As teens, most of us get our fair share of unsolicited advice from well meaning but slightly out of touch adults. And when we do, most of us roll our eyes and curse under our breath because it’s just really hard to listen to advice from someone who seems so far removed from your experience, who you can’t ever imagine being young, and whose BS you don’t want to listen to because you fear it might make you turn out like one of them.
Which is why the first time I came across the Dear Teen Me website, I thought now that is a cool idea! Because Dear Teen Me is different. This is adult us talking to teen us with intimate knowledge of exactly what we went through. This person isn’t removed from our teen experience because he/ she lived through it. This person acknowledges the pain and hardship of being a teen and is honest about it. So when a teen identifies with a particular post, there’s a sense of trust and not being talked down to.
When I signed on to do a post for Dear Teen Me, I knew there was no way teen me could ever benefit from this particular letter but I thought long and hard about what I would say. And here’s why: 1. I was incredibly intrigued by what I would say to teen me if she could some way somehow ever read this letter and 2. Many of us have these things we carry with us from our teen years that we probably think we’ve left behind but maybe we haven’t. In writing a letter to your teen self, there’s this chance to find peace you didn’t even know you needed.
So I took this letter pretty seriously. And while I really hope some teen relates to it in some way, I wrote what I think teen me needed to hear.
And that’s the really cool part of this project, in my opinion. It’s just this real, often very raw way of expressing the experiences we went through as teens and consequently letting today’s teens out there know hey, you’re not alone. It’s lots of people writing lots of letters. And no one letter is going to speak to every teen out there, but each letter will probably speak to at least one teen, one teen out there living the same thing we stumbled and tripped over back then. And it might make things more bearable somehow.
But best of all, I think these letters offer hope (and God, how I love the idea of hope because sometimes it’s the only thing that makes us trudge on through the monotony of every day). Because while most of us know we’ll survive the drama of high school, sometimes when you’re in the muck of it, it’s hard to see beyond it all, you know? It’s hard to see anywhere but here and you start to wonder. You wonder if you’ll ever escape it. You wonder if you’ll survive suffering through more of the same. You wonder if things get better.
I think these letters show us, in a very authentic way, that they do.
Before writing her debut novel, The Downside of Being Charlie, Jenny Torres Sanchez studied English at the University of Central Florida and taught high school for several years in the Orange County school system. Her students were some of the coolest, funniest, strangest, and most eclectic people she’s ever met. She’s grateful to have taught every single one of them and credits them for inspiring her to write YA. Jenny also writes short stories—many of which rooted in her Hispanic culture. She currently writes full-time and lives in Florida with her husband and children. You can visit her website at http://jennytorressanchez.com/ and find her on Twitter @jetchez.