "take a joke." A confining sense of shame and estrangement immediately washes over me when people identify me by my race alone. However, I am much more scared that an entire population of other Asian teenagers (and any minority) in America also feels overlooked.
As a 2-year-old child, I began to notice that I had two mommies, while other kids had only one. "How did they get to be so unlucky?" I wondered. It never occurred to me that society considered me to be the unfortunate one. In my innocence, I assumed that families like mine were the lucky ones. How is it that a 17-year-old can see what some adults cannot seem to? That love makes a family.
Now, I've heard people admit that "Blurred Lines" is a pretty awful song -- but why is his song enjoying enormous success and airplay, and Miley's being called a slut? Why is she a good girl gone bad, but he's just a boy enjoying himself?
My friends stick up for me and appreciate all facets of me. They fill my heart. Each day I smile, stand proud, and walk fearlessly. When someone says "You're so gay," or "You're such a fag," I don't hide. "Yes, I am gay, and I find calling someone a fag very offensive," I reply with pride. My school and I are pounding down that painful wall of bullying so others can be free.
9. If you find a way to understand and love yourself, everything else will fall into place.
Introverts have hidden powers: Just because we introverts don't say much, doesn't always mean we're clueless. While others are busy chatting, introverts observe things most people are oblivious too. Sometimes we can even read people. While it may seem introverts are always zoned out, we're actually analyzing and thinking of creative ideas to one day share with you.
Growing up looking different from my friends and family is all I have ever known. Fourteen years ago, at age 4, I was diagnosed with Crouzon Syndrome. I used to feel every stare. It was overwhelming when I thought about how many people had seen me out with my family or friends and were talking about me. But that got so tiring to worry about, it made me unable to enjoy what should have been fun times. So one day, I just let it go.
Hold on to who you are and what's important to you. It's easy to lose yourself in high school, but just stay true to yourself and don't let anyone change that. My sophomore year I had to go through a lot of adjustments in a new school and new city, and when I was having a really hard time and started forgetting who I am, I turned to my two biggest passions to start becoming myself again. I started writing again and practiced piano for hours every day, both of which gave me creative outlets for my emotions.