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Dear teen me…

Here’s what I wish someone would have told me before I hit the teenage years.

Dear Teen Me,

    • Don’t get upset when your peers call you “weird.” Take it as a compliment. Those same people will be envying your interesting life later on.
    • Don’t rush to get a part-time job just because your friends have one. You will have to work your entire adult life, and you already get an allowance. What do you need the extra money for? Take a couple summers off and really enjoy them, since those are probably the last commitment-free summers you will have. And you will miss them later on, believe me.
    • Take a year off after high school and travel. Don’t worry so much about getting a job–the work will come. Instead, travel the world. If you can’t find likeminded friends to go with you, there are lots of great tour groups that will introduce you to amazing new people. You won’t regret it.
    • Don’t date a guy because you’re afraid of what he’ll think of you–or what his friends will think of you–if you say no.
    • Don’t date a guy because your friends tell you to.
    • Don’t listen to people who say cruel things. The things they say are about them and their own issues, not you.
    • Don’t use your wit or humour to make fun of other people.
    • When you’re in Grade 11 or 12, a teacher will talk you out of pursuing psychology and urge you towards journalism. Don’t listen–take a few courses and discover for yourself if forensic psychology is what you’d really like to do. Otherwise, you’ll always wonder.
    • Adults don’t have all the answers, even though they sometimes act like they do.
    • If a boy gets angry when you want to spend time with your friends on your own, that isn’t love–it’s obsession.
    • If a boy tries to push you into doing something you’re not ready for, he doesn’t deserve to be in your life.
    • Don’t hate your body or your face. I know it’s difficult, but someday you are going to look back and realize how beautiful you were, and regret you wasted so much time hating yourself.
    • Spend your money on experiences (TRAVEL) instead of stuff. Anything you buy now you won’t want in two years. Trust me.
    • Don’t stop driving when you get to college, even if it’s awkward or difficult to keep your car. It’s your ticket to freedom and independence.
    • Not everyone is going to like you, and that’s okay. Don’t stress over the reasons why or worry about being nice to everyone–some people don’t deserve it.
    • This too shall pass.
    • Submit your writing to someone–anyone. There are lots of magazines out there. Start sending your work into the world, and keep sending it. If you truly want to be a writer, don’t keep your stories to yourself–share them. Enter more contests.
    • Talk your parents into hiring a professional photographer for your grad photos. You’ll thank me later.
    • Never listen to people who tell you that you can’t. You can–and will–do anything you set your mind to.
    • Enjoy your teenage years. Yes, they’re tough–some of the toughest years you’ll ever have to face–but you have incredible friends, and you’ll miss them later. Appreciate them now, and don’t regret a second you spend with them.

Teenage me

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52 Comments

  1. Beautiful post, with some excellent advice.

    A lot of it features things I would also say if I had written to teen me. 😀

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Misha. I hoped most of it would apply to others as well, not just me. Otherwise it *is* a narcissistic exercise! 🙂

      Reply
  2. Delicious and lovely. Alas, the whole “take a year off after college graduation” tends to get a boot put into it when you realize that you have to start paying back those college loans, and you’re already skint. That’s a sadness for me, and I imagine others.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Randee, but I meant high school graduation – before you even start college. I’ll clarify that. Once you’ve graduated from college, finding a job is already a huge priority for most.

      Reply
  3. I wish I could have read this 30 years ago. I will be showing this to my three kids, I hope they will take something from these tips.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Kim! I really hope it helps.

      I wish I’d known those things back then too.

      Reply
  4. I do hope you got to do the traveling.
    Nothing wrong with unusual interests. Let people know. My wife is almost as geeky as I am and I often wonder where all those geek girls were in high school, because they were hiding there somewhere!

    Reply
    • JH

      Hey Alex,

      I’m still catching up with the traveling. I’ll always regret I didn’t do more in my youth.

      I wasn’t considered a geek, but I made people laugh with funny voices, etc. I was an excellent mimic, but the same people who laughed would then look at me and say, “You’re weird.” It was devastating, especially since they were my “friends!”

      Reply
  5. That is really well done.
    I wish I had done some of this too.

    Heather

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Heather. I hoped it would apply to others as well – not just me!

      Reply
  6. Love the part about not having to be nice to everyone. I think a lot of girls are raised to be “nice” which can backfire later on in the real world.

