Dear Tween Me,
Those of us who survived the tween years know that they're no picnic. If we haven't totally blocked this whole awkward stage out of our minds, that is. I know you probably won't listen, but if you would, just for a minute, try to pay attention to your older and wiser self, I think you could learn a thing or two.
- Everyone has a struggle. I know you think the grass is always greener. Things are easier for other people. Homework. Friends. Family life. Hair. Fashion. Gym class. But appearances can be deceiving. This is something you'll want to remember your whole life, and best start now. No matter how awesomely perfect you think that super popular girl's life is, you truly have no idea what kind of things she's dealing with in her personal life.
- Be thankful. You're rolling your eyes, I know you are. But I can save you a whole lot of trouble if you just heed this advice now. Many adults never even figure it out, but it's one of the most important life skills you can learn. Being happy is way better than being crabby, melancholy, depressed, jealous, and, well, unhappy. And being a happy person begins with gratitude. Trust me, you have a lot to be grateful for. Never, for one minute, forget that.
- People are focused on themselves. You think the world is silently ridiculing you for wearing that jacket from last season, or because you have a little blemish on your forehead or because you lost the battle with the curling iron this morning. Relax. I get that kids your age can be jerks in a major way, but I promise you that no one is as hyper-focused on you as you are. They are too busy thinking about themselves, and being embarrassed because they don't have the "right" shoes or because their parents won't let them wear make-up yet.
- Practice the Golden Rule. Again with the eye rolling. But think about it. Treat others as you would like to be treated. It's simple. It makes sense. Just do it. When you're tempted to join your buddies in being snarky about a classmate, think for a second how you would feel if someone talked to or about you like that. Suddenly it won't seem so funny anymore.
- Keep a journal. There are a couple reasons for this little piece of advice. First of all, you think now that you will always remember the wonderful details of your youth. But memories fade. You will forget so much. Secondly, writing is cathartic. When you're feeling confused, sad, overwhelmed, or angry, write it out. It releases negativity and helps you sort things out in your mind. In other words, you'll feel better. Plus you'll be writing so much in high school and college, you might as well get in as much practice as you can now.
- Be yourself. The temptation is great to fit in at any cost. You might not believe me right now, but standing out is a much better option. I know that there is a part of you that just doesn't want to be noticed right now. Or that only wants to be noticed as part of a group. But pretending to be someone you're not isn't the answer. Like what you like. Listen to the music you enjoy. Wear the clothes that make you feel good. Pursue the hobbies that interest you. People will still like you. If they don't, they can kiss off. Don't waste your energy on them.
- Your friends all shop at Kmart. I know how mortified you are every time your mom or grandma take you to Kmart. You are terrified that someone will see you walking in the store and tell everyone at school that you're a Blue Light shopper. But (considering that there was no Target back then) where else do you think people get their school supplies, toilet paper, and shampoo? They go to Kmart. They really do.
- Enjoy being the age you are right now. You want to grow up. You want to be independent and free. You'll get there, don't worry. In the meantime, thank your mother for doing your laundry, cooking your dinner, and giving you lunch money. Because when you're grown up, she won't do those things anymore. Your job right now is to be a kid, and that's not a bad job, so don't get too far ahead of yourself.
- Don't be afraid. You are frozen by fear of failure and embarrassment. You are terrified of the unknown. Failing is okay. Everyone does it. You'll get over it and be better off for trying. There are worse things than being embarrassed for a minute. Learn to laugh at yourself, and keep in mind #3. The world is full of unknowns, and the fun of life is turning as many of them into knowns as you possibly can.
38-year old me, who still has a lot to learn