To my teen years,
You are full of emotion. You have been, and you will continue to be, for all the time I have left with you. Emotion of all sorts – good emotion, the positive, happy kind, that fills up your heart with goodness to burst, but also bad emotion – the kind that cuts right through our souls and smiles and leaves marks for years to come, but sometimes just for weeks. There is joy, and excitement, and whimsy, and euphoria, and anger, and sadness, and heartbreak, and loneliness. Because that’s just the way it is, and that’s the way it’s meant to be, because we are people, and this is our youth, and you are our teen years. We love you, and we hate you, and we enjoy you, and we wish that you were over, but ultimately, we’re so grateful for you, and all that you give us.
Because there are moments of pure hell, that come with being a teenager. There’s the drama, that seems to follow groups of 13-19 year olds everywhere they go – there is always something to cause upset, and ginormous rifts in groups of friends, and giant rips in relationships. Because we are headstrong, and stubborn, and we all convince ourselves that we know what we’re doing, and that we’re always in the right, even though, really, we’re all lost and wondering what happens to us once we leave school, once we have to get ourselves around, and take responsibility for ourselves and make our own doctors’ appointments. Because we all complain about not having freedom, or independence, and we all talk with such excitement about being able to drive, and finally getting away from our parents, and yet when it gets here, we’re going to be so overwhelmed with adulthood, because we’re at this stage where we think we’re adults, but we still have an excuse to act like children, and so we do, and we do stupid things, and we get in trouble, because we think we’re adults, and then when it goes wrong, we get punished like the children that the rest of the world thinks we are. And when that ends, and we get consequences to suit adulthood, we’re going to be incredibly grateful for the years we had to test the boundaries and push the limits and learn where to stop.
These years are the years we get to know ourselves – the years we find out who and what we love, and where we want to go and where we want to be when we leave these years. And these years are when we learn how to build friendships, and how to deal with all the other people around. These years are the years that we spend weeks or months with no one – spending our days alone and scrolling endlessly through social media, and various online worlds, and immersing ourselves in fiction and falsity. And then we find people, our people, and we love them, and we spend months running around with them like the idiots we are, doing stupid things, and throwing parties without our parents knowing, and placing blame and drinking too much and accusing each other of all sorts. These years are the years that our summers are the highlights of everything, when we have picnics in fields and go swimming in lakes when it’s probably still too cold for it. These are the years that we celebrate birthdays by being too loud in restaurants and not being able to afford the service charge. These years are the years we persuade our older friends to buy us beer, but we can still have fun without it. These years are the years that we love each other, and hate each other, and celebrate together, and wish we never saw each other again, and have the most exciting times of our lives.
These years are the years that when things go wrong, all it takes is a text saying ‘I need ice-cream’ or ‘it’s all gone wrong’ for the people you love the most to be at your side, asking questions where they need to be asked, and comforting where you need to be comforted, and pretending nothing happened when it needs to be pretended. These are the years that friendship is about more than fun – it’s about being there for each other in all the moments that things go wrong – and they will go wrong. And relationships will be tested, and some will fall apart when pushed to a certain limit, and those are the ones that maybe it is good fell apart now, because there will come a point that none of us have time for petty ignoring and drama, and it’s best that we get rid of those relationships now, even if it hurts. But the people who do stick by, and the people that we stick by, will be forever wonderful, even if we fall out of touch, because these are the people who were there when everything else fell apart. When relatives died, when life fell apart, when someone got kicked out and someone went off the rails, it’s the friends who support each other through these things that we will always treasure.
And these years are the ones that are full of what we convince ourselves is the hardest and most pointless work we will ever do, when we complain about mitochondria and Pythagoras, and asyndeton and 1066, and tertiary colours and plagal cadences. We pour hours and hours of our lives into writing our notes in colour coded pens onto pint-sized revision cards, and then forget to use them. We stare at the pages of textbooks for what feels like days, and none of it ever goes in. We work, we do, we actually work, and we study, and revise, and learn, and we come out of it all with a head full of nonsense that we won’t need again, but at least we now have the bits of paper that say we can do it, we can work hard, and we can succeed, if we really ‘apply ourselves’.
These are the years of being constantly broke, and saying ‘I’m up for anything as long as it’s free’, and always complaining that we need a job so we can go out, and have fun, and then when we get the job, we can never go out because all our time is taken up by waiting tables or cleaning floors or serving coffee. These are the years of pooling together with 5 other people to buy a gift for your best friend that only costs 30 quid, because that’s all any of us can ever afford, and we all know that, and it really is the thought that counts, because who cares if your friends can’t buy you nice stuff, when they would if they could? These are the years of begging money from parents, and siblings, with promises of ‘I’ll pay you back!’ when everyone knows we never will. These are the years of paying for your friend’s lunch at school because they finally did run out of cash, and there’s no sweat, and no obligation, because someday they’ll do the same for you. These are the years of always complaining we have no money, but secretly kind of liking it that way, because we have to be creative in what we do and where we go, and sure, we don’t get the luxuries, but we’re having so much fun without them, so who cares?
