Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

A (long) note to my teenage self

Welcome to the Notes to My Teenage Self linkup. After you’re done reading my letter, feel free to add yours or check out some of the other ones.

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Dear teenage Jana,

I know. It’s pretty strange that you’re receiving this now, given the fact that I’m all old and you’re hanging out in 1994 at the ripe old age of 17. But I figure you’re getting ready to start your senior year of high school and it might be a good time to impart some wisdom on you to help get you through your final year in what is pretty much a flannel filled hell. I know you can’t wait to get out of those walls and start your new life but for a moment, I want you to sit back and appreciate what you currently have.

For starters, you live rent and expense free. You pay for nothing except CDs, concert tickets, books, and nail polish (incidentally, your spending habits don’t change much in your 20s. Or 30s). Enjoy the lack of financial responsibility and stress but, while you’re at it, learn how to manage money. It’s a lot easier to learn when your feet aren’t to the fire and also, it’ll prevent you from getting into debt as an adult. Trust when I say that getting into debt is fun but getting out is worse than first period math.

Second, spend time with your sisters. Especially the little one. Sure, you guys are making some memories but you’ll be moving out soon and she’s only 7. You’ll miss more than you’ll want to admit and you’re going to want more than Friday nights watching Boy Meets World and driving her to piano lessons to cling to (oh, and convincing her a monster lives in the hole you kicked in the wall and making her scared to go up the stairs? It’s funny but don’t do that. It’s kind of mean).

Third, all the stuff you’re worried about? Like finding friends you can trust or having a boyfriend or not fitting in or thinking you’re fat and ugly or feeling like the rest of your life will be exactly like it is now? I get that you’re concerned but believe me, you’re worrying for nothing. Let it go. In just a few short months, you’ll find some of the most amazing friends ever (and you’ll still be friends with some of them, all these years later) and you’ll realize that they like and appreciate you for YOU, not someone you think you need to pretend to be. Boyfriends? Don’t worry about that shit. That’ll happen (including, in 2 short years, meeting the person you’ll marry), too.

And as far as your appearance, learn to enjoy exercising and eating healthy now, make it part of your routine, and you’ll feel so much better. Because feeling good and attractive really starts with liking who you are in the mirror and no one but you is in control of that. And by taking charge of it now, it’ll make it much easier on the old lady version of you. So if you could do that, I’d appreciate it.

Now, let’s move on to the life advice.

  1. You are talented and creative. Use that to your advantage and when you get to college, pick a major that will make you happy. Keep some practicality and ability to get a job in mind but if you choose to pursue something you love, you will be successful.
  2. Believe in yourself. You are smart and you truly can do anything. Never let anyone, family, friends, or other, make you doubt that. If they’re making you feel bad, they’re not worth your time. Don’t let their negativity sink in. Deflect that shit like you’re wearing Teflon.
  3. You know how you try hard to be nice to everyone? Keep doing that. Even if it backfires and you still wind up at home alone on a Friday or Saturday night, just keep being nice. You’ll love yourself for it and learning to love yourself, and having to live with yourself, is more important than any date or party. And for the record, assholes are everywhere, in every phase of life. It sucks but you’ll eventually learn how to sniff them out and avoid them.
  4. Do your homework. Read. Learn. Work hard. Go to class (except gym. Go ahead and feel free to skip that, which I know contradicts my earlier advice about being healthy but gym is pretty much the worst). Never be ashamed or embarrassed about being smart. Smart girls are awesome and although the names Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Mindy Kaling mean nothing to you right now, you’ll understand when you’re me (and this piece of advice will make total sense).


I apologize that instead of a few short notes, you’re getting a fairly long letter. But you’ll come to realize that you are a verbose gal and once you get started, it’s hard to stop (also, you use words like “gal”). It’s one of your charming quirks.

My point is this–who you are is just fine. There is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, wrong with you. I know it doesn’t feel like it now because high school is one long fucking nightmare filled with people who seem to have it all together. But believe me, they don’t. They are just as confused and awkward and full of self-doubt as you are. They’re just better at hiding it.

So love yourself, be confident in who you are, and remember that it’s almost over. Enjoy the good moments (and there will be more than you think) and don’t let the bad ones define you.

See you in 20 years.

Go Blue Hens!


37 year old Jana


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  1. Marcie

    The link-up widget isn’t showing up for me!!! 🙁
    Marcie recently posted…a letter to my former selfMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      It should be working now. I was having a TON of trouble.

  2. Jenn @ Business, Life & Design

    The part about sitting back and enjoying no responsibilities really rings true! I was always upset about something, and now none of those things even factor in as a potential stressor.

