A Letter to my Future Teenager

Jenny is a 15-year-old from Canton, MI. She likes playing video games late at night, eating in excess, and oftentimes finds words therapeutic.

Dear Teenager,

If there is one thing life can teach you it’s that there is never enough time. Putting it a bit harshly, life is always just less and less time to do the things you want to do. Time is time. It moves in organic directions, independent of your actions. Let that be motivation to never squander it. You’ll never have this chance to be around people going through situations as similar to yours ever again. People who can understand you and you have the opportunity to befriend while you still have plenty of free time. Come college, friends split up. You leave your family behind. It’s never the same, regardless of how often you return to visit. Time escapes, and if you don’t appreciate the moments you have now, if you waste hours tracking news feeds on Facebook like I do, you’ll surely regret it.

I think about this summer and how few of the promises to spend time with my friends I’ve kept. The easy route is to stay home and spend a relaxing day alone, but the truth is that I wish I’d appreciated the time I had with my friends more. Some things are not forever, and I realize that next summer, I’ll be busy. Hopefully with work because money gets more and more real as you grow older. (Respect it! Save up, and appreciate an allowance if I decide to give you one, because mine never did.) Maybe with volunteering as well. This summer, I have plenty of free time, considering, and I wish I’d gotten a head start on being more productive. Even spending time with friends is productive.

Speaking of time spent with loved ones, your family is the most important. This might sound silly coming from one of your parents, but you can never appreciate them enough and the little time that you’ll end up having with them. The years where you are fed and clothed for free will pass by faster than you know it. I see myself leaving home for good in little more than a year and wonder where all of the time went. Your parents really do make life so much easier for you, and you will miss all the subtle ways they care and try to make your life go smoothly. The advice they give, even when you least want to hear it, because you will make some stupid decisions upon fleeing the nest because they aren’t there with you. It feels overbearing now, but you will definitely miss being cared for. Having been given more independence already at this point in my life, I’m already missing some of the benefits of having someone watch out for you.

It sounds trite and routine, but really think about everything your parents sacrifice for your happiness. I never really thought about all of the little things as a kid. The way my parents would always give me the tasty leafy parts of vegetables that I hated even though they loved them because it was good for me, the way they did all of my chores for me, the way they never seemed to buy new clothes or trinkets for themselves when I filled my room with useless $10 posters of boy bands.

I used to think of how poorly I treated them, thinking they didn’t understand me, that they didn’t understand my need to have fun as a teenager. I used to argue bitterly, making their lives harder than they already were as they tried to provide for me. The truth is, they don’t need to understand you to love you. That’s part of the beauty of it. They will love you unconditionally, so everything they do is for your own good. If they misunderstand your situation, it’s enough to forgive them and be patient in helping them understand when you consider that through their misunderstandings they are still just trying to help you. It sounds contrived, but your parents are often right. They see things that you as a child certainly can’t, and know more about how life can treat a person than you ever could.

What is most scary to me as I prepare to spend next summer impressing colleges (and you should too) is how apathetic and naïve teenagers are. Few seem to care what happens with their future so long as it provides fun and easy money. Few are realistic about planning ahead or thinking seriously about what they can do with their lives after the responsibility-free years of high school or the partying years of college. Many of my classmates claim they want to be journalists or writers or fashion designers, but to what end? If you don’t love writing, a career track like journalism or freelance writing that so often winds up strenuous and low-paying isn’t rewarding. The idea occurs to them, it sounds appealing, and they consider that enough thought for now. The same thought process applies to other fields. Things are never that easy. Always think ahead, and most importantly be realistic. Notice your strengths, your interests, what colleges suit you best and what sort of lifestyle you hope to lead. The callous, demanding future life as an adult exists as a vague entity in a teenager’s mind, but as time would have it, it exists as a harsh reality sooner than you think. Time escapes, but it befriends those who put in the effort early.

I’ve heard it said, “hindsight is always 20/20.” Take my advice, but maybe with a grain of salt. I’m young.


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