These are the years of drinking too much at parties, because we’re young, and stupid, and breaking the rules and the law is fun, dammit, and who cares is we break a vase or two, because 10 years down the line, we’ll only look back and laugh, right? These are the years of throwing up over fences and in buckets, and spending the night with someone stroking your back and pulling back your hair, and feeding you slice of pizza after slice of pizza, while you yell that it tastes of cardboard. These are the years of nudging your drunken friend towards the person they’re not-so-secretly half in love with, and watching as they get to chatting and eventually to more. These are the years of inebriated dancing on table tops, and drunkenly spilling secrets to a half-stranger. These are the years of morning-after bacon butties and spending hours fixing up the house, acting like it’s all hard work, but secretly enjoying prancing around with a hoover and old leggings and your favourite songs and your best friends, maybe even more than you enjoyed the night before. These are the years of 4 AM McDonalds trips, and more for lunch the next day. The years of spending hours going through the night, huddled under blankets and scrolling through the Instagram aftermath with those who regret it more than you. The years of tag-teaming who gets to be party-mum, and groaning when it’s you, because who wants the responsibility of mopping up sick and tying hair back and remembering to shut the door and being the one who has to talk to the police if they ever turn up? But even though after every time, there’s a part of you that wishes you never did any of it, when someone plans another, you’ll always say you’re there, because there’s a bigger part that loved it.
These are the years of hopeless crushes, on the distant celebrity, and the near but still too-far older boy from school. These are the years of waiting impatiently for a first kiss, a first date, a first relationship, and even a first break-up. These are the years of finally liking a person who finally is within reach, within the realms of possibility, only for them to fall in love with someone else before you. These are the years of someone finally liking you back, but why does it have to be them, of all people? These are the years of being asked out and being too awkward to say no. These are the years of changing your mind and heart at the last minute. These are the years of your friends being far too involved in your love life, and allowing them to manipulate you into a relationship you don’t really want. Of awkward break-ups that don’t affect you at all, and of break-ups that you will be ashamed to admit affected you as much as they did in years to come. These are the years of liking someone, and finally them liking you back! Of sneaking off to empty rooms to kiss against a wall and hope that no one walks in. To awkwardly break apart when they do, and laugh into each other’s necks when they awkwardly back away. To not tell anyone, and think you’re subtle, when really everyone already knows. Dates with the person you really, really like, are the highlights of your calendar, because you get to hold their hand, and kiss them in the back of movie theatres, and insist that you pay for coffee despite all their protestations. These are the years of awkward first experiences and wonderful second ones, of questioning glances, and sweet smiles into phones when you get a text from a certain someone. Of being that couple, the one who all your friends make fun of, even though they’re happy for you really.
These are the years of spending all your time on hobbies that your parents insist ‘are not as important as school!’, even though, to you, they are. Of sports that take up all of your evenings, and crafts that take up all of your weekends. Of shows and books and movies and fandoms that you love so fully that they’re part of your life. Of clubs, and teams, and shows, and performances, and when the season comes around this is all you ever do, or think about, and you have to keep all your evenings clear, because you never know when you’ll be called for emergency practise for ‘the big day’. Of building relationships and friendships with new people, of expanding your life and your circles to beyond those you see every day. Of loving them, so much, because you share so much with these people, and you have this massive thing in common, because you all love the same life-consuming time-waster. And on the week of the show, in the days running up to the biggest game yet, when you see them all more than ever, and you’re called at 4, and you stay until 9, every day, after school, for a week, practising and rehearsing and going over and over until you no longer can, because it’s dark, and you’re tired, and there are blisters on your feet, and you head is throbbing, and that one annoying person in the group still has energy and is saying that they could carry on. Of wishing, in that moment, that you had never got involved in this whole affair, and yet when it’s over, you’re more grateful for the whole experience than you could ever convey, and you really cannot wait until the next season when you can do it all over again.
These are the years of stupidity, and recklessness, and making bad decisions. These are the years of hysteria and unreasonableness and an awful lack of sense. These are the years of laughter, and euphoria, and a sense of magical joy. These are the years of wonder, and discovery, and finding who we really are.
These are the years we will never forget.
But for all the romanticism that we can assign to this time of our lives, for all the wonder and joy that we very nearly don’t even notice that we’re feeling, these years are not all goodness. There is hurt, and there is pain, and there is confusion, and sadness, and worry. And sometimes there is depression, and anxiety, and more, these massive monsters that tell us that we cannot enjoy, that we should not enjoy, and that stop us from enjoying. Because we are told to enjoy our teen years, and we all try our hardest, but sometimes it’s a little harder than others, for some people more so than others.
Because that is the way it is.
Our teen years never seem so wonderful while we’re in them, I suppose. Because everything I’ve written is true, I’ve had these experiences, lived these years, and they didn’t feel like I think they should. And written down, all together, all grouped and told without the negatives in between, they seem so much more wonderful than they feel for me, right now. Because now they’re full of awkwardness, and drama, and secrets that I don’t want to keep, and constantly high tensions. And I hated being 15, but that’s been over for months, and now I realise how much fun it was. And I can only hope that as more time passes, more of the bad stuff fades, and that in two years, I won’t remember what it feels like to be broken and lost and stuck as I have been lately, and I’ll only remember the people, and the friends who were there, and the work I did well, and the boy that likes me, and the plans that worked out, and the shows that I loved, and the parties that didn’t end in turmoil, and the post-apology hugs that make us forget the need to apologise.
So, here’s to you, teen years. Because I can’t pretend I love you all that much now, but I am certain that I will.
Lots of love,
(P.S – have a lovely week, and don’t die before you come back.)