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Mental Wellness

What Advice Would You Give to Your Teenage Self?

When I was in junior high, I was a “late bloomer,” as those of us who don’t move at society’s pace are called. My breasts weren’t developed (still waiting decades later), I was always the smallest in my class, and the only growth spurts I experienced were my unibrow and mustache. My peers were dating seniors and high schoolers, making out everywhere, and receiving Valentine’s Day cards. At school functions, when there was dancing, the popular and “developed” girls could be found on the dance floor grinding on (or with) boys our age.

I was never popular, the best in any one thing, and I was always a misfit. Yet, as I started writing this entry, I realized that it’s probably the most confident I’ve ever been. This carried on into high school, where my social status only slightly improved (i.e. my two eyebrows and half-assed attempts to look “sexy” made me somewhat visible to the guys and somehow more acceptable to the girls).

As I look back, I can say with certainty that I was weird – I knew it and everyone else knew it – and I embraced it. I was “arms wide open, get your ass over here, weirdness” weird. And, though I made adjustments here and there as I explored different interests and friend groups, I can say with confidence (inspired by teen Maureen) that I was very much my own person.

One time in junior high, I asked a guy friend to be my date at a dance. He laughed and said, “You’re joking, right?” My response? I laughed right back and said something along the lines of “Oh, you thought I was serious?” We both laughed it off and this was soon forgotten… kind of. I really liked this guy and I was 100% serious. I went home that day and cried like I had just gone through a divorce and lost my house. The next day, I proceeded as normal (though with a bruised ego) and I meant it.

Yes, I saved face, but I knew what I needed.

I was fearful but bold, and then I was rejected, and then I processed my emotions and went on with full self-awareness. And this continued a lot throughout high school and even college – me putting myself out there, getting rejected in different ways, dusting myself off however I needed to, and then chugging along.

Sounds like I need advice from my teenage self, right? Well. Here’s where adult me can step in and say: Teenage Maureen, please don’t resist. Carry all of your parts with you throughout your journey, and only you can decide what parts to release and what to pick up along the way.

I have mostly stayed true to who I was – with concessions big and small – but it didn’t always feel natural. It felt like a war was waging inside of me. I didn’t want to be bold, outspoken, smart, or receive any positive feedback. I became apologetic and felt fraudulent. I live(d) in fear. I was skeptical when anyone believed in me, to the point where I am (re)learning to believe in myself again.

I wrongly traded in my knowing for resistance. And by knowing, I mean I knew who I was and why, and I knew what it entailed (external resistance and the fortitude to just be anyway). And by resistance, I mean that I became permeable and let the external bullshit get to me, wear me down, and gaslight me. I undermined myself under the influence(s).

I have strayed so far from teen Maureen that my pride for her feels separate from my pride in my efforts to get back to her. We are the same in the ways that matter and yet, it almost feels impossible to utter the words, “I am proud of myself.”

Though I don’t believe in time travel, I do believe that teen Maureen is still here and ready to reconcile with present Maureen. So here we are, whole, unlearning, relearning, learning, terrified, and little by little, no longer resisting.

Feel the fear and do it anyway.

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by Maureen Medina

Maureen Medina is the founder of Leave in Peace and a campaign strategist and organizer for Slaughter Free NYC. She advocates for both human and non-human animals and asserts that all oppression is connected. In alignment with the idea that none of us are free unless all of us are free, Maureen hopes to inspire the pursuit of collective liberation through her writing.


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