27 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 17-Year-Old Self


Some people get all self-reflective around New Years; I get self-reflective in the spring time. I think part of that is that my birthday is today, May 7. Then again, I’ve always been the kind of person who jumps at the chance to self-reflect, to assess where I am and where I’ve been.

When I was a teenager, I spent a lot of time writing in journals. I had to buy the 5-subject notebooks because I wrote so much that I’d fill up a regular journal in a matter of a few weeks. I would type up “important” journal entries onto my computer just in case I ever needed to look back. Every once in a while I would make a “Things I’ve Learned” type Word Doc, a list of important revelations that I might need to remember later.

The older I get, the more I wish I could tell my teenage self a few things. So, in honor of my 27th birthday, here are

27 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 17-Year-Old Self

  1. Keep writing. Even when it feels like you’re going nowhere.
  2. Stop pressuring yourself so much about finding “True Love.” It’ll happen when you least expect it.
  3. I know you think that wearing makeup makes you look older, but it actually has the opposite effect. Plus, it doesn’t actually make your skin clearer. It’s okay to be imperfect.
  4. Just because a person is widely admired by your peers doesn’t mean that person is worthy of your time and attention.
  5. Beware of giving someone else the credit for your success. Having help and support doesn’t mean that you’re any less awesome.
  6. Learn to let go of guilt for things that are outside of your control. It’s the depression talking.
  7. Speaking of depression: it’s okay to be not okay. It’s okay to need help, to take medication and see a therapist. It’s okay that you’re a little “sensitive” and that things affect you more deeply than they “should.” There is no “should” when it comes to how you feel.
  8. I know that you’re afraid of many things, but know this: the things you regret later are the things you were too scared to try in the first place.
  9. It’s okay to need a Higher Power/God right now, but don’t be afraid to stand on your own someday.
  10. People who love you will sometimes say really hurtful things to you without meaning to cause harm.
  11. Surround yourself with people who treat you with respect, value, and love. Ditch the people who treat you like a child, who treat you like an add-on, who require you to be silent when you’re hurt.
  12. Do not let anyone else tell you how to feel. You’re allowed to be upset, angry, and hurt, no matter how “easy” you allegedly have things in life.
  13. Depression doesn’t care about your privilege. It will find a way in, whether it’s some guy who doesn’t know your name or your best friend who thinks you don’t have a right to complain. It will find a way to hurt you. And that’s okay.
  14. People who peak in high school become less attractive later. Your day will come, my beautiful caterpillar.
  15. It’s okay to not really understand your own sexuality. Kids will talk like they know everything there is to know about sex, and you will be utterly terrified, because all you want is someone to hold your hand and give you a hug or a kiss. That’s okay too. Those kids don’t know themselves any better than you do.
  16. Virginity as a concept is only a big deal if you make it a big deal. Try to let go of it now and it will be easier for you later.
  17. A guy who isn’t interested in dating you isn’t worth thinking about. I know you can’t help how you feel, but you can choose how you act on it.
  18. This, too, will pass, and it will make you stronger.
  19. Do not let your bitterness come between your natural love of life, and of people. Do not let any one asshole convince you that the world is full of assholes.
  20. Good friends are the ones who give as much as they get. If someone doesn’t care to make the effort to spend time with you, then you don’t have to make the effort for them.
  21. It’s perfectly okay to make mistakes. You’re not required to have things figured out right now, or at any point, really. Nobody is perfect. Nobody really has it figured out, even when they seem like they do.
  22. Try to embrace your natural love of learning. Sure, most of your high school classes are bullshit. But deep inside you, there’s a creature who yearns for more knowledge. Find that, embrace it, embody it. And remember that life is a learning journey too.
  23. Don’t let anyone convince you that you’re dreaming too big. They might not understand how you could be so convinced of your destiny as a writer, because it’s rare for someone your age to know so confidently. Don’t let anyone crush that spirit.
  24. Switch to black coffee now, girl. Pretty soon you won’t be able to afford lattes, so you might as well get used to it.
  25. Those things you want to be and do, you can and you will. You might not be able to visualize yourself as a people person, as a barista, as a writer, as a city girl—but you will become all of those things at various points.
  26. Don’t be afraid to talk to your parents about how you feel. It might seem like they could never understand, or that they would somehow judge you for making mistakes, but they love you more than you can imagine. One day, you’ll be able to talk to them about everything.
  27. The longer you wait to love yourself, the harder it’s going to be. Take the love you give to strangers and give it back to yourself. You deserve it.

3 thoughts on “27 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 17-Year-Old Self”

  1. These are really, really good. I just finished one of the hardest semesters of my life, and this was super encouraging. Thank you!

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