Your teenage years are a time for experimentation and self discovery, of road trips and alcohol tasting and McDonalds runs. Your teenage years are for first kisses and stupid fights and Snapchats you’ll be embarrassed by in ten years.
But there are things you should do now more than ever guys, things you’ll regret not doing- things you’ll wish you did more of…
Take photos with shitty disposables on a night out when your hair is a mess and your face is all sweaty. Take photos without makeup on, when you’re hanging upside-down on your friend’s bed and you’re in mismatched pyjamas. Take photos you’re not proud of. Take photos with the boyfriends you’ll only have and hold for a couple of weeks. Take photos of the everyday.
Don’t feel like you need to upload them to social media. Just save them to look back on one day.
When was the last time you printed your photos? How many have you lost in the years of old and stolen iPhones? Go to Kmart and print them out and wedge them into photo albums. Cover your books with stickers and bad drawings and messages from friends. Slot in the Snapchats and the screenshots of text messages.
Let yourself fall in love with something. Fall in love with a face, a body, a soul. Hold hands and kiss lips and discover yourself and the other. Fall in love with a cuisine – with cheap kebabs on a Friday night or yummy Thai on a Saturday. Make it a tradition among friends.
Fall in love with a band. Find out what year their albums came out and who wrote each song. Fall in love with a sport- stand at the sidelines and paint your face and laugh at cry at every loss and every win.
Read more books. Make sure they smell old and musty. Sink into a warm bubble bath and light candles and bury your nose into fantasy worlds that talk of love and forgiveness. Learn from characters and escape from a world that so often makes you anxious and mad and sad. Make sure you turn off your phone so you don’t get distracted.
Get out of bed early on a Saturday and go and do things. Spend less time hungover and more time swimming in the ocean at sunset or having picnics in the fading light on a cliff someplace. Climb a mountain in the rain and cover yourself with mud. Build a cubby house in the bush or a fort in the lounge-room. Cook cakes with icing that says ‘sorry for being a bitch’ and ‘thanks for putting up with my farts’ and give them to friends. Spend less time on your phone in the mornings and lie in the sun instead.
Stick with your dance classes or your French classes or your soccer on Saturday morning. One day you’re going to look at an Olympian or a musician who is younger than you and you’re going to wish you stuck through it. It’s hard to pursue something that takes years to learn. Teaching yourself to be more than just ‘okay’ at something can be incredibly rewarding.
Save your own money and buy something stupid. Buy your own hamburger phone that your parents think is stupid but because it’s your money you can do whatever the hell you want. Take joy in working hard for it.
Think of the teacher that sacrifices their Wednesday afternoons, that gave you their personal phone number or their email address and said in a kind voice ‘let me know if you ever need help’. Think of the teacher that encouraged you, of the teacher that made you love English or Science or Art that much more. Write them a letter. They give up their time for you. They cry in bed to their partner when they overhear you say something horrible about them. They spend their holidays designing lessons for you that you will love.
When we’re young, we’re so damn scared of getting caught – of wagging class or sneaking out or having a cheeky bevvy. We’re scared of failing an exam, or talking in class. Rules exist and they make sense, but an obsession with perfection can be more damaging than breaking the rules sometimes. Do stuff that will give you a good story, something to laugh at in a few years. Nobody remembers a good night’s sleep.
Write about Rachel’s passive aggressive text and how that made you feel. What insecurities do you have? Why does he make you frustrated in school? Learn to reflect on yourself and the moments that sucked and why. Reflect on the moments that made you happy – like the smell of rain on hot concrete, or the perfectly trimmed hedges around your neighbour’s yard. Just write.
Get a shitty fucking job that has dumb hours and makes your cheeks greasy. Get a job where you hate half the people you work with, and half the people you serve. Navigate the stress of retail or hospitality. Navigate conversations with entitled customers and bitch about them on your Facebook status’. Feel the elation that comes with a Thursday afternoon payslip.
Watch the News. Buy a magazine that doesn’t talk about makeup or clothing or sex- but a magazine that talks about the refugee crisis and what you can do to save the planet. Become more educated, use your time to learn. Enrich your conversations and surround yourself with people that encourage your personal growth and development.
We spend hours and hours on our phones. The next three people to text you: ask them out for milkshakes or a bush walk. Your eyes are turning into squares. Your brain is getting more excited about likes and comments than it does about the waves crashing on the shore and the trees rustling in the winds. Go outside. Hang out with friends and talk about things that really matter (her cleavage selfie doesn’t).
Be thankful for what you have done with your life so far. Be thankful for your friends. Look at your future and recognise its blurry confusion. Take comfort knowing that the cyclone of life will forever pick things up and throw them elsewhere, and that the storm has only just begun. Here’s to our teenage years.