Dear Teen Me from author & Poet E. Kristin Anderson (DEAR TEEN ME)

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Dear Teen Me, 

I want to talk to you about your journaling habit.  Don't worry, I'm really happy that you kept all those journals and in fact I still read them and am grateful for them, since my memory is already starting to Swiss cheese itself à la Quantum Leap.  But here's something I know you've already noticed (because I read it in your journal): you write a LOT about boys.

It's still true.  True love is so important to us that it's what we always write about - be it fiction for our readers or in a journal just for us.  And, well, the fiction is fine.  People love a love story.  You and I both love love stories.  (Especially the quirky ones like in Can't Hardly Wait and 10 Things I Hate About You and The Breakfast Club.)  But you want your own love story so bad.  SO BAD.  So bad that it's all you really write about in your private diary.

And I know you're not one of those girls who feels like she needs a boy to make her feel whole.  You know better than that, and thank God, because you've got enough to worry about.  But the thing is, you value companionship as much as you do romance.  And you fall so hard for each boy you love that you go practically catatonic when things don't work out.

Trust me, this won't change.  So a part of me is wondering why I'm bothering to write you at all right now, on your eighteenth birthday. (It's my thirty-first!  Hi, we're old now.)  I mean, what could it possibly change? Break-ups and rejections will always hurt about a thousand times more for you than the people around you think they should.  One day you will become lovingly teased after telling a friend that you "have no legs" in the wake of a nasty split.

Over the next fifteen or so years, you will be dumped in many many ways.  Let me list a few, they are varied:

→ Over the phone, because HE cheated and feels soooooo guilty.

→ With a kiss good-bye, because college is changing you both.

→ Over the phone, because distance is getting in the way and saying "I love you" doesn't change anything.

→ Because he started dating someone else and it turns out you were never actually dating, apparently.

→ In the car after being picked up from work and P.S. he's moving back in with my parents.

→ At your apartment while you're maniacally writing a novel because he found out the constable was at his door that day and tl;dr it's not you it's me.

→ Via email.

→ Another email.

→ Email again with a side of leaving town for a week.

→ Email this time with a side of leaving the state permanently. *1

→ Lovingly, with his arm around you, while he lets you bawl into his shirt while you sit  on your red leather couch. 

So the dumping.  Mostly you get dumped because you never give up.  Even when it gets really bad and you maybe should give up.  And, you know, I admire that about you, and all of our past and probably future selves.  The faith in humanity that you have will get you hurt so often you wonder why you bother.  Sometimes you write in your journal that no one will ever want you because you're a freaky basket-case.  But more often you write in your journal that you can't believe it but already you're in love with ____ and he's the one and you're going to get married and it's the best feeling in the world.

The takeaway?  Well, I'm still trying to learn this myself.  Because getting dumped sucks and there's no two ways about it.  Especially when you're what J.D. from Scrubs  would call a "sensie." *2 Some people think we should toughen up.  I think we're strong as hell and getting stronger, and that it's okay to feel all these feelings.  As a friend will put it to you, just a week before your thirty-first birthday (today), you have made it through a lot of hard things in life because you approach everything with love. *3

So next time you get your heart broken (and I'm sorry to say, it will happen again soon for you...though not before you fall in love again with someone ah-may-zing, which makes it worth it) I want you to remember this: There is always a next time.  And there is always tomorrow.  And next times and tomorrows are the kinds of things that lead to True Love. 

And more than True Love, next times and tomorrows lead to friendships.  And that companionship you're looking for?  Maybe it's not romance, but you can find that in friends, too.  Just make sure you pick the right ones.  (I promise, that DEFINITELY works out eventually.  Keep trying.)

So, your journal.  I think that you should, you know, write about some other stuff.  I'm working on it.  Sometimes I write about story ideas or stuff I did with friends or concerns I have about my health.  But I still write about boys and True Love and OMG HE'S THE ONE.  Some habits die hard.

Happy Birthday, Teen Me.  Try and enjoy it, even without a boyfriend.


Future You

1.Those four emails are the same guy. Like I mentioned, you love love a lot and work way too hard for it sometimes.

2. Fiona is right about Scrubs.  It's brilliant.  Watch it more.

3. Keep an eye out for Rachel, you'll meet her in college.

 E. Kristin Anderson grew up in Westbrook, Maine and is a graduate of Connecticut College. She has a fancy diploma that says "B.A. in Classics," which makes her sound smart but has not helped her get any jobs in Ancient Rome. Once upon a time she worked for The New Yorker magazine, but she decided being a grown up just wasn't for her. Currently living in Austin, Texas, Ms. Anderson is an assistant editor at Hunger Mountain for their YA and Children's section and a contributing editor at Found Poetry Review. With Miranda Kenneally, Ms. Anderson is the co-editor of the DEAR TEEN ME anthology (Zest Books, 2012), based on the website of the same name. As a poet she has been published worldwide in around two dozen literary journals from the UK indie-queen Fuselit, to Cordite in Australia to the US' Post Roadand the Cimarron Review to the sci fi mag Asimov's Science Fiction.  She hand-wrote her first trunk book at sixteen.  It was about the band Hanson and may or may not still be in a notebook at her parents' house.  Look out for Ms. Anderson's work the anthology COIN OPERA II, a collection of poems about video games from Sidekick Books and in FUTUREDAZE an anthology of YA SciFi from Underwords. She blogs at and is represented by Christina Hogrebe at the Jane Rotrosen Agency

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