My Advice to an Adolescent

You probably hate advice. Okay, but that doesn’t make the advice bad, so think about it okay? And my advice is based mostly on my own life experience – it’s not the answer, it is just something for you to consider.

You don’t have to figure everything out

This is a time of life for you to explore, but you can’t explore everything at once. Finding answers to your questions will take some time. Some questions may take your whole life to answer. Learning to be okay with uncertainty is a good life skill.

If you are worried about finding love

Spend some time to make yourself into a person you find lovable. If you like people who are into music, studying music will help you be closer to those people. I’m not talking about making yourself into a different person, I’m just saying that you want to have something to share with the people that you like. Doing these things can also put you into places and activities where you are likely to find compatible people.

But be easy on yourself: appreciate your strengths! You don’t need to be “fixed”, but everyone needs to grow. Try to grow in areas that interest you.

If you are worried about finding friends

During my junior high and high school years, I felt terribly alone most of the time. I had friends, but not the kind of intimate friendships that I saw in the movies. I thought something was wrong with me, but it turns out that that sort of intimacy is usually not comfortable for me. It is easier for me to spill my guts to a therapist and keep things lighter with friends. Figure out what works for you.“Perfect” relationships don’t exist.

When you do find someone to love, love them as best you can. But find and keep your friends – never quit spending time with them. Don’t worry if your friendships don’t always match up to expectations. Maybe your friendships will be more like “we do things together because we like to do the same things” rather than “we share so much.”

Your gender is X

Yes, things can be hard to figure out. Things don’t always feel “right” when your body is going through so much. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t fully and authentically X – it means that you are growing and changing. While you will come to a better understanding of your sexuality over time, your gender is extremely unlikely to change, so don’t worry about it. If you were comfortable with your gender at 7 years old, just stick with that for a while.

Love and sex and gender are terrifically important right now to you. I get that, but our culture is way over-sexualized. Slow down and remember that you are more than just your body and your sexuality; you are a whole person and a good person.

Hang tough and don’t give up; things do get better

I’m sorry, but puberty can be a bitch and adolescence is often terrible. It’s chemical and it will get better. Some of your brightest times and your darkest times may be between the ages of 12 and 19 – at least that was true for me.

Having self-control means that you can decide when to let go. It can be hard, but power over yourself is important. It can be developed.

Do things that make you proud of yourself. Do things that are challenging. Do things where you can celebrate you – and I don’t mean the Elf-Orc-Wizard-Priest character that you play! That character is one form of self-expression, but it is not you.

But don’t give up and sit alone worrying. If things are not going well in one area of your life, take action: reach out for help, focus on something else, distract yourself for a bit, etc. I think there are two ways that we let problems become magnified in our lives: one way is to let the problems absorb us and overwhelm us. The second way is to ignore the problems while they grow to monstrous size. Look for a middle way. Also, realize that the problems may not be as monstrous as they seem at first.

More advice

You probably don’t want more advice! And in the end, you do have to figure out a lot of stuff yourself. Personally, I found a lot of solace and food for thought in books like Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha; books that made me think about myself and the world in different ways.  Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind by Shunryu Suzuki is another book that I still have. None of these are weighty philosophical tomes. Books helped me when I had questions that I didn’t want to share with my friends, and that I wouldn’t dare ask of my parents.

 

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