If I could magically go back in time and have a conversation with my 15-year-old-self, these are the 13 things I would have told her:
1. It’s not forever. People will tell you that you’re too young to be in love. They are wrong. You will fall in love. Hard. So hard that you might believe you are supposed to stay together forever. Some people stay with their high school sweethearts and get married and have babies and everything’s wonderful, but the truth is that the first person you fall in love with is most likely not the person you want to spend your whole, entire life with. And unless you are part of a very small percent of the population, you will be incredibly thankful for this. Give yourself time to date. Figure out what you want in a partner and save the “through sickness and health, till death do us part” until later.
2. Be your own person, not part of a couple. Figure out who you are. Listen to the kinds of music that you like. Read the books you want to read. Try new things and keep discovering what makes you the wonderfully weird person that you are. Don’t create your identity on a foundation of someone else. Relationships do not define you. They can be a great way to connect with another person and share similar interests, but make up your own mind and be your own person.
3. Don’t give up things for relationships. If you want to play a sport, join the band, be in a club, go to the movies, hang out with friends, take a trip to visit your family, DO IT. Even if it means less time to spend with your boyfriend or girlfriend. If the relationship was meant to be, it will work out even if you put other things first. Years from now, you will regret the things you didn’t do, not the times you missed out on something to hang out with a boy (or girl) you probably don’t even talk to anymore.
4. Relationships aren’t about saving people. There are two very important sides to this. First, stop thinking of a relationship as something that will save you. Yes, the idea of someone sweeping you off your feet and rescuing you from the demons you battle sounds romantic. It’s glorified in movies and tv shows and books, but in reality this belief will keep you trapped. The truth is that you either save yourself, or you remain unsaved.
Second, it is not your responsibility to save anyone else. Again, it seems romantic in theory. When you fall in love with someone you want to be there for them and make them happy. It is great to support someone you love, but it is not your responsibility to save your boyfriend or girlfriend from their problems.
5. Romeo and Juliet is not a good love story. In the end, they both end up dead.
6. The time you waste being unhappy is time you will never get back. I know you think you are supposed to be tough and stick it out through the bad times. You don’t want to give up on something or feel like a quitter and you are afraid that saying you deserve better means that you are selfish. Stop thinking like this! Bottom line: life is too damn short to be unhappy. Fight for happiness. Let go of things that make you upset. Don’t spend time with people that make you feel bad about yourself. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. Trust me, a year from now won’t regret leaving something that made you unhappy, you’ll wish you’d left it sooner.
7. Sex doesn’t equal Love. If someone loves you, they will wait until you are ready to have sex. You do not need to have sex with someone to prove to them that you love them. Sex does not fix broken relationships. It does not make people fall in love. It can bring two people closer together if the timing and situation is right and there is mutual trust and understanding, but sex can also fuck you up. If you feel pressure to have sex, remember that you have the right to say no. If someone pressures you, or forces you to do anything that you are not comfortable with, it is abuse. Sex also brings with it an incredible amount of stress as a teenager. Make sure that you have all the information possible about birth control, risks, STDS, etc. and make a decision about whether you are ready to have sex before you are in the heat of the moment.
8.When people show you who they really are, believe them the first time. Cheaters will continue to cheat. Liars will continue to lie. Abusers will continue to abuse. I know you want to believe that people can change, but in time you will learn that unless someone works hard, often with a professional therapist or counselor, for a long period of time, people (especially abusers) only change for time periods and then they fall back into the same habits.
9. Friends give horrible advice.
10. There is nothing wrong with you. Just like anything else in life, you are learning a lot of things for the first time. You might think that your friends have everything figured out, but they don’t. They’re pretending, just like you. Don’t compare yourself to other people. You don’t know what their truth is. Most of the time, you only see their mask. And don’t be afraid to be different. Embrace it. Own it. Fight for it. Never give it up, because without it, you’re a bore.
11. Speak up! It’s better to be feel uncomfortable for a few moments, or to offend someone, than it is to deal with the consequences of staying quiet.
12. The best is yet to come. High school is not the best years of your life, so take off the pressure of thinking it has to be. There are far, far better things ahead. There are places to travel. Cities to explore. Jobs to work. Stories to tell. People to date. I know you feel old and experienced right now, but you have no idea how many adventures are ahead of you. No matter how bad things get, they will get better. No matter how alone you feel, you never are. Your new boyfriend? He’s amazing. But more importantly, the obstacles you overcome will help you to grow into a stronger and wiser person.