What I Would Tell My Teenage Self

I recently enjoyed the entire first and only season of "Freaks and Geeks" on Netflix, which stars many a now popular actor, like James Franco, Seth Rogen, that dude that plays Marshall on "How I Met Your Mother", the dude that plays Sweets on "Bones" ... you know, famous people.

Anyway, apparently this show came out in 1999, which is the year I graduated high school and started my first year of college, but I had no idea this show existed. It's a Judd Apatow production, which initially threw me off because he is the king of writing/producing/directing adult I-don't-want-to-grow-up-let's-get-high-and-make-gross-jokes movies. But I think this was one of the first things he really did, and I have to say, I loved this show.

It's about a group of 'Freaks' aka burn outs or slacker kids in high school in 1980 and a group of 'Geek' kids. It documents all of the usual high school drama that most of us go through in some relation or another.One of the main characters, Lindsey, is a smart girl who used to be on the Mathletes, who decides to go over the the 'dark side', as she rebels and becomes friends with the 'Freaks'. I identified most with this character.

This show had me laughing out loud many, many times. I can say that I probably related to both groups. I was a weird mix of both Geek and Freak in high school. I usually played on one of the first stands in orchestra (violin), I sang in choir, I acted in the plays and musicals, I took AP English ... yeah, sounds pretty dorky. But, when I hit my sophmore year, which was 1995/1996, the height of grunge, I found myself being attracted to the grunge group. Hey, it was the 90s after all.

While watching this show, it really made me think about how my high school years were and what they could have been. While the group I hung out with during my Sophmore year were still very, very good kids (nobody smoke or drank or did drugs ... as far as I know or at least they didn't that year), I found myself searching for my own identity. In this process, as a lot of kids do, I lost myself for a while.

I had a good friend who fit into the grunge group of people, who included me in, who had a good male friend, who ended up becoming my boyfriend for about a year and half, things did not end well, blah, blah, blah.

I was inspired to read through my sophmore/junior year of high school journal this past week after watching this show so much, and laughed so hard, at a lot of things. And then I also felt bad for my naive, confused, insecure teenage girl self. I still participated in all of the things I enjoyed doing, but like a lot of kids, I became extremely engrossed with the person I was dating and my group of friends.

If my present day self could go back in time and talk to my 16/17 year old self, I would say a lot of things. I already know my high school self would probably look down on me for being a stay at home mom instead of working, since I swore I would NEVER, ever, be a stay at home mom. Funny how your priorities change as you get older.

The main thing I would tell myself is to Please, for the love of your self esteem and social life, please date A LOT!
I actually never wanted to have a boyfriend in high school. I didn't even care that I could date when I turned 16. But, it all just kind of happened. I fell in love with a boy I had been friendly with in classes over the past two years, somebody I though was hilarious and felt very comfortable with. Looking back on it now, I never should have seriously dated this person. I'm not saying anything bad whatsoever about this person. Reading my journal brought back a lot of memories of how funny, quirky, sweet and kind a person he was and I hope still is. But having your entire identity and self esteem wrapped up in another person is just not healthy. In some ways, I don't regret dating him, because I did end up learning a lot about myself and even relationships, but in most ways, for honestly a good three years, it really messed me up.

I won't go into a lot of detail, but my junior year of high school was awful, with A LOT of drama. I had suicidal friends, who I loved dearly, but drained the crap out of me in every way possible, so I then relied heavily on the kid I was dating and I then in turned drained everything out of him, poor kid. By the end of that school year, we were all a mess and all four of us ended up taking a break from each other that summer. I ended up going separate ways from one of my friends, got back together with another friend and we are still friends to this day, and my boyfriend and I actually broke up about a month before my senior year started, which was awful, because we registered for all of our senior year classes at the end of junior year, so I had a lot of classes with him my entire year, which was pretty much hell for me.

To say that my heart was broken was a vast understatement. This is why as an adult, when teenagers cry and tell me their hearts are broken, I do not discount it. Just because you are young does not mean you are incapable of loving another person with everything that you are and have. You may be naive and immature, but you are still capable of love.

My senior year was then one of ups and downs, because I could not put my feelings for this person behind me. I hated myself for it and thought I was pathetic, but I couldn't help it. It tore me apart to have to be around this person every single day, several times a day.

Fortunately though, and I know this was a very real blessing from God, I became friends with another group of kids that I had a lot in common with. They were artistic, sarcastic and cynical (in a good and fun way), musical, smart, funny, loyal, classy, and over all, kind and good people. These kids saved me my senior year. It's thanks to them that I ended up having a good senior year at all, and an even better first two years of college. Most of these kids were a year younger than me, so I was able to hang out with them for about three years (we all went to BYU-Idaho together as well) before we all went our separate ways.

It was nice to be with kids that supported who I was, no matter what that was, that didn't make fun of or question my interests or points of view, that were spiritual and religious and not afraid to be so, that were positive and fun. These kids really did save me and brought me back to myself.

I would tell myself to please date more people!! I think about all of the cool, nice people I probably never got the chance to know better. I did end up dating a lot more during my senior year, when I was not dating said person anymore, and even ended up going on dates with local guys during my first year of college that I never got to know during high school. It was fun getting to know other people and it was good for me to 'play the field'.

I see the importance now, as an adult, why my church leaders (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) advise youth to not date seriously until they are 18 or older. While I stated that I do believe teenagers are capable of real love, they are not however capable of adult, rational thought. It is a scientific proven fact that the part of your brain that is capable of logical decisions is not fully formed until your mid-20s!

There can be a lot of pressure for kids to have a boyfriend or girlfriend, or they just want to know what it is like to be in a serious relationship. Dating sets the course for your future relationships. It's like walking into a store and being allowed to try on everything inside before you decide what you really want to take home. It also helps with your social development with all human beings in general.

Looking back on my youth, there were so many, many good times and memories that I wouldn't trade for anything. But there are a lot of dark times I would instantly erase if I could. When I was teaching, I told my students (high school student teaching and real teaching junior high) that nobody could ever pay me to go back to my teenage years. But, I would go back now, only if I could change some things. But I guess that is what life is all about. You only get one chance at every present moment and phase and era in your life to live and have the kind of life that you really want.


Shell said…
I want to watch this show! As soon as I'm done binging on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

If I could tell my teenage self anything, it would be to have more confidence.

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