Dear Teen Nan,
Here’s where you are right now: Your parents think you’re intellectually lazy. They have suggested a career in party planning or advertising. They’d prefer you give up diving as a sport—it’s too dangerous. Your friends think you’re funny, expect you to join them at parties, drink, continue being a cheerleader, and remain part of the popular clique. Your teachers think you’re nice enough, but frequently kick you out of class when you’re giggling with the kids in the back of the room. The guys like you, but since you don’t have a reputation for going far, they prefer the girls who do and you wonder if maybe you need to step up your game.
So now that you know what other people think, here’s the big question: Have you ever asked yourself who you are? Not to your parents, friends or the guys you’d like to date. Who are you, to you?
Think about it. Right now, you’re the girl who wears three pairs of high socks with your cheerleading skirt so kids won’t make fun of your skinny legs. You pretend to drink at parties but secretly pour out your beer when no one is looking because you have diving practice every day and that matters more to you than getting buzzed. You never stick up for kids getting picked on by your clique, afraid that the mean girls will turn on you. Now and then you kiss boys you don’t even like just to fit in. Deep down you truly believe that you’re a lazy student; that you have a not-very-exciting future ahead throwing parties or writing ads for car companies. You wonder if life is about fulfilling others’ needs and if you’ll ever feel a spark inside about anything.
Here’s what you need to know… Before you had any inkling about who you really are, you still chose to be a diver because deep down you like to be scared, work hard, and overcome fear. The process of pushing through and surmounting physical challenges will feed your soul throughout your life. And BTW, skinny legs will ultimately become your best asset, not a body part to ridicule.
You’ll spend five or six years socially drinking, mostly to make awkward situations comfortable, until you no longer need a crutch. Then the right kind of guys will gravitate toward you not based on how far you’ll go, but because of who you are and mutual shared interests. It takes time to figure this out, but you’ll get there and end up with a terrific husband. As for your friends, they’ll change as you change. You sought out people when you were a teen who had the confidence you lacked, but eventually you’ll get that they, too, were floundering. The first time you stand up for someone who is being picked on, you’ll feel a small flame in your soul. The second time that flame will grow and you’ll recognize that targeting someone else is a way of hiding from your own insecurities. It doesn’t keep you any safer. It just makes you less. Ultimately, you’ll lose the mean-girls and surround yourself with people who are kind, consistent, and who you respect.
And here’s a news flash! You are not intellectually lazy. No one is good at everything (math and science aren’t in your wheelhouse) and it takes time to find your passion. You’ll discover that words are beautiful, powerful, compelling, and magical and you’ll want to create stories that inspire, about unforgettable characters living in the moment. There’s nothing wrong with writing advertising copy or throwing parties, but you will write novels. Truth.
The one piece of advice I can give, is never stop asking yourself who you really are. Not the person your friends or parents say you are. Their needs to make you into a version of
someone they can relate and connect with may not jibe with your core beliefs or chosen path. That’s okay. It is not your job to be what they need or make them comfortable. This is a hard lesson to learn but try to learn it early so that you don’t carry the baggage from your childhood for too long. It is heavy and will not serve you.
In the end, only you can define yourself. Failing to do so robs you of becoming a unique person that you actually like. During this process, cut yourself slack when you mess up, because you will, over and over again. Ultimately, my wish is that you become your dreams. And then that you keep on dreaming to become more again and again…
About The Author: Nancy Richardson Fischer is the author of The Speed of Falling Objects, out next week. When their small plane crashes in the Amazon, a young woman, her TV survivalist father, and a teen movie idol must face deadly perils and dark secrets to survive and find their way home. You can follow her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.