High school drains you. It’s five years of panic attacks, crying in the bathroom, and walking outside at lunchtime because the cafeteria makes your heart beat too fast. It’s headaches and throwing up. You will learn more about death than you will about The Cold War. You will learn what it’s like to get drunk and laugh at the stars and how to write poetry that you would never show your English teacher but it’s okay because it makes the world hurt less. You will read books that make you believe in love but then you will fall in love with all the wrong things. Your mother and your sister will become your best friends because you’ll need someone to help you with your math homework and teach you how to handle the stress and wipe your tears.
The girl who has been your best friend for 9 years will stop speaking to you. One night you will argue and you’ll just get so fed up that you both say things you shouldn’t. She will want you to apologise even though you know what you said was the truth. Don’t let her walk all over you again. You will get so tired of her saying she’s sick and then cancelling on you but then updating her snapchat story with pictures of empty bottles, blurry eyes, and the pretty girls who don’t even know you exist. Try to forgive her. She’s going through all the same black and blue filled nights as you. Everyone is just trying to survive so don’t be too hard on anyone. Especially yourself.
The first boy to make you believe in love will break you. He will whisper your name but shout someone else’s at the top of his lungs. He will shower you with love and convince you you’re special before running off and telling his friends all about the pretty girl in his science class. Delete his conversations and block his number. Your pillow will soak up your tears better than any shoulder could and you’ll argue with your Dad a lot more. You’ll throw up shattered pieces of your hearts for weeks and you’ll burn alive when you see him in the corridors. You won’t always feel like your spine is cracked and a few months later he’ll be nothing more than words on a page. Let it hurt for a while but don’t let it kill you. Never let it kill you.
Your teachers will ask the class questions that you know that answer to, but you’ll sit on your shaking hands and bite your lip until all you can taste is that weird metallic flavour. Don’t do that. Nothing bad will happen if you speak out. When your English teachers asks for the meaning of the word ‘perverse’, don’t stare at that ground so she won’t ask you. Raise your hand and state the answer confidently and clearly, don’t mumble it through trembling lips. You’re smarter than you think and no one is even looking at you.
Go out. Go into town and waste your day sitting on hard plastic chairs in crowded fast food places. Take shots that taste like nail polish remover and joke around with the boy in the year below. Meet up with that person, go to that stupid party. Don’t just sit there waiting for something to happen. Make things happen. Things are constantly moving forward. Don’t let your friends make memories that they’ll look back on and wonder where you were. People will be falling in love and putting themselves back together. They will be laughing, crying, creating stories that they’ll tell forever. Be apart of it.
Ask for help. You do not have to sit there and let yourself rot. When you don’t know how to find x, ask the teacher. When your heart falls out of your chest and shatters at your feet, ask your best friend to come over and watch reality shows with you until you both fall asleep. When you can’t get the words to flow like you want them to, ask her to fix it. You are not alone so don’t you dare act like it. No more breakdowns at 2am or hiding in your bedroom and screaming into your pillow. Your sister is awake, crawl into bed with her. Your friends are only a message away, they’re there for you. Take advantage of those around you.
Everything ends. High school is not forever and in 7 years you’ll be whole again. You won’t remember the name of the boy who made you cry or the girl who fucked you over. You won’t remember the teacher who made your cheeks burn or the time you fell over in front of everybody. You won’t remember the self loathing that all those late night essays conjured up or how it feels to want death more than a good nights sleep. The desire to go back to sleep as soon as you wake up will no longer subsist in your chest. Try to remember the times that you laughed until you cried and the people who put you back together. Remember those who bled with you rather than the ones who made you bleed. The bad things won’t matter later on, but the good times will get you through the rest of your life. Pay attention to them.
When your sister moves in with her boyfriend you will feel more alone than ever; the winter will be so cold without your security blanket. Don’t worry. She is only a ten minute bus ride away. Her front door will always be open for you, just like her bedroom door was all those years. When you move into her old bedroom, don’t throw out all the things she left behind – this is still her home just as much as it is yours. Whenever you’re tidying your room and you come across one of her old books you’ll find yourself remembering the summer when you made up all those dance routines to S Club 7 and the Spice Girls. She has not left you, if anything this will bring you closer. Be happy for her. She is starting a new chapter in her life that will be filled with adventure and excitement. She will still need you just as much as you need her, remember that every great protagonist needs a trusty side-kick.
Take lots of pictures. Your camera is your best friend, don’t leave the house without it. Focus on people and the sky. Pictures of trees and beaches are overrated – anyone can look at them. People are one of a kind. Capture the old man sitting on the bench as he looks out to sea and take a picture of the couple walking through the park. These moments hold stories that are unlike any other and worth cherishing forever. Don’t miss out on them. Photograph the sky whenever you get the opportunity as it will never look like that again so do not miss the chance to cement its beauty. Remember that everyone’s sky is different and taking pictures means that you can compare them everyday. Secure life’s pulchritude.
