Allow me to paint a picture of what my life was like as an adolescent. I was weird looking, awkward, and different from my peers in every way. Here's proof:
Exhibit A.: I was diagnosed with scleroderma at age 10. This disfiguring autoimmune disease ravaged my body and drastically altered my appearance. I was covered in red and purple spots, had skinny and contracted arms and legs, tiny lips, and a woefully flat chest.
Exhibit B: My father suffered from bipolar disorder. My parents divorced when I was 6 and my sister and I were mandated by the courts to visit him in his filthy unheated apartment. By age 10, we had stopped seeing my father and I spent the rest of my childhood and adolescence dodging questions about my dad's absence.
Exhibit C: My mother remarried when I was 9. She and my stepdad are still married. In order to avoid being disowned, I'll attempt to be diplomatic. Living with my stepdad was not easy. A funny example of this includes all the times he made me return Depends Undergarments to discount stores because he had been banned from doing so after abusing their return policy. Nothing says cool like a 16-year-old wandering around K-Mart with a shopping cart full of adult diapers. Why did we need to purchase and then return so many packages of said diapers? I could write a whole post on that alone. I'll just say that it had to do with my creepy step-grandmother who lived with us and had suffered a stroke, hence the need for Depends.
Exhibit D: I was raised in a middle class suburb, but my family's finances did not match up to those of my peers'. Our car was old and had a hole in the floor where you could see the street beneath you (I swear this is the truth -- I can't make this crap up).
If you went through, or are going through a similar adolescence, let me assure you, it gets better! Here are my sure-fire tips to surviving your adolescence and moving on to a happy adulthood.
Tip # 1: Try to be a nice person so people will like you despite your weird family and strange appearance. This worked wonders for me. I've always had incredible friends who've gotten me through the toughest times of my life. Never take your friends for granted and always make time for them.
Tip #2: Find something you like to do and spend as much time as possible doing it. For me, this was high school theatre. This was a place where I could proudly fly my freak flag.
Tip #3: Try not to be jealous of what others have that you don't. It's hard not to begrudge the friend who is driving a brand new shiny red car when you're not even allowed to drive your family's old clunker, but resist that urge. Jealousy is an ugly trait that will rob you of happiness. As my mom loves to say, there will always be people in the world who have more than you, so don't waste your time on jealousy. Plus, the friend with the cool car is the one who will pick you up on Saturday nights (thanks Stephanie!).
Tip #4: Work hard, go to college, and find a career where you'll always be able to support yourself. The last thing you want is a situation where you have to go crawling back to the house you worked your entire life to escape from.
Tip #5: Choose your partner in life carefully. You want to break the cycle of dysfunction, not perpetuate it.
Tip #6: Use humor as a defense mechanism. Make fun of yourself and your circumstances before someone else gets the chance. I love dark humor. Rather than ignoring that your childhood home had two televisions sitting on top of one another (one that provided only sound and one that provided only a picture), I say disclose this with a healthy dose of humor. These anecdotes make for great conversations later in life, especially when you can add that one of those televisions was rescued from the neighborhood trash. Here's a visual, in case you're curious.
So there you have it. I know adolescence can really suck. The cool thing about having a crappy adolescence is that it helps you enjoy and appreciate adulthood. It's impossible to conceptualize this when you're deeply entrenched in adolescent hell. Trust me, your teenage war stories will build character and transform you into an interesting adult who tells funny tales about the time your mother locked a live squirrel in the bathroom because she couldn't afford to have animal control remove it. Again, true story.
• My apologies once again to my wonderful mother. She has not disowned me yet, despite my compulsion to "air our dirty laundry out" for the free world to read. Don't worry Mom, not that many people actually read this.
• To all my amazing friends from adolescence, I'm not implying any of you were geeks, freaks, or losers by association.