Thirty to Thirteen: My Advice to Teenage Girls
I have a thirteen-year-old cousin who, like most other girls in high school, is going through the inevitable I’m-a-teenager-so-no-one-understands-me phase.
C’mon y’all, admit it: we’ve been there. It sucks.
I was thinking about what I’d say to help her, what nurturing advice I’d give her, what soothing words of comfort I’d provide while giving her hugs and cups of tea…and then I realised that’s just not how I roll. In fact, I’d be more inclined to give her advice over a cocktail or three, but since she’s only thirteen that would be pretty irresponsible of me.
So, I did the next best thing: I wrote this blog post in my own straight up, no bullshit, brutally honest way. Because when I think back, I wish someone had laid it all out like this for me, to prepare me for the years ahead.
Thirteen little gems of truth that I know now at thirty, and what I wish I’d known at thirteen.
This is for her.
1. Don’t be in a rush
To grow up, to drive, to finish school, to have a boyfriend, start drinking, to lose your virginity… anything. You have plenty of time to wait before you endure the burden of responsibility that comes with all those experiences.
Seriously, being a grown-up sucks sometimes. There’s so much you have to deal with: finances, career, relationships, health issues, moral judgment calls…ugh. Trust me, life doesn’t get easier as you get older – it just gets more complicated.
Enjoy being young while you can, because like my Mama Bear always said, ‘You’ll be an adult for a very long time…’ And damn, was she ever right.
2. If in doubt, go without
This applies to disposable fashion, one-night stands, tequila shots, and takeaway food. Trust me, your reputation - and dignity - will thank you for it later…
3. Be a trendsetter, not a trend follower
I know you desperately want to fit in with the crowd, but don’t sacrifice your individuality to do so. There are too many carbon copies already out there; don’t be another one.
Embrace your geekiness, your quirkiness, your undeniable and irrepressible YOU-ness.
Start something new. Be revolutionary. Challenge the status quo. And be damn proud to do it.
4. Zip the lip
Social media is NOT the platform to discuss your problems. Contrary to what you may believe, it is not the place for you to irrationally vent your issues with your parents/teachers/bestie/whatever.
Use your big girl words. Have the guts to talk to someone’s face, not behind their back. The world doesn’t need another gossip.
Also, the stuff you put on the Interweb stays there forever. Just remember that…
5. Value yourself
Psst! Wanna know a secret? Your worth is not measured by the ‘likes’ on your Facebook status. It comes from somewhere deep inside, a place of self-love and acceptance that needs to be nurtured by you, not randoms behind computer screens.
Likewise, Instagram ain’t going to build it for you; you've gotta do the work yourself. Start now. Stop pimping out your dignity for the sake of five seconds of false validation.
Think before you speak. Think before you act. Look at Miley Cyrus at the VMAs: that shiz just ain’t right…
R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Get some.
6. Make mistakes
Hard, fast, frequently. Then, pick yourself up, dust off, and ask: ‘What did I learn from this?’
If you can answer, awesome; now move on to making another mistake and learn from that. If you can’t, then repeat the process over again until you get it.
Perfection doesn’t exist. We all make mistakes. Learn to deal with it.
7. Schoolies sucks
Don’t bother wasting your [or your parents’] money on an over-priced hotel room and a week of debauchery, which will probably end with alcohol poisoning and an STD. Save your coin and go on a trip overseas.
Or better yet…
8. Take a gap year
Get a ticket. Get a passport. Get the hell outta’ here and go find yourself. Trust me, you won’t discover what you’re capable of by sitting in an economics lecture.
The world is a beautiful place. Go explore it.
9. The dream is free, but the hustle is gonna cost you
Ready for a dose of reality? Have your dreams – big, scary, challenging, out-of-this-world-freaking-exciting dreams – but remember, no one will hand them all to you on a platter: you gotta go out and make that happen yourself.
You are not a princess in a Disney movie; there are no fairy godmothers, genie lamps, or Prince Charming coming to rescue you and make all your dreams come true. It’s up to you to design and sculpt your own masterpiece in life.
Best you start flexing your hustle muscle now, sunshine.
10. Cultivate compassion
Compassion [noun]: a feeling of deep sympathy and sorrow for another who is stricken by misfortune, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate the suffering.
The world is bigger than you. There are others out there that have nothing. Nada. Zero. Zilch. They need people like you to care enough to create a better world.
Start local. Look around you. What can you do today to make someone’s life a little brighter? How can you step out of yourself to help those who need it more?
I’m not saying you need to become the next Mother Theresa; I’m just suggesting – gently, lovingly – that you practice gratitude for what you have and maybe share some of that around.
11. Look after your skin
Go easy on the cheap caked-on makeup, and heavy OTT eyeliner. Likewise, chill on the greasy foods, sweets and soft drinks – this shiz is poison to your skin. Invest in a good cleanser, moisturizer and sunscreen while you are young enough to develop good habits.
Oh, and smoking? Forget it – that crap is waaaaay too hard to quit once you’ve started. Trust me, I know.
Looking like an Oompa-Loompa is not cool. A soft, natural, healthy glow is the only way to go.
12. Your parents are NOT the enemy
I know that right now [or in the near future] you may think that your parents are Nazi incarnates whose sole purpose on this planet is to make your life hell. However, if you’re acting like the teenage version of the Antichrist, it wouldn’t surprise me that good ol’ Mum and Dad are at the end of their ropes and are starting to get frustrated with you.
Let me tell you this, straight up: Your parents love the crap outta you. Period.
They have given up so much in their own lives just so you can have all the amazing opportunities and fabulous things you have, and believe me, that ain’t easy. I sure couldn’t do it; that’s why I’m not having children. However, they did, so you gotta give them props for that. They only want the best for you. Believe me, no parent has ever set out to intentionally stuff up his or her kid’s life.
Give your parents the benefit of the doubt; chances are, before you came along, they had some pretty wild experiences themselves, and know a thing or two about the world. Maybe they actually know what they’re talking about and are just passing on their wisdom to you in the hope that it may sink in through that [temporary] layer of obnoxiousness that covers most teenagers’ brains.
So next time you’re chucking a major tanty because you can’t go out for the third night in a row, or have been asked to do the dishes, or have been told you can’t have the newest iPad/iPhone/ iDon’tCare, just stop and ask yourself: How much have my parentals given up for me? How much have they sacrificed for me? And what can I do now to return the favour, even just a little bit?
Cut them some slack. Trust me, you’ll look back one day when you’re in your twenties and cringe at the way you used to treat them…then you’ll call them and thank them for putting up with your crap. And they’ll appreciate it.
*Sidenote: Mum, I love you, and thanks for putting up with my teenage bullshit back in the nineties. You’re a champ.
13. You are magnificent, just as you are
Of all the advice I’ve given you, this is the most important, so pay attention:
- confused, unsure, push-the-boundaries, delightfully messed-up ‘you’ -
are positively amazing.
Just the way you are.
Yep. You heard me.
Your biggest job in life is to go out there and be the best damn ‘you’ the world has ever seen, because there’s no one else quite like you, babe. And that’s a beautiful thing.
If you can learn to love and accept yourself for who you are now, then you’re already on your way to a successful life. Own it. You got this, sunshine.