Dear Teen Me from author Robin Reul (BAND GEEK)

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Dear Teen Robin,

I'm not going to lie to you. Your teenage years are completely going to suck. You're going to spend them misplacing trust and trying too hard to fit in, you're going to experience unbelievable loss and grief, and on more than one occasion, you're going to wonder if it's truly even possible for you to ever know what happiness feels like.

Listen to me - you will.

You'll learn that friends come and go, and those that really care about you will be in it for the long haul without you having to keep trying so damn hard. There are more important things in this world than labels - mainly having a "best friend" and a "boyfriend." Neither truly validates who you are, so stop believing that that's true. People come in to your life at the right time for the right reasons, and have faith that even if those people aren't here now, it doesn't mean they won't ever be.

Listen to me - they will be. And they're amazing.

You need to take a good long look in the mirror and realize that you are beautiful and worthy of friendship and love and good things, and stop comparing yourself to everyone around you. You need to stop being so insecure - it will hold you back so much in the years to come if you don't move through that. You need to laugh more, and not take everything so seriously. Everything that happens is actually NOT the end of the world.

Whatever you do, don't stop writing. I know when you got to middle school, your confidence ebbed because no one knew (or cared) that you could write and so you let it go. But writing is as important to you as oxygen in your lungs. Keep at it. Don't be afraid to try, and the potential sting of rejection that may follow in its wake. This will be the beginning of a fear of putting yourself out there and taking chances that is unwarranted. Believe in yourself.

That boy you gave your heart to who trampled it into a million pieces by falling for your friend - he's just a piece of your story. He's not your whole story. He taught you something invaluable though - you should never do or not do something in your life based on someone else - ESPECIALLY a boy. That once-in-a-lifetime opportunity you had to star as the lead in a movie opposite Charlie Sheen? Take it. I know you don't want to leave this boy because you can't stand the thought of being apart from him, but guess what? Spoiler alert. He dumps you within a month of when you would have left anyhow. But maybe you should thank him too, because he probably spared you from hooking up with Charlie Sheen.

And guess what? Although it seems impossible to believe that you'll ever love anyone again, you will. Just a few years from now, you're gonna meet this awesome guy in one of your college classes, and he's going to sweep you off your feet. He's going to be loyal and loving and support your dreams and give you two beautiful magical children and an amazing life. He'll make you laugh, and be the best friend you've ever had. He'll see you through bad hair, waistline changes, mood swings, sickness and health. He'll even still marry you despite the fact that you got that god-awful perm the day before your wedding. Oh, by the way? Reconsider that.

And here's the hard one. You're finally going to find a friend you love and trust, who is totally there for you and gets you, but she's going to have to leave you. She's going to leave your house one night after studying and be hit and killed by a drunk driver. She's going to want to stay over, and you'll make up some excuse why she shouldn't, simply because you want some space, but you might want to think that through a little more. Is it really that big a deal? Because you're going to live with that "what if?" for the rest of your life, and it will serve to teach you a lesson about selfishness, but you need to know - it wasn't your fault. There were many moments that night where fate could have changed, but it didn't. You will come to understand, as you experience other passings in your life, that everyone is here for their own journey, and it was perhaps her time to go. You'll feel her around you many times in your life.

I know it's impossible to believe that things really do get better, but I swear, they do. Just remember, you are loved and in the future, you will be surrounded by people who love and appreciate and support you, who cheerlead your achievements and bring you mini-bundt cakes and overpriced caffeinated beverages when you're down. It will all have been worth the wait, because you probably couldn't appreciate it as much without all that. I know, that sounds like one of those annoying things adults say. But sometimes adults really ARE right about some things.

Trust your gut. Follow your heart. Take chances. Dance in the rain. Get your hands dirty. And most of all, breathe.

Xoxoxo

Grown up Robin

Robin Reul is glad to have made it through her teenage years and lived to tell the tale. She is a contemporary YA writer, represented by Bill Contardi at Brandt & Hochman. Her first novel, BAND GEEK, is currently on submission. She lives in Southern California with her husband, two kids and three large goldfish with gigantic personalities. She has a penchant for baked goods, particularly in the key of pumpkin, and single-handedly raises the profit margin of Starbucks monthly. If you want to learn more about her and her road to publication, check out her blog, Robin's Nest, at http://robinreul.blogspot.com.

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