Blog: Advice to My Teen-Self

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Recently, on LinkedIn, the chief editor of a prominent Indian magazine for teenagers asked me if I would be interested in writing articles for them. I was flattered(to say the least). It’s an honour to contribute articles to a magazine, right? Usually, my friends and family only ask me to prepare their resumes or to suggest captions for their social media posts. Not that it’s any less honourable. I feel happy that my loved ones value my opinion in these areas, even though I rarely update my resume or social media accounts. (Nope, being lazy and outdated is not an ideal to aspire for.)

Anyway, I readily agreed to the chief editor’s request. As soon as I replied, he shared his email id and WhatsApp number for future correspondence. Fair disclaimer: I haven’t turned in any articles yet. However, for the last few days, I kept observing the teenagers(and their parents) around me, searching for an apt topic to start my series of articles. Mobile phones & video games, friendship & romance, exams & grades, movies, music, cartoons, celebrities, food & health, corona, impact of the pandemic on teenagers, online & offline classes, indoor/outdoor games, teenage leaders, activists and their global movements against social injustices and environmental degradation, impact of wars and migration on teenagers and children — there were scores of topics to choose from.

Instead of selecting a topic and starting the work on the article right away, I indulged in a bit of ‘nostalgic reminiscence of my teenage days.’ As a teenager, I didn’t have access to smartphones or video games. I was ignorant about cars, gadgets, makeup and fashion. I didn’t watch the news or read newspapers regularly; I wasn’t fully aware of my surroundings or the people around me. I didn’t fully understand puberty or the changes in my body and mind during that period. Nobody talked to me about sex or sexual abuse. The first time I heard about ‘good touch and bad touch’ was during Aamir Khan’s Satyamev Jayate’s episode on ‘Child Sexual Abuse.’ Falling in love was treated like a sin at home. So, I learned to hide my feelings. But in turn, ended up slacking in other areas of my life like studies, social interaction, communication, self-confidence etc I wasted time on Orkut and daydreaming. I made blind career choices based on what was available/expected from me instead of what I liked.

While pondering through these thoughts, memories and regrets, I felt a sudden urge to write a list of info/advice that could have helped me make better decisions as a teenager and reduce my present regrets. Here goes:

  1. Focus on your studies
  2. Eat well(a balanced diet) – Don’t skip meals
  3. Exercise/ Go outside and play with friends/family every day
  4. Sleep early, wake up early
  5. Read newspaper/Watch news daily
  6. Reduce the time spent on TV/Orkut/Facebook(For this generation – reduce time spent on mobile phones, TV and internet)
  7. Visit new places, meet new people
  8. Read more books(across various genres)
  9. Watch good movies(say, one movie per weekend)
  10. Write diary entries
  11. Identify your areas of interest(both in studies and hobbies)
  12. Learn to communicate effectively(With family, friends, teachers, etc). It is crucial in both personal and professional life, to take care of both your personal and professional relationships. Express your feelings and thoughts. Make mistakes and learn from them.
  13. Identify what you like and dislike in people
  14. Educate yourself about puberty/Sex education from healthy sources
  15. Try new things(like a new hobby, learning to play a musical instrument, or participating in a new sport, dance, yoga, etc) Also learn basic skills like cooking, cleaning, washing clothes, gardening, swimming, cycling, driving etc(without any gender bias).
  16. It’s okay to have a crush on someone. It’s okay to fall in love with someone. If your choices in love don’t follow the conventions, there is nothing to worry about. Educate yourself about the LGBTQIA+ community. Talk to your parents/family members and friends. Learn to express your feelings. Be sensitive to the emotions of other people also.
  17. It’s okay to get rejected in love. It’s okay for your first/nth love to be a disaster; it’s not the end of the world. People have different tastes and preferences. It is not about whether you are good enough for them or not. It’s about compatibility. Eg: Some people like perfumes made of Lavender, while others prefer perfumes made of Roses or Jasmine. None of them is wrong. They have the right to choose. Lavenders, roses and jasmines don’t get offended; neither should you. You also have the right to choose, the right to walk away from toxic/incompatible people and relationships.
  18. Don’t compare yourself to others(whether it’s your grades, physical appearance, tastes, background or abilities). You shouldn’t judge yourself or your body based on society’s standards. Don’t try to impress anyone/society. Only try to be the best version of yourself.
  19. It’s okay to fail – Failure is inevitable. You cannot avoid it. Learn to live through failures. Make plans for failure situations also. i.e. Imagine you took a lottery ticket. You will have ‘n’ plans to do if you win the lottery. You should also have a plan for the scenario where you don’t win the lottery.
    (Life is not ‘do or die.’ It is not hit or miss. You shouldn’t indulge too much in success and failures. Life is a leveller. It is full of ups and downs. Life is not fair; it doesn’t owe you anything. Just do what you enjoy; enjoy what you do.
    In the real world, you will find that champions are not people who constantly win or never fail; they are people who work consistently and make outstanding comebacks despite their failures.)
  20. The real world is not black and white; real people are not good or bad. They are grey. They have flaws; they make mistakes. Sometimes they make a promise and don’t keep it. Sometimes they disappoint us; they leave us. Being flawed is humane. Know that you are flawed too. Be compassionate and kind to people. Nobody is perfect. You don’t know what they are going through. Love others. Be empathetic to their emotions.
  21. Learn time management. Also, learn to spend time and money wisely.
  22. Practise self-love.
  23. Nurture self-confidence.
  24. Learn to live with people of different opinions, backgrounds, beliefs, etc. You don’t have to accept/follow their views or beliefs, but you have to learn to respect others and their choices. Different people should learn to live harmoniously with each other. You don’t have to tolerate racism, gender inequality, bullying or any such social injustices. But you should avoid prejudices, hatred, generalizations, etc towards different people and communities.
  25. Take care of nature. Be compassionate to animals.
  26. Don’t live in the past or worry too much about the future. Be fully present in your todays’ and nows.’
  27. Pray/Meditate daily.
  28. Be grateful.
  29. Find joy in the little things.
  30. If required, never hesitate – Ask for help. It’s okay to not be okay.

This list can go on and on. If I’ve missed any important points or if you wish to add more points, please let me know in the comments. I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Good day! 🙂

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