Do you ever feel like you’re not really as smart as everyone thinks you are, and that you’re just fooling everyone?
If you ever have, I want to talk to you.
Life gave me a lot of things to hate about myself when I was fifteen- I was some wanker, all things considered. I was a teenage girl, which means inevitably that I was emotional and irrational. My voice was too loud. I was really fat. I had horrible hair. I thought I was gay because the sight of boys my age made me heave with revulsion (I later realised this was actually due to lynx body spray). I had no friends that weren’t caught up in a quagmire of mean girls level political intrigue.
The world is not a kind place for a fat, awkward, loud, precocious teenage girl.
I’ve since met the type of kid I was; bursting with ideas and excitement and OPINIONS about THINGS and FEELINGS and speaking in a LOUD VOICE about everything. They’ll talk your ear off for hours about their favourite obscure media, they’ll tell you ALL ABOUT the novel they’re working on, how much they CAN’T WAIT to be in college and out of school. Christ, they can be nightmares. it isn’t their fault. They have yet to grow into the massive amount of personality they have developed in just over a decade of existence.
On the other hand, girls at that age are wonderful. They can do ANYTHING. They’re writing novels (albeit mine all had unfortunately problematic gender relations and some slut shaming that I’m not proud of) and poems and getting jobs and buying CDs. Usually if they’ve navigated through the junior cycle of school without much injury (or too much) at fifteen they’ll be finishing up worrying what other people think of them and asking ‘well what do I think of myself, actually?’ If they’re anything like me, they’ll look at themselves and not like what they see at all.
It’s a rough age for boys and girls (I focus mostly on girls on account of having BARRELS of embarrassing experience.), But I have constructed here a few pointers that I wish I had lived by when I was fifteen.
You are not going to look like that for the rest of your life- I know your parents and friends will reassure you that ‘you’re lovely!’ every time you express concerns over how you look. So let me give it to you straight- You probably are a bit weird looking. Everyone is a bit weird looking when they’re fifteen.
You’re in that uncomfortable stage of looking a bit adult but also still childlike, while acting a bit adult and childish at the same time. You’ll know what I mean when you look back on photos from this time when you’re 20. It’s disconcerting, particularly if you’re prematurely articulate and clever. You are also likely to be overweight, suffering from acne, or have braces. I am telling you that is both
a) totally okay
b) totally temporary
you will not look weird for the rest of your life because as you grow you’ll realize that good looking people are often not the ones with perfectly proportioned features, but simply the ones with a bit of personality. The ones who are all laughing, smiling, having fun, asking you how you’re getting on. You cannot imagine the beauty to be found in a pair of bright, alert eyes that are full of fun. It’s also not the be all and end all to be good looking. There are worse things to be. If you’re not happy with your body, tell yourself it’s sleeping. Be kind to it. It’s as confused as your head is.
Trust me, the braces will come off, the fat will roll off, you’ll get a nice haircut and discover what clothes actually suit you, and you’ll be looking FAB.
Listen to the music you like, not what makes you cool. This piece of advice actually comes from a girl who was a few years ahead of me at school who gave me a cascade of useful advice around 2006, and this is probably the best and most long reaching wisdom she gave me. Who you are when you go to school is not going to define you and your relationships for the rest of your life. Seriously. It’s fucking brilliant. But the reason the music advice is so good is part of the reason I love music as a conversation topic- You can bullshit about your favourite bands for HOURS. You can dissect and analyse and share interpretations for hours, and there’s always more to discover.
Listen to the stuff you like because when you talk about stuff you honestly enjoy, you’ll be more interesting. People will open up and share what they like. Don’t subject yourself to bad music- it is in fact damaging to your health (I am not making that up). Music is something people get passionate about and love discussing, it’s a great conversation topic. When you find people with similar taste in music, you’ll never feel as alone again. Best advice I ever got- listen to music you like, not the stuff that makes you cool. I am an EXPERT in sleeper indie hits on the Top 40 charts, for instance. If you like it, you don’t have to apologise for it. Rock bands are at least as over produced as pop music these days, there’s nothing more inherently honest about it. So yes, go and listen to Born this Way, we’ll be waiting with coffee to discuss.
Cover your bedroom in posters. You will regret it if you don’t; curate a fucking exhibition of yourself in that room, mark it out as yours. You will never have such a license to throw whatever you want up on a wall ever again, unless you become an eccentric billionaire.
Nobody gives a shit what you did in secondary school. No, read that again. None of that shit matters. Read it again. NOBODY CARES. You cannot begin to imagine the pettiness you’ll identify when you look back on your teenage years. Keep in mind always that school ends- you leave when you’re 18 and you don’t have to meet these people EVER AGAIN. You can go to college and start over. You only have to keep in touch with the people you want. This doesn’t give you license to be an arse, but keep in mind that no matter how bad it seems, usually that stuff won’t carry over into college and the real world.
Do things for your personal happiness. Do things that make you feel good, and understand that it is not your job to only satisfy other people’s needs and whims. Friendships are about two people enjoying one another’s company. You’re not anybody’s lap dog, nor are you anyone’s boss. Don’t do things that make you unhappy. When you’re fifteen you’re allowed be a bit selfish and live for yourself, so do that! Try not to be too much of a dick.
Relax. The way you feel right now? That’s not how you feel forever. It’ll return now and then, in dark moments of self doubt and come creeping back, but that’s a temporary feeling. You’re going to be okay. You are going to do a lot of things you regret, but that’s okay because you’re allowed. We have all been there. We are scarlet for the things we did, said and believed when we were fifteen. That’s not to say what you believe in and want and feel isn’t important- a lot of things you decide now will stick with you, but not all of it. You will discard those things you don’t enjoy like a snake sheds skin. You’re only starting out. You’re going to be fine.
Oh, and under no circumstances should you wear jeggings. You’ll be scarlet you ever wore jeggings for SURE.
Niamh ‘I was quite the looker’ Keoghan