Dear Esther


Early on in October my youngest sister turned 13 and it took me back to when I was 13. It's hard to believe that she is now beginning her teenager years. Time flies. I decided to write some advice that I wish I knew when it was my time but those are some of the cons of being the oldest. You go through the challenges, so the others don't have to. Sometimes. In any case here is some advice to my sister and anyone else who is on the cusp of their teenage years.




1. Know yourself


Ok ok, you will not know yourself totally as you are still very much at the stage of growing not just physically but emotionally too. You are still in the process of becoming. Still, knowing yourself means knowing your likes and dislikes. With time this develops into forming your own personal values. It sounds like a lot right now but as you go further into your teenage years (and beyond) it will put you in good stead. At first they will be based on what your parents like or dislike as you are being raised by them. Over time however it goes beyond that and you form your own set of beliefs. It is important that you do know yourself however otherwise society will tell you who you are and that seldom ends well.



2. 'Unscrew' peer pressure


I'd be lying if I said peer pressure won't happen and guess what? It continues up until the day you die. I will say however that there is something about it happening during your teenage years that can really derail you for the worst if you are not careful. Unscrew. Why? People around you will try to nail their desires of what they think you should be doing into your mind but you have the power to unscrew it. You really do not have to do anything just because 'everyone else is'. You are you. They are them. The only time they should cross paths is when it is for a good purpose. Otherwise? Stay in your lane. It can be lonely but it's better than being surrounded by false expectations. The saddest thing is that you will find some of your friends falling victim to this and you can see right through it. It becomes obvious in the playground when interacting with peers. Do not ever feel pressured to do anything you do not want to from friends to guys and anything else. Too early to mention the latter? I'm not naïve and I know the types of conversations that go on amongst teens because I too was privy to such in my time. It does not matter if all your friends are doing something, if you don't want to do it then don't. It ties into number 1; knowing yourself. When you do the opinions of others become irrelevant.



3. Cherish your innocence


I know that it's becoming increasingly hard to but please do hang unto your innocence. Innocence does not have to mean naivety. I mean innocence in the sense of not rushing to be grown up. You have the rest of your life to wear make up (if you want) and also trip over yourself in heels too and all the other things you may 'deem' as grown up. They're not going anywhere and they will be waiting for you once you pass the age of 18. I know that social media has fast tracked this process and you're exposed to so much more than I ever was at your age but it is ok to shut it all out and just be. Do not be naïve however because of a truth the world can be a wicked place and you need to know that not everyone has a right moral compass- if any at all.  Innocence is also not ignorance and you should be clued up on what is happening around you but you don't need to know everything. Not just yet. But when you do know I trust that you will have the confidence to not allow the ways of the world to corrupt you.



4. Hormones can be an absolute killer!


By now you must have come across some of my old facebook statuses. I was something else wasn't I? I really was in my 'feelings' at times but that's the thing with hormones at times- they tend to amplify what you are already feeling and make it seemingly worse. There are times you will feel like the whole world is against you but that it is really not the case. It's just your hormones messing about with you because, puberty. I'm not saying don't feel. Feel and have emotions. Just know that if you're feeling even more terrible than usual and with no reason for it then its hormones. Definitely hormones.



5. Be a good person in secondary school


I cannot stress this enough. You do not realise it now but the memories you are making right now will be hard to erase later. That can be a good or bad thing depending on who you were and how you treated others. People don't forget who the nasty ones were back in school. If you were a bully then you will always be remembered as a bully in years to come. Even if you change, the actions that you did to others in the past are still there and the chances of everyone you have wronged in the past coming across a new and improved version of you are slim. Is it the end of the world then if you were a bully then and you change as you grow up? No. But you must realise that nobody owes you another chance to prove yourself. So, be a good person. Treat everyone with respect. Everyone. Not because of what you can gain but just because it is the right thing to do.



6. Your friendship groups will change


Sorry to burst your bubble but it will happen. People change and some will move schools so it is inevitable that your friendship circle will differ as you grow up. It is not a bad thing and is a part of life. Over time and well after you leave your teenage years the number of people you still consider as friends from secondary school will reduce. I used to roll my eyes when people said this to me then but as I got older I saw it was true. The ones that really matter stay and don't leave. Try as you might to shake them off they refuse to go because they want to maintain that friendship. You may not speak as often as you once used to but they are solid and often become the backdrop on which the other friends you acquire in later life now join. Make sure to never take them for granted in the process of discovering the 'newness' of meeting others. It can be tempting to get carried away with getting to know a new friend and forgetting 'old' friends but who says the two cannot coexist? On the flip side make sure to never hold unto a dying friendship just because you both have 'history' together and you knew each other since secondary school. Ultimately it is about those who are there for you and that's it. Real recognises real, not based on the years of friendship but the depth of it.



7. Having a crush is normal


You will find boys attractive and that is perfectly normal. You might be tempted to want to act on the attraction and whilst it is deemed the norm I wouldn't recommend it. For starters they rarely lead to anything and it often ends up being used as a way to while away time. Don't get me wrong, childhood sweethearts exist but it is not the story for everyone.




8. Enjoy your teenage years



Make the most of it and have good wholesome fun whilst you're at it too.  Enjoy the times when you have 0 responsibilities because once they arrive they don't stop. Some people say that their teenage/ secondary school days were their best times. Some say otherwise but what do I know? Live in the present and be mindful of the choices you make now but just know that the best is yet to come