Dear Teen Me: The Best Advice We’ve Ever Heard

dear teen me young adult anthologyDear Teen Me,

Greetings from the future! So I know you’re super busy with studying, college apps, tennis practice, memorizing your lines for Peter Pan, backing your new car into a tree, trying (and failing) to tame that totally frizz-tastic hair of yours, and watching Titanic for the eightieth time–but I have to ask you for a small favor. (Hint: The favor involves backing away from the “I <3 Leonardo DiCaprio” chat room for just a quick second.)

So being that I am you–except ten or twelve years from now–I wanted to pop in with a few pointers on how to make the next phase of life a little less painful and a little more fun. I’m not going to give you ALL the answers, since (a) that would be cheating and (b) I’m still searching for most of them myself, but there are a few specific words of wisdom I’d love to share.

1. Never, ever try cutting your own bangs. So there’s this movie called 500 Days of Summer that will come out in 2009 and make you/every girl in the universe want bangs more than anything. But trust me, just because bangs look amazing on Zooey Deschanel does NOT mean they will look good on you. When you make that fateful snip, you’ll discover the horrible truth: You have not one, but TWO cowlicks on either side of your forehead! No amount of product will save you, Teen Jess. And you will spend years waiting for that shit to grow out. So do us both a favor and back away from the scissors! You’ve been warned.

2. Shake it like a Polaroid picture. Take advantage of your teenage hotness! Dance it up! Sing it up! Live it up! Flaunt that bikini and buy that hot pink minkskirt you’ve been eyeing at T.J. Maxx. It all looks amazing on you, so show off that gravity-free bod while you can! In a few years when you’re slaving/daydreaming in an office cubicle, you’ll wish you had.

3. Sha-la-la-la-la-la, don’t be shy, go on and kiss that guy! (Like in The Little Mermaid, but reversed!) Don’t be scared of guys, Teen Jess. You may have spent years at an all-girls’ school, but I’m here to report boys aren’t all that different from your average household pest (hungry, hairy, and helpless)! And trust me, they’re JUST as scared of you as you are of them.

4. Party like it’s 1999. When you move to New York, a wise person will tell you: RSVP yes to EVERYTHING. So true! Unless you’re literally dying of malaria , never skip out on a party–even one you think will be lame. Why? Because you never know who you’re going to meet! I won’t spoil the surprise, but believe me, one of those parties will change your life more than you could possibly imagine . . . in a good way!

5. Stop obsessing. It’s totally normal to worry about what other people think of you. But I swear, the only people whose opinions truly matter are your best friends and family. Forget about the rest! In a few years, high school will feel like forever ago. The world is enormous, and you’ve got lots of awesome adventures ahead of you. Sure, you’ll make some mistakes along the way. (Thank goodness, because otherwise life would get pretty boring!) So in those stressful moments, just take a deep breath, chillax, and do your best to ENJOY THE RIDE. You’ll be glad you did. 🙂

-Jess Rothenberg

This post is excerpted from the anthology Dear Teen Me! Check out more letters from authors to their teen selves at

What advice would you give your younger self? Let us know in the comments!

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Next check out 21 Things To Do Before You Turn 21!

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  • CathyL

    Finish what you start!!! Damnit! You would have no idea how talented you could have been if you weren’t shy! And don’t drown yourself in classes! College isn’t a race! Practice socializing at an early age, too.

  • Laura Bee

    *Don’t think your brother will never be back
    *You will meet some pretty darned good lookin’ boys, but just wait the one you like more than the world will come around the corner soon!
    *Take your risks, but don’t be stupid
    *For your first time drinking, don’t listen to Katie and eat potted viennas cause they WILL NOT stay down.
    *Have fun with your life!

  • Leila

    It’s okay to be an introvert.
    It’s okay to want to be the star. Don’t hold back just because someone else wants the role.
    Take singing lessons earlier than you did!

    …so, um, yeah. I’m over that. Totally.

  • Ann

    My advice to my teen self is: Take more risks. Don’t be afraid to try something new, even if it’s a little scary. Trust your gut, but also push yourself and expand your horizons.

  • Nicole

    1 – Dump the jerk now. He’ll only cause you to hate yourself.
    2 – Learn to love exercise and eating healthy because eating disorders SUCK.
    3 – Hang out with your friends as much as possible. The jerk will cause you to lose them.
    4 – College really IS so much nicer. Just keep trucking on.

  • Jasmine

    Don’t start Drama : it never leads to anything good

    Don’t try to fit in just be yourself

    You really dont need friends in high school and High school really isnt that cool

    • baby

      lol why dont you need friends?