Dear Teen Me, the tiny little paths set abundantly before you
Because today we are talking about Jenny Torres Sanchez and her involvement in the Dear Teen Me project, Stephanie Wilkes and I decided to try our hand at our own “Dear Teen Me” letters. Be sure to check out the Dear Teen Me project at their website and check out the anthology coming to your library in Fall 2012. As a fun writing assignment, flip the premise and have your teens write a “Dear Adult Me” letter. Make sure they save them until they are adults, it would be interesting to see what they think about them later. (Dear Teen Me published by Zest Books October 30, 2012)
Dear Teen Me,
|Karen as a Freshman|
Congratulations, I have great news! You will not always have to wear braces, they really will come off. And that back brace you are wearing for Scoliosis, it too will magically disappear one day. And there will be much rejoicing (and much Monty Python watching). Some things, however, will not change; you will still like to pretend you are a writer and will fill notebooks with cheesy, angsty poetry, you are still an annoyingly picky eater (your life motto: “if it lives in the sea, it ain’t for me” – that was time well spent coming up with that one I tell ya), and you are still a huge reader. Keep reading because that last part will become very important.
I do have one shocking bit of news. Are you sitting down? You will have children. 2 girls. I know, nobody was more surprised than me to tell you the truth. The journey to these two little girls will be more heartbreaking than you can ever imagine, but they will turn out to be completely worth it. Most of the time. Your oldest daughter will turn out to be just like you in every way and your heart will break for her because you will know how hard it is to be so timid and shy and insecure. Your second daughter, well, I’m pretty sure you should get prepared for a lot of calls to the principals office because she is the exact opposite of you and knows who she is and what she wants and is not afraid to ask it. Believe it or not, you will grow confident and a lot like her. So stop comparing yourself to the people around you, you need to stop worrying about them and let yourself be you.
So take a moment and go right now and look up the word advocate in that dictionary you asked for for Christmas. This will become very important to you because that is what you will be – an advocate. Technically you will become a librarian. But the truth is, you will be an advocate for teens, for reading, for HG awareness, and for food allergies. In your new found boldness you will stand up and shout because you will believe in these things and when you believe strongly in things, there is no room to be timid. In fact, you will feel so blessed and at peace with who you become as a librarian that you will finally – to be totally cliche’ about the whole thing – find yourself. Not that you still won’t stumble; you’ll just find it easier to put the pieces back together when you break. Because even in the adult world, there is brokenness. So remember that when you look at the adults around you – they are sometimes struggling too.
Oh wait, I’m not done with the shocking news. It turns out, sometimes adults are right. The adult me is just as surprised as the teen me. In fact, you do kind of turn into your mother and you even say things like, “Do you think money grows on trees?” and “Do you want a time out?” But you also become strong and confident. Although you never do learn how to keep your mouth shut, which works out well for that whole advocate thing. Mostly.
I know this next part won’t make a lot of sense, but in many ways you have more freedom as a teen than you will as an adult. I know right now you are thinking you just can’t wait to grow and be able to make your own decisions. I wish you knew how much freedom you actually have right now in this moment. Here you are hanging out at the mall with Beth and Kim and thinking you are so bored and you don’t realize how freeing it is to walk out the front door, pick up your best friend and walk to the mall to buy pizza and music and engage in hugely important debates such as who is the cuter Taylor in Duran Duran (always John by the way). There is a certain freedom in your teen years because right this moment, you have your whole life in front of you. Before you lay a million tiny little paths and you can choose to step onto any one of them. So make good decisions, but make sure you have fun along the way.
|Karen as a Senior|
Remember that each path you choose, you can get off of it and on to a new path if it turns out you made the wrong decision. For the record, deciding to join the chess club because of that conceited guy, bad decision and huge waste of time. Also, you will never be very good at chess and you don’t even really like it that much. Also, that other guy, he is TOTALLY CHEATING ON YOU and – this is the important part – it has nothing to do with you. He really is just a jerk. Sometimes you have to cut your losses and move on. Like I said, there is another path waiting for you.
If you don’t see a new path before you, grab a stick off a tree and scribble a new path into the dirt. Don’t let the world try to determine your path for you; your life’s journey is yours and yours alone to take. If you find yourself in the company of someone who wants to stand in your way, step around them not on them. We must all walk in this world together, so although your journey is yours alone, respect the journey of those around you. You slowly get better at this as you get older.
I know right this moment, you feel so scared and alone. Let me tell you, there are some amazing people in this world and they will take the journey with you. You will be blessed more than you can ever imagine. Don’t get me wrong, people will still shatter you. But not all of them. There will still be those moments when you lay in bed, alone, with tears streaming down your face but you will also learn that it is okay to ask for help, to reach out, to be open. The key to being loved is to love deeply and freely and with total reckless abandon. You will learn your junior year of high school about the importance of telling people you love them when your best friend Teri dies, and you will never forget it. Don’t forget to love.
Loving and advocating with reckless abandon,
the adult Karen
P.S. Seriously girl, that hair was a HUGE mistake. And I mean huge literally LOL.
Right after Karen finished reading Deenie by Judy Blume in middle school, she was diagnosed with scoliosis and was forced to wear a fiberglass corset for 4 years to straighten her spine. The first time she had to wear it in public she vomited. That same year she got braces one morning; at lunch that day she told a girl to mind her own business and promptly got punched in the mouth which is how she ended up at the orthodontist twice in one day. I was rockin’ the head gear like no one’s business as I danced at my first middle school dance to Careless Whisper by Wham. I still stop every time that song comes on the radio and thank God that I never have to be a teenager again. Be sure to stop by the Dear Teen Me website and share this awesome project with your teens.
Filed under: Dear Teen Me
About Karen Jensen, MLS
Karen Jensen has been a Teen Services Librarian for almost 30 years. She created TLT in 2011 and is the co-editor of The Whole Library Handbook: Teen Services with Heather Booth (ALA Editions, 2014).
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