    I also love the part about not listening to people tell you that you can’t do something. I had people tell me I could do stuff when I was younger but as I got older, they started telling me I couldn’t, it wasn’t practical, etc. Felt like a slap in the face.

    Reply
    • JH

      So true, Madeline. I was also taught not to be proud of my accomplishments, because that was bragging. Still trying to get over that one – you won’t believe how many times I’ve had someone say, “I didn’t know you had a book out! Why didn’t you tell anyone?”

      I hope you’ve gone on to do everything people told you wasn’t possible.

      Reply
  7. Love the advice about taking a year off after high school. I still wish I’d done that.

    Reply
    • JH

      Me too! That’s a year of freedom we can never get back.

      Reply
  8. What a great letter. I wish I had access to this kind of advice as a teenager. That time of my life was very traumatic and as a result I’m figuring this stuff out in my 40’s.
    I’ve got a tween daughter who will have the benefit of this advice. I am going to keep this link in a file for her for future use.

    I’m actually going to give myself a giant kick in the ass and do this one thing.
    “Submit your writing to someone–anyone. There are lots of magazines out there. Start sending your work into the world, and keep sending it. If you truly want to be a writer, don’t keep your stories to yourself–share them. Enter more contests.”

    Reply
    • JH

      Oh, I’m glad you found it useful, Kellie, and I’m sorry your teen years were so traumatic. It would be nice if we all had loving aunts to tell us this stuff…assuming we’d listen, but I really think I would have. I was desperate for love and affection back then, and clung to adults who paid any attention to me.

      Good luck with the submitting! Let me know if you need an accountability buddy. My goal is to submit my work 100 times again this year.

      Reply
  9. This is lovely! I have written two letter to myself – one to my Grade School Self and another to my High School Self. They are along the same lines as this. I wish I could go back in time and read them, and listen…. Thanks!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Lisa. That’s a cool idea, although I think my advice would be about the same for both ages. Maybe I would have thrown in, “Don’t worry about that teacher who doesn’t like you–she’s a troll,” for grade school, but I think I realized that even then. 😉

      Reply
  10. Oh, excellent. You could have written some of them to my teenage self, too.

    Reply
    • JH

      That’s awesome, Mary. I’d hoped it would apply to lots of people, not just me (except for the psychology one, but the overall point is don’t listen to other people telling you which career to choose).

      Reply
  11. Great letter! My motto has always been “If you aren’t weird, you’re boring.” Embrace your weirdness. 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Kelly, and thanks for kicking this thing off! I thought it was Stephanie’s hop at first, so I apologize for that. 🙂

      Reply
  12. I love Dear Teen Me. I think everyone should have a chance to revisit those years and understand just how growing up and older has its benefits. I wrote one for them a few years ago. I should go see what I said. Maybe we should have a Dear Middle Aged Me one, too.

    Yours is a great teen letter. Of course, I totally agree with the one about spending money on travel.

    Reply
    • JH

      Ooh, that’s a good idea. Or a “Dear Approaching Your Thirties Me” that begins with, “It’s not the end of the world.”

      Did you do a lot of traveling in your teens and early twenties?

      Reply
  13. Very interesting list, I might take a crack at this one myself.

    I don’t find it to be an exercise in narcissism, though that wouldn’t stop me. Rather, I find it a hopeful exercise, one in which those of us who have been there really do hope some kid out there might listen and avoid pitfalls we stumbled, or gleefully sprinted, into.

    Reply
    • JH

      I’d love to see your version, Frank! Consider this a challenge now.

      I honestly do hope a kid in need comes across this post. A few people have said they’re going to read it to their kids, and that makes me so happy!

      Reply
  14. Heh, I enjoy a good dose of narcissism myself. 🙂

    Sounds like you and your teen self had an interesting time of things, some rough, some good. I like how you would tell your teen self that you are beautiful. You are.

    I don’t know what I’d tell my teen self. Maybe to save a digital copy of the first draft of Thanmir War. I would love to see how horrible that very first draft was.

    Reply
    • JH

      Welcome, Loni!

      Thanks for the kind words, and for visiting. I think all teenagers are beautiful–that’s the gift of youth and glowing skin.

      I hope you kept some of your writing from back then. It’s fun to look back.

