An Open Letter To My Teenage Self

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Dear Teenage Self, You’re 14. You have pimples on your forehead, crooked teeth (you're yet to get braces) and hair like straw because you keep getting bleach highlights and styling it daily with your pink GHD (you're really gonna regret that in a few years btw). Right now you have your first 'proper' boyfriend, who is two years older than you, has swishy blonde hair and is fittingly nicknamed "Biebs". You also have the most incredible friends, who know exactly how to make you laugh and keep you sane. You have no problem eating half your weight in lasagne and add extra cheese to your pizza because you don’t care yet what it will do to your thighs.

If I could take you out for coffee there are some things I’d say to you. First of all...

Slow down. Don't be in such a rush to grow up. In a year or two, things are gonna start going downhill. You'll struggle with your mental health and in general, life will become very overwhelming. You're desperate to "grow up". To be an "adult". But you have no idea how much of a struggle reaching adulthood will actually be. So right now, just take a step back and simply enjoy this moment. Appreciate every hilarious second with your friends, and please, please keep a journal. Memories fade fast (especially yours) and when things go pear-shaped, it'll help to remember happier times... to remind yourself of how good life can really be.

Sometimes your mum really is right. There's hardly any point me telling you this one because you'll never believe it. But eventually, you'll look back realise that sometimes she does kinda know what she's talking about. Like when she tells you cutting your hair into a bob is a bad idea. Or that you might not always love Chris Brown, so you probably shouldn't get a tattoo dedicated to him (thank goodness you actually listened that time). As much as you love to tell her that she "just doesn't get it!"... Mum's were teenagers too once, remember.

Boys come and go. Don't build your world around them. You will be shocked and upset to hear that you didn't end up marrying "Biebs" and having the three children you had planned together with such certainty. Instead, your high school years will revolve wholly and completely around one guy and then the next. Despite your friends' best efforts to talk sense into you, you'll make the same mistakes over and over again. You will invest so much of yourself into each lover, that when they leave, they'll take a piece of you too. There will be days when you wake up, on a tear-soaked pillow, look in the mirror and not even recognise your own reflection. It's okay - one day you will realise that you cannot find your identity in someone else. And sometimes the only way to learn a lesson is the hard way.

Don't let anyone squash your dreams. And screw being "realistic". On the day you turn 16, you'll walk into the school office and permanently sign yourself out. People will make rude and unnecessary comments about it. Don't worry, the majority of them drop out of uni in a few years, and the rest have jobs they don't enjoy. You caught on pretty early that having to choose a career path at 16 is the biggest sham in the world. School isn't for everyone and you're a prime example. You keep on watching your Will Smith Motivational Videos and believing in yourself. In the words of the man himself: "Being realistic is the most commonly travelled road to mediocrity." You weren't made for a mediocre life. Don't ever settle for one. Keep on dreaming, dreamer.

Break-ups are NOT the end of the world. But oh boy does it feel like it. And unfortunately, you are going to be dealt a really, really, bad hand of them. But when you're lying in foetal position on the bathroom floor, after finding out your boyfriend has been cheating... please don't attempt to drink a litre of vodka. It won't end well. I know you loved him and you can't envision a future without him in it. I know that right now it hurts to even breathe. In the midst of the pain, it's impossible to see, but life will go on, and your future will still be bright. It's hard to think about you being in this place, all I want is to go back and bundle you up in a big bear hug... but I promise you that this pain is going to end. And at the end is a stronger, wiser, more compassionate young woman. You're just gonna have to trust me on this one.

It's a bad day. Not a bad life. Everything is inflated when you're this age. Bad days feel neverending. Emotions are overwhelming. And you will find yourself flipping out, over almost everything. A doctor once told me that "the teenage mind is a sports car with no brakes" and it's only now, in retrospect that I get what she meant. I'm sure there is some kind of neuroscientific reason (which I obvs don't know), but take comfort in the fact that these intense feelings will end. One day you will just wake up feeling a little more balanced and a little less psycho ;) Note: The world isn't ending. And you are going to be okay.

You have a right to say no. Your body is your body. You seem to always go for guys who are much older than you (much to your mum's dismay). Once you're in your twenties, this won't be a biggie.. but in your teen years, it kinda will be. The main issue that will arise is this: Your boyfriends' will be ready to have sex. And you won't be. What follows, is unspoken peer pressure, heavy guilt and constant reconsideration of your own morals and boundaries. Stand by your conviction and your gut instinct - you'll be so glad that you did. When someone truly loves you, they'll wait.

You are you. And that is your power. You're insecure about the way you look and the person that you are. Most notably: your pale skin, your blotchy legs and your British accent. You've already endured several years of bullying for all of these things. As a result, you wish you looked like your best friend. You wish you talked more like your classmates. Please, stop. To wish you were someone else is to waste the person you are. Instead, invest all that time spent fretting, into learning about yourself, loving yourself and discovering what it is you were made for. You'll thank yourself for it later.

All in all, don't be scared to make mistakes and don't regret a thing. It's cliche but you need the pain, heartbreak and difficult lessons to become the wiser, more mature and more confident Cait. So go ahead, let yourself mess up. Learn from it and laugh at it. No one has it all together. And not to freak you out... but you won't have it all together when you're in your twenties either. And you know what? That's totally okay.

With love,

You (Aged 21) x

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