Dear Teen Ben,
Full spoiler alert in effect for this letter, so if you don’t want to know, don’t read (however, knowing/being you, I know you will continue reading).
Remember how last time you got a letter from your “adult self” in fifth grade and “he” told you that you ended up working at Marvel Comics (of course you do, since you wrote said letter, hence my obnoxious overuse of quotation marks)? Well buckle up, pal, because we were/are geniuses! You actually end up working at Marvel! True story! You’re currently the associate editor of Marvel.com (the Internet ends up being a big deal, but you also never give up your AOL e-mail despite all your friends constantly pestering you). It’s work, and there are stressful moments like any other job, but you’re getting to actual live out your childhood dreams, something I never stop being grateful for and hope you won’t either regardless of how I have altered your timeline.
There are going to be times in college that you’re a bit of adrift as far as what you think you’re going to do with your life, and more times when you’re frustrated by the fact that you’re reading (or more likely not reading) another Jane Austen novel and wondering why you majored in English at a school known for Women’s Studies when you have no desire to write fiction or teach. You’re going to get frustrated. You’ve got to keep in mind that school is not just about classes and you’ll get more out of the people you meet and stuff you decide to do on your own (more on that later). Don’t listen to the professors who tell you that your goals are silly. When you’re 18 and clueless about what comes next, your dad is going to ask why you can’t turn your interest in comic books into a career; never take for granted that most parents would absolutely not do that, and realize how cool he and your mother are (more on that later too).
You won’t find a simple path to what you want, because there is no college major for the stuff you’re interested in; you’ve got to do it yourself. If something captures your attention and imagination, do that; get an education, but more importantly, indulge your passions, because they won’t lead you wrong. Never forget the people who help you along the way, especially the ones who don’t have to.
Right about now you’re probably looking down on Newton, the place you grew up, thinking it’s too rich and over-privileged and you can’t wait to leave. You need to cut that shit out. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you shouldn’t move to New York (but not New York City, never New York City; get ready to be surprised how much you love New Jersey though), but you need to stop looking at Newton as a place you need to escape and instead embrace that it shaped you into who you are. You’ve got some great friends who you’re going to lose touch with because you see them as being part of some imagined suburban hell you want to run away from; this will be one of your greatest regrets. These are important people who got you through good times and bad and you will be lesser for thinking you’ve somehow outgrown them. Making the extra effort to maintain relationships even when you’re not down the street or the hall from people is a good lesson for you to keep in mind; don’t be a douche that discards people because going out to see them is too hard, amass an army of people who care about you.
Ok, a bit more about your mom and dad. You already think they’re awesome, but you’re going to be so proud of them and want to brag about your parents so much in the years to come. Once you and your sister—who also impresses you daily, by the by—ship out, your mother gets back to painting and I can’t even express to you how much she thrives. Your father continues to fight the good fight at his job, but he also remains your biggest cheerleader and the guy you pattern yourself after on your best days. Your parents are totally your role models and rather than getting excited to introduce new friends or co-workers to them, you can’t wait to show them off in the other direction. Everybody loves your parents. Also, your dad will be super excited when you start drinking and then not let on that he’s bummed when you quit (oh…yeah, sorry about that).
YOU ARE READING
Dear Teen Me: More Letters from Authors to their Teen SelvesTeen Fiction
We hope you'll be inspired, shocked, amused, and touched by this selection of letters from the DearTeenMe.com website. 'How awesome would it be if authors wrote letters to their teen selves?' A year and a half later, you can pick up DEAR TEEN ME fro...