Made this happen
A Letter To My 17-Year-Old Self: Part 2
The Debrief: Two writers cut through the crap to tell their 17-year-old selves what they’ve learnt.
The Edge of Seventeen follows 17-year-old Nadine in a coming of age comedy about first love and friendships. In cinemas 30th November.
In an age of filters, selfies and perfect Pinterest lives, two writers cut through the crap to tell their 17-year-old selves what they’ve learnt after spending their 20s negotiating Instagram, Tinder and all the bullshit that goes with it…
So, you’re seventeen. It’s ok. Definitely better than fifteen. Not quite as exciting as nineteen. I know you’re desperate to grow up, get away, and launch into adulthood. Don’t worry, it’ll happen. I know that “don’t worry, it’ll happen” is the kind of annoying platitude you really don’t want to hear though. Apologies. In the meantime, here’s some advice that might actually be useful. You’ll mainly have to figure this all out for yourself, but think of this as a map that might offer a little guidance along the way.
First and foremost, I know you’re frustrated about being single, that you’re fearful it’s a state you’ll always be stuck in. You’re allowed to own that frustration. It sucks. But here’s the thing. I promise this: the fact that you don’t compromise on what matters to you – and, crucially, know your own worth – well, that’s a strength. It’ll work out in your favour, long-term. Ahead there are some good lips. You’ll enjoy kissing guys and girls and occasionally regretting it but mostly having a good time. You’ll have great sex (and occasionally, not-so-great) and find intimacy and friendship in unexpected places. You’ll still spend time occasionally worrying about being single, I’m afraid. Sorry. But you’ll learn to feel with growing assurance that this isn’t a lack or a defect. It doesn’t impact your worth.
I guess I should tack some actual advice onto all that: seize opportunities. Talk to strangers. Have fun. Cry when necessary. Excuse yourself from any date where all you’re thinking about is how much you’d rather be answering emails than be here, trying to keep conversation afloat with the guy whose opening gambit was that he doesn’t know many girls who drink whisky.
Second, don’t procrastinate online when you’re feeling rubbish. Stop scrolling. Put down the phone. Read a book. Go for a walk. And definitely don’t think other people’s lives look that little bit better. You already know how we’re all playing this strange game of glossy ideals. So: take inspiration from what you admire, be galvanized by those achieving the things you want, and only allow yourself the occasional bout of envy.
Third, choose the friends who value you for being you, and don’t try to diminish or undercut that. Sounds simple, I know, but it can take time to work this out. Oh, and keep a firm hold on your empathy, reach out when others need it, and also recognize when to take a step back and look after yourself. Sometimes that’s not selfishness. It’s self-preservation.
I also want to shout this in capitals: YOUR BODY IS A GOOD BODY. It allows you to (mostly) go about your day with ease. Yes, it has changed recently. It was meant to. Your adolescent knees and elbows and no hips and no tits may have been celebrated by the fashion industry when you began modeling, but it was just one form of beauty. Learning to inhabit your limbs with confidence is so much more important.
What else? Well, struggling is natural and normal. Asking for help isn’t a show of weakness. Knowing that you’re fallible is healthy. Knowing that perfection is a myth you must fight against is even healthier. Hard work is good, but so is taking time off to drink with friends and dance and sleep all day. Try to push outside your comfort zone. It’ll be wonderful. Also accept that sometimes it’s fine to stay firmly within the comfort zone and just go home and eat toast when everything is overwhelming. Accept that not everyone will like you. You can’t control this. Nor should you try to. All you can do is be kind, receptive, compassionate, stand up for yourself when necessary, and take action on the things that matter.
Oh: and never drink a truly obscene number of martinis and manhattans on an empty stomach. You’ll hate yourself for the next forty-eight hours.
Catch The Edge of Seventeen in cinemas from 30th November.
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating