10 Tips For My 15 Year Old Self

I teach 6th-10th grade, which we all know can be the worst age ever. At that age, kids are hormonal nut jobs and it’s a wonder I can keep them all seated and somehow learning as well. Distractions are aplenty, to name a few:

Oh god, is everyone staring at my zit?
Does he like me?
Why was she such a bitch to me on ask.fm?
How do I make this boner go away?
Can I hike my skirt up any shorter without showing off my ladybits?
Why are my parents such embarrassing assholes?

When I think back to that age, I just remember feeling insecure a lot. Pressure to fit in, to be normal, to catch a cute boy’s attention or get invited to the best house party was suffocating. My students here seem overall more well-adjusted than their American counterparts, but sometimes I still want to give them advice to help them through these horrible years. Unfortunately, this isn’t really the type of stuff built into a school curriculum. If I could go back and give my 15 year old self some advice, here’s what I would honestly say.

15 years old at the Hoover Dam

1. Love your body because it’s the closest thing to home you are ever going to have. No matter how many apartments, cities, friends, jobs you may go through, your body will always be there. As you leave your teenage years behind and settle into your adult form, it might take you awhile to get used to this new version of yourself, but that’s ok. There’s no point in dwelling on body parts you wish you could change. That mole, or your bony wrists, or fleshy thighs, are just a part of what makes you so unique and beautiful, and you should appreciate how special you are! Show your body some love. Maybe in the form of bacon ice cream. 

14 years old and running around Las Vegas
in matching outfits

2. Be assertive. Girls are expected to be gracious and accommodating, and we’re more likely to ’take one for the team’ because of the pressure society puts on us to be more pleasant. This is what leads to the economic gender gap! If you think something is unfair, or you are being taken advantage of, or you just want to have your voice heard, speak up! When a man tells you to smile, it's considered rude if you don't oblige because the man’s desire to see you smile pulls more weight than whatever it was you were doing in the first place. Fuck that. You are an individual with needs and desires, not an accessory. ‘Maybe I don’t want to smile, douche nugget’ is an appropriate response. Also, ‘Sorry, I can’t take on that extra task because I really want to do a great job with the projects I’m already involved in' is perfectly acceptable.

16 years old- my first selfie?

3. Consent is key. Boys and girls, a drunken 'uuhhhuuhhh' does not mean someone is up for sex. A wary nod and a 'well, maybe?' does not mean someone is up for sex. The only thing that means sex is consensual is when both partners have explicitly said yes. There is no gray area when it comes to consent. If a short little acknowledgment that both parties want to go ahead with it is too awkward for you, you're probably too immature to be banging. Girls, you can be assertive and say no if you don't want to sleep with a guy you're already fooling around with. Feeling up your chest doesn't give him permission to penetrate you. 

17 years old and having a beach day photo shoot

4. Try not to be so self-conscious all the time. Self-doubt plagues most teenagers, and really, it's a waste of an emotion. If you walk into a trash can, mess up on a class speech, or slip down a few stairs and fall on your ass, you are the ONLY person who is going to remember it. I wish I had tried on a little confidence earlier in my teen years.

80s themed Homecoming photo

5. Sexual assault is not the victim's fault. Lawyers in suits are raped, old ladies in nightgowns are raped, journalists in war zones are raped, promiscuous chicks are raped, children are raped. Girls are never asking for it. No one is asking to be raped. It happens because of rapists who want to feel power over someone. Dress appropriately for school because it's an academic environment, but know that no matter what a girl wears, she is never 'asking for it.' I dress way more promiscuously here than in Ecuador and yet I never get aggressively hit on in Hong Kong  because the men are taught to respect woman. It's the mans choice to make a woman uncomfortable or sexually assault a woman and has nothing to do with her behavior. That being said, some dudes suck so maybe learn self-defense girls. 

14 years old and trying out public transportation for the first time

6. Be very careful with your digital dossier. Your significant other may ultimately use dirty photos of you against you if there is a bad breakup. A hacker may access your email. An employer may stumble across something you didn't want them to see. There are a million possibilities for what could happen with the content you choose to post online. If you are snapping a dirty photo of yourself to send to a significant other, you could potentially be creating and distributing child pornography depending on local laws. Be aware, and be careful. Use 2-step verification when possible. Is a post you made when you were 16 about how hammered were Saturday night really something you are going to want your future boss to see?

16 years old with the cast of Hairspray in NYC

7. Binge drinking is not cool. Is it fun to spend half the night heaving over a toilet, and to then spend the next day feeling nauseous and awful? Didn't you go out to have a fun, memorable time with friends? It's easy to plan weekends around getting wasted, but do you really want to spend a third of your life drunk or hungover?

18 years old, my senior prom photo

8. Just be nice. It's so simple. Don't be an asshole. Don't cyber bully. It might get you popular points now, but you will be ashamed of your behavior someday. As adults, we look for nice friends who are good people. If you see someone else being treated poorly, stand up for them. Why are teenagers so awful to each other? Please don't give into the temptation to be awful. Be kind. You will be valued for that trait as an adult. 

17 years old and taking Homecoming photos in front of a dumpster

9. Being an individual is ok. So what if your hobby is writing Doctor Who fan fiction or nail art or coin collecting or your favorite television show is Peewee’s Playhouse or you love gangster rap or you want to go vegan for a month or learn to play the kazoo? Be unique! As an adult, I love that I am surrounded by a bunch of passionate weirdos. My friends do burlesque and mountain climb and design apps and take cooking classes and play in bands and join ultimate frisbee leagues and create art and I love it. It’s inspiring to be surrounded by people doing exactly what they love with no shame.

14 years old and a total dance dork

10. Alas! The tragedy and woe of a 15 year old crush that goes unrequited. If your crush doesn’t know you exist, you can assure yourself that it doesn’t really matter because you are a kick-ass human with or without a partner. The all-consuming, heart-breaking, stomach-wrenching, butterfly-inducing crushes at that age can be alleviated by a marathon of Sex and the City with some girlfriends, a tub of ice cream, and some fluffy blankets to house a cuddle puddle with your besties.

...Oh, and for the love of God, use a condom. 


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