    I’d also want to reassure myself that all those doubts and self image issues only exist in my head. Plus, in about 6 years I’ll go through a self improvement phase that will contribute greatly to my self confidence. Hang in there, 17 year olds!
    Jenn @ Business, Life & Design recently posted…Injured Ankle – The SagaMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I completely agree that the stuff that upset me then is all nonsense. Some things helped shape how I approach situations but ultimately, they doesn’t matter.
      High school is so full of petty BS anyway.

      Self-improvement as an adult will pretty much wipe out all the teenage angst. Good advice!

  3. Kerry

    The part about not going into debt is great advice. Being kind and being smart will always take you further in life.
    Kerry recently posted…Chorizo Salad and Homemade Honey MustardMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I would have prevented so much stress if I knew not to get into debt!

  4. Marcie

    It’s so funny how hindsight gives us all the same sort of perspective on our teenage years. I’m pretty sure this is how our mothers were right all the damn time. If my kids are half as angsty as I was when they’re teenagers, I’m going to have to commit myself to a mental institution. Or else send them to boarding school. 🙂

    Thanks for making the link-up! This was fun!!
    Marcie recently posted…a letter to my former selfMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      I can already see the shades of my teenage attitude coming out in my daughter and she’s only 7. I’m pretty sure I’m screwed. At least she’s not angsty, which is good.

      I think maybe it’s how our moms were right all the (well, most) of the time. They have the benefit of age. Like we do now 🙂

  5. SMD @ Life According to Steph

    Ahh I wish I declared English as a major upon entering college. It would’ve saved me a lot of struggle.
    SMD @ Life According to Steph recently posted…10 Items of Note for my Teenage SelfMy Profile

    1. Jana (Post author)

      Me, too! That was my gut instinct but I went with criminal justice instead. I don’t know what I was thinking.

  6. Kristen

    oh gosh darn it, my memory is horrible. I totally forgot about this link up. I suck.

    But this letter is almost exactly what I would write to myself. Oh, the debt! what a stupid teenager I was. ‘love yourself and be confident in who you are’ yes. if I could have this tattooed on my forehead as a teenager, maybe I would have realised it a lot sooner. But I guess then I wouldn’t be who I am now and all that jazz..
    Kristen recently posted…They said what now?My Profile

  7. Nicole

    I really love this letter. You are really rocking this and I cannot believe how much of these letters I felt to have a similar vein. Thank you for your honesty, your letter and hosting…

  8. Kelli

    I forgot to write a letter to myself, I’ve been a horrible horrible blogger lately. I did do a version of this a long time ago but it was notes to not just my teenage self but to my little self and older self too. It feels great to write it out, cathartic.

    Looking back at teen years I wonder why it felt so hard to be yourself then, I’m glad you found life long friends! I miss that kind of connection in my life and sometimes I worry it’s nobody’s fault but my own. (Other times I think my “friends” are bitches”) Maybe it’s a little of both.
    Kelli recently posted…Southport, NC Day Trippin’My Profile

  9. Nadine

    How in the world did I forget about this link up?!

    This letter sounds similar to the one I would have written myself. Except the part about being nice to my little sister. My sister didn’t need me to be nice to her…she used to terrorize me.

    Isn’t it amazing how things we thought were such a big deal then were nothing? And how EVERYONE had self doubt and awkwardness and we felt so alone but really weren’t?

    High school sucked ass, but I don’t regret how I was. I was nice to everyone and stayed away from the snotty girls who thought they were too good for everyone. I never said mean things to people or bullied anyone…so I hopefully shouldn’t be on anyone’s kill list.
    Nadine recently posted…You’re On My Heart Just Like a TattooMy Profile

  10. Luke

    Go Blue Hens!
    Luke recently posted…Plutus Awards CategoriesMy Profile

  11. Amanda

    #3 is my favorite! I once got dumped by a guy for being “too nice” and hearing that from him just made me decide I didn’t want to be with him anyway. Gotta be nice for YOU and how it makes YOU feel because sometimes no matter what you do, people aren’t going to be pleased.

  12. Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout

    I just love this… maybe I should send your letter to my teenage self too? I was SO worried about what everyone thought of me — how long did it take me to realize that everyone’s so focused on themselves, they’re really not even paying attention to that stupid thing I thought I did in Algebra? And I love the advice about spending more time with your sisters. I so wish I lived closer to my sister — we text and call all the time but it’s not the same as living together.
    Sarah @ Beauty School Dropout recently posted…What I’m Into, July 2014My Profile

  13. Kate

    I wish I could go back and cut up my credit cards before I used them!
    Kate recently posted…Why she’s awesome… and an IQ raiserMy Profile


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