Dear teen Jennieke,
Hey! So… sorry to state the obvious, but high school is a weird time. I won’t tell you to change anything specific, because every choice you make has made me into the person I am today, but I will give you some general advice (that hopefully won’t upset the space-time continuum too drastically ). Although you kind of already know this, being judgmental toward yourself is maybe not your best trait. One of the things I hope you learn sooner rather than later is that nobody’s perfect, and no matter how hard you strive for perfection, there are always going to be things you can’t control. So try not to judge yourself too harshly!
Also keep in mind that worrying about making a wrong decision isn’t as big a deal as you think. You have a family who loves you and will ultimately help support you—even if you make choices that you’ll later regret. Not too many things in this world are irreversible, so go ahead and take chances and follow your instincts. That’s how you learn and grow as a person, though you can’t quite see that yet.
Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up and get out of the house. It’s so ridiculously easy to be swayed by prestige and the myth that you have to grow up at 17, but in a lot of ways those things are illusions. Following society’s generally accepted ideals will often keep you from doing what you really want, so try to listen to your actual feelings. You know yourself pretty well, so don’t let other people and their perceptions sway you unless you know deep down that they’re right.
Those instincts of yours won’t always steer you in the right direction, of course, but more often than not they will. It may surprise you to hear that you’ll end up doing something pretty different than you imagined (whoever thought you’d write a novel, let alone get it
published!?), and certain circumstances out of your control will affect your timelines for your personal goals, but there’s nothing you can do but be yourself while also finding the strength to talk about your feelings—even if you think people don’t want to hear them or worry that people will consider you emotional. Only by actually talking through problems will you find your solutions and the fortitude to keep going through some tough times. And one day, you’ll look back on it all and be able to say it all turned out well.
So enjoy the teen years as best you can! The best is still to come!
The letter above is part of an ongoing weekly series featuring letters from authors to their teen selves. If you're a published author who'd like to participate in this series, we'd love to have you. Just click here and let us know you're interested.
Jennieke Cohen writes historical fiction for young adults inspired by real people and events because life is often stranger than fiction. She studied English history at Cambridge University and has a master’s degree in professional writing from the University of Southern California. Jennieke loves exploring new locales but always returns home to Northern California where the summers are hot, the winters are mild, and life is casual. Jennieke's new book Dangerous Alliance hits shelves tomorrow.