      Reply
  15. I especially agree with your first three Dear Teen Me. My parents didn’t allow me to work while I was in school and I am grateful for that.
    I didn’t take a year off but took a month off to travel Europe after graduation. Best thing I ever did.

    Reply
    • JH

      Welcome back, Tami! Your parents were very wise. Did you agree with them at the time, or did you really want to work, like I did?

      I envy your European vacation. I so wish I’d done the same. I’m still making up for it.

      Reply
  16. Aww you’re so sweet! Great job with your list, too. I can relate to so many of those. I did have SO much fun at my part-time job, though. I worked at a movie theater and I got a lot of my friends jobs there, too. It reminds me of that episode of The Wonder Years where Kevin had the idea that he wasn’t going to work and enjoy his summer…only to learn all of his friends had jobs, so he’d be alone all summer. That’s probably how it would have gone for me. My friends who didn’t get jobs ended up partying all the time or getting pregnant, which is why my friends changed around junior year–they were spending their weekends smoking marijuana and getting drunk and I was at the movie theater, scooping popcorn and ogling hot ushers!

    Reply
    • JH

      Good point, Stephanie. I loved some of my jobs, and had fun at them–I worked at a movie theatre too, but not until I was nineteen. My fave was museum tour guide.

      But I worked so hard. Sometimes three different part-time jobs at once. I could do with a few summers of reading and writing, friends be damned! 🙂

      Reply
  17. Half of your list applied to me as well! All the boy advice was right on!!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Diane. A male friend pointed out that recommendations from friends regarding dates are usually sound, but I was referring to the teenage, “You have to date this guy even though you don’t like him because if not you’re leading him on” variety.

      Such bad advice!

      Reply
  18. Yes! Being weird is a compliment! Gosh, I wish I had this letter to read when I was a teen. You know what? Every teen girl needs to read this!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much! I could never understand why my friends would laugh at my impressions and then immediately call me weird. “Why are they making fun of me when they’re my friends?”

      The first person who called me that as an adult almost lost his head!

      Reply
  19. There’s a few points on there I’d like to tell my teen self as well.

    Reply
    • JH

      Go for it, Patricia! I won’t mind.

      I enjoyed your post too.

      Reply
  20. Your pic is lovely! How could anyone think you weren’t adorable? I sure identify with the part about boys. That’s the thing I regret most about my past – how important I thought guys were and what I was willing to put up with. But it’s hard to go against hormone-powered delusions and a culture that jams romance down people’s throats. Thanks for sharing a bit of your childhood with us. 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re very welcome, Lexa. Thanks for the kind comments! I hated the way I looked until I was in my mid-to-late twenties, when I made peace with it. I’m still not a fan, but I try my best to focus on other things–or at least stuff I can control.

      Sorry to hear you have regrets too!

      Reply
  21. Great post – and excellent advice. I found myself nodding in agreement all the way through

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Catherine! Glad you liked it.

      Reply
  22. So much great advice and how true how little we think of ourselves especially at that time. I was geeky and freaky. I loved old movies, classical music, read so there was a bull’s eye on my chest. I always liked weird people and consider it a complement now. That was also a nice tribute to Stephanie:)

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Birgit. I never would have guessed you liked old movies! 😉

      Reply
  23. Oh those tough teenage years. The fact that you have so much good advice is testament to the fact that you came out all the better for your experience. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Fran. A bit battered but hopefully better.

      Reply
  24. Beautifully written and such great advice. I think the most important (and most difficult) lesson of all is to live without regret. Looking back serves no purpose, and the choices we make, regardless of the outcome, define who we are.

    Change is scary for most of us. Adults tend to go out of their way to avoid it. But for teens, change is inescapable. I’m not sure why we grow up and forget how difficult that can be.

    Reply
    • JH

      Well, when I move to an island in the tropics next year, I’ll be immersed in change. 🙂 Standing still has always scared me a lot more than moving forward.

      Reply
  25. Love this. Especially being OK with not everyone liking you. That was something I really struggled with–it really, truly hurt when someone didn’t like me. Now I’m OK with it for the most part, and boy is life better because of it. Life is hard enough without hauling that self-inflicted baggage around. 😉

    Reply
    • JH

      I’m glad you worked through that, Sara. It’s definitely their loss, not yours. If they don’t like you, I’d wonder about THEM.

      Reply
  26. Love the picture, younger you:)

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Scott! 🙂

      Reply

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