Dear Teen Me from author Maureen McGowan (DEVIANTS; CINDERELLA, NINJA WARRIOR)

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Dear Teen Me,

Wow. Sixteen. It’s not like you thought it would be, is it? Of course, when you base your expectations of high school on Happy DaysThe Brady Bunch and Archie comics, what did you expect?

Don’t stress about the lack of sock hops, malt shops and steady dating. Those things went out of fashion long before you got to high school and you’re going to be just fine. In fact, stop stressing all together.

Stop worrying about the future. You’re smart. You have good values. Nothing you would conceivably choose to do in high school will screw up the rest of your life. Don’t put so much weight on every little decision.

Stop stressing about school. Don’t put grades at the top of every priority list and when you pick your classes each year, don’t drop the classes you most enjoy. Now, that doesn’t mean you should turn into a party animal or a stoner or a drop out, but don’t narrow your field by only taking the classes you know can yield high marks. The fact that the teachers don’t give perfect marks for the more subjective subjects like Art and Drama and English is not a reason to drop your favorite subjects from your schedule.

Stop listening to your teachers’ career advice. They’re teachers, not career experts. They don’t know everything. They don’t know what’s out there in the job market right now, never mind what will be out there for you in the future. So when Mr. Findlayson tells you not to apply for an Arts program because you’ll narrow your career choices to one: teacher. Don’t believe him. Believe in yourself. He’s just bitter because “teacher” is what he did with his Arts degree and he’s clearly disappointed. Some teachers love their jobs. He doesn’t.

Stop believing people who warn you not to waste your potential. Just because you get good grades in math and science doesn’t mean you like them. Be true to yourself.

Stop putting so much weight in your parents’ opinions about your future. They love you; it’s their job to be afraid for you—to shelter you from pain—so it’s natural that they want you to choose a safe path. The safe path isn’t necessarily the right path—not for you.

And finally, stop thinking you’re fat. You’re not. Not yet. You look great. You’re a freaking athlete for goodness sakes! And seriously, if you can curb your obsessing over food and weight now, you might be able to prevent the whole binge eating thing that creates the fat version of you who shows up in your twenties and comes and goes like an evil yo-yo after that.

Start having more fun. Everything doesn’t have to be studying, sports and earning money for your university tuition. You don’t have a mortgage yet. Live a little.

Start being more confident. When that hot older guy who’s in a rock band smiles at you in the hall after school, he’s not making fun of you. He’s smiling because you’re wearing your gym suit and he thinks you’re cute. Smile back. It’s just you two in the hall. What humiliation scheme could he possibly have in mind? Take a few chances. Go for it.

Above all, teen me: love yourself.

Treat yourself with more kindness.

Spend more time with your friends.

And rethink those perms. You have baby-fine, straight hair. It’s not meant to be curly. Deal with it. (And in the future you’ll start dying it pink.)

Maureen McGowan

Maureen McGowan is a two time finalist in the Golden Heart® and a finalist in the inaugural Amazon Breakout Novel Competition. Deviants, the first book in her sci-fi thriller series, The Dust Chronicles, will be released on October 30, 2012 by Amazon Children’s Publishing.

Aside from books, Maureen passionate about art, dance, films, handcrafted objects and shoes. Her previous career moved her to Palo Alto and Philadelphia. She now writes and goes to a lot of movies in Toronto, Canada.

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