Let me just tell you: Everyone said you were going to be awful. You were the age of angst, growth and every teenage movie ever. People have written books about you, and there are television characters who never moved on from you. You are the year that changes lives. Everyone told me that being 16 would be the hardest part of my 16-year existence.
Everyone was (mostly) wrong.
As I sit here on the eve of my 17th birthday, I'm a bit sad to let you go. (I mean, not too sad, because tomorrow is MY BIRTHDAY, but you know, kinda sad.) You've been a good time, and I'll be saying "I'm 16 -- um, 17" for weeks to come. I had SO much fun being 16. I'm sure it didn't hurt that the year started out in Disneyland with Lighting McQueen, but hey, there were still some strange turns. I learned a lot and did some wild things. So without further ado, here are some things I learned being 16 that I don't ever want to forget:
1. Like whatever music you enjoy listening to.
This is important because there will always be that dude who thinks his music is better than yours just because the person who sings it is dead, and you know what? He can't be helped. Jam out to Kanye and then solo dance party to Hannah Montana if you want to. (You know you do.)
2. If you want to do something, figure out how to do it today.
As teenagers, we have an awful habit of planning to do things in The Future. The Future is an awfully vague place, and not nearly as concrete as Today. The Internet is a great thing. Use it.
3. Weird relationships happen.
My best friend moved to London for nine months and it was hard. Explaining it to people every time they asked about her was harder. But you know what? I have so many amazing people and relationships in my life now because of that nine months, and she's still my best friend. I also let go of people, and reconnected with people I thought I'd never talk to again. (Disclaimer: This is probably going to happen a lot.) No regrets.
4. Brain to mouth filters aren't always needed.
Say it now. Maybe this has more to do with HuffPost Teen, but this year, I learned that saying what you're thinking now is so important. Tomorrow, a week from now, next month, your opinion on it may change, but right now in this moment? Speak yo' truth.
5. Don't defend doing your thang.*
In the last year, my blog has taken me to some amazing places, and at every single stop I've had people saying things like "Why do you enjoy this??" "It's such a waste of your talents." My new response? "Good thing you're not doing it then." If it's what you love to do, you don't need to explain yourself.
6. There's no age limit on doing fun things.
When I turned 16, people started saying things like "Oh, you're almost an adult" and "Time to get serious about the future." Apparently, for a lot of people, that future does not involve rollerskating, fingerpainting, sudden death twister, Parks and Recreation marathons and general goofiness. Let's have a moment of silence for them, because that is sad. Just because you are becoming an adult does not mean you can't enjoy the things you did when you were six. Watch the Lizzie McGuire Movie. TREAT YO'SELF.
7. Everyone else doing it is not a criteria for you doing it.
I made a big decision right around my birthday last year to graduate high school a year early, and not go to a four-year college (*cue the pained gasp*). "But you have so much POTENTIAL" and " If you don't go to college, what are you going to DO??" My "potential" isn't leaving just because I'm not packing it into a dorm room, and I have plenty of things to do, like represent California 4-H as a State Ambassador, study Italian and work on my career. It's not typical, but it works for me.
8. Call a friend.
If you have a question, or want to learn about something, or just saw something you didn't understand on a rerun of Community, find the best person to answer it, and ASK THEM. Also, call your friends. On the phone. They enjoy it. It's weird.
9. Dooooooon't stop believing
What a time to be alive. There is so much opportunity in our world, and you can take it by the horns. Don't stop believing in yourself, and don't wait a moment. Tweet celebrities. Eat candy. Make stuff happen.
10. (most important) Go big or go home.
No explanation needed.
I'm sure there's a lot more I'm going to remember in the days following this post, but these are the main points. Time to go change all those bios to "17-year-old auntie mame."
Thanks for being rad, 16.
Now let's hope I can do a half as good job at being 17.
Me on my 16th birthday, in Disneyland, with Sully. It was a good day.