Your grandparents are your best friends. Hold your granddad’s hand when he’s ill and always laugh at his jokes and ridiculous stories, no matter how many times you’ve heard them. Reply to your nana’s texts and don’t shut her out when she starts complaining about something. She gets lonely sometimes too and needs somebody just as much as you do. Know that your grandma hates how little she sees you and that she wishes she could spend every day with you. It isn’t her fault so don’t resent her for it, it just means you have to appreciate the time you have together a little more. All of them offer real stories of what life was like much before your time, so make sure you embrace these tales as one day you will not have the privilege of hearing them first hand. Use your phone to record every story they tell, write down their jokes. I promise that you won’t regret it. They played a major role in who you are. Visit them as often as possible because in the future you will regret not spending so much time with them. Show them how much you love them.
Make friends with your teachers. A good bond with you favourite teachers will not only improve your knowledge, but also make you enjoy school a little more. Laugh with them, talk to them, respect them. If you show that you are trying your best and actually value what they do then they will respect you just as much. You will feel the pressure beginning to lift. When you don’t see eye to eye with one of them, try and look at it from their point of view. Why should they help you if you do not put the effort in? Don’t be the arsehole who pretends not to care about anything and then blames the teacher when they fail. Remember that all teachers have been in your position and understand more than you think they do. If you let them, they will help you survive. Becoming friends with the teacher of your favourite subject will help you be even better. Being friends with the teacher of your least favourite subject will help you go from an E to a B. Mutual respect will create less stress for both of you.
Lose yourself in music. Listen to songs that make you cry and songs that make you smile. Dance in your room with your best friend with pop songs from 2010 at full volume. Keep discovering new music. Listen to something you usually wouldn’t, you’ll probably end up loving it. When you can’t sleep at 4am because your thoughts are too loud, drown them out with your favourite band. Have a song for every emotion. Nothing beats a bad day like screaming the lyrics to an angry rock song. Music is the only permanent thing in your life, it will give you escape that you need sometimes. Go to concerts as often as possible. You will never feel more alive than when you’re standing in a room pressed up against strangers who understand you more than you understand yourself. When your body moves in harmony with everyone else and you feel the music making your bones vibrate, you will forget every single negative thought in your mind. Music is the most important thing.
Do not waste your time waiting for something to happen. If you do, you’re letting other people control your fate. Your life is the only thing that belongs to you, so don’t you fucking dare let anyone else try and take over. Time is not going to wait for you. Get a move on. Be spontaneous. Do something without thinking about it and if it ends badly then learn from your mistakes. Move on. Most of the time it is the things we don’t plan that end up being the most beneficial. When you wake up at 3pm and feel as though your day is wasted, go for a walk with your music blaring through your headphones and take pictures of where you live. Don’t hold yourself back with “there’s no time” because there’s only time. Befriend someone new. Smile at a stranger. Compliment someone. Take risks. Don’t waste the time you’ve been given by thinking about all of the missed opportunities.
Your emotions are always valid. They may not always make sense and sometimes you will be irrational, but what you feel is always important. You are allowed to cry when you’re hurting, you’re allowed to laugh at bad jokes until you’re breathless. It’s okay to scream if you want to, but it is much better to laugh. Never let anybody dictate how you should feel. Your emotions belong to you. Sure, you may not always have control over how you feel, but godammit only you can take charge again. If someone tries to tell you how to feel, walk away. They do not deserve to see your smile if they cannot handle your tears.
Read every book you can get your hands on. Stop complaining about how boring and uneventful your life is and pick up a book. You can live a thousand lives before yours ends by finding the right books to get lost in. It is guaranteed that at some point in time somebody has felt how you’re feeling and put it all in a book. Point being, you will find something relatable in every book that’s out there. Books give you the opportunity to escape the reality that you dread so much. When your exhausted with your own life, find a book and live someone else’s for awhile. Always read the book before watching the film and be willing to accept that the cinematic versions never quite compare to the original literature. It’s a heartbreak we all must endure at some point.
It is perfectly okay to be a square peg in a world of round holes. Following society’s expectations will only make you afraid to love the things you want to. There is no need for you to be perfect. Mistakes are acceptable and problems are inevitable. Problems are like stars – up close they will burn you, but from a distance they are phenomenal specks of light. You are allowed to go crazy. Sometimes, you have to go crazy as a means to survive. It is okay. Never forget that you write your own story and you hold the pen. Don’t like something? Erase it and rewrite it. Forbid anyone from ever telling you how to feel, what to think, and how to live your life. Your opinion and your life are the only god damn things you can call yours. Take control. Don’t fear growing up because you will never be the right age. You will always be too young for something and too old for something else. Growing older is mandatory, growing up is not. Live.”
16 Things I Learnt Before I Turned 16