My tween and early teen years have been the hardest of my very short life.
Yeah, I’m only a little less than 17. But I remember that season of life being really rough.
Those were the years I started to feel like an outsider looking in whenever I hung out with my friend group. When I started longing for something deeper.
They were also the years I began to see families I knew and loved moving to other churches, taking bits of my peer group with them. As a homeschooler, there were pretty much only seven other girls around my age I got to see on a regular basis. Gradually, they dwindled down to one.
On top of it all—hello, hormones. Suddenly I had all these new emotions I didn’t know what to do with: resentment, hopelessness, and heaps of confusion I had never experienced before.
Those were the years … when I started longing for something deeper.
I’m so grateful to God that this wasn’t the reality for my entire teenhood.
I made new friends. I learned to deal with my emotions. I grew closer to my Savior.
Things got smoother as I matured, and my understanding of life is a step up from where it used to be. There are so many things I have learned along the way that I wish I had known earlier. Today I would like to share four of them.
There Will Be Ups and Downs.
Dear younger me.… There will be ups and downs. Get used to it.
As much as you would like to constantly be happy-go-lucky, chances are that unreliable emotion will trade itself out for something less favorable later in the week. It’s a roller coaster.
Even as you enjoy a bit of happiness, be aware that what you are experiencing right now isn’t permanent. If you expect it to last, you’ll be disappointed.
And if you are down in the dumps, snatch that opportunity to grow closer to God. Tell Him everything in prayer. If you feel an urge to go rant to a friend, you can do that. But remember that He is the closest friend and most loyal kindred spirit you’ll ever know.
Don’t let the perpetual up-and-down-ness of emotions cause you to despair. Enjoy the ups and let the downs be a chance to make your faith deeper than it was before.
And hey, eventually that roller coaster will become routine. As I matured and got to know my emotions better, my new knowledge and faith took the sting off the dark moments and let me enjoy the light more. Maybe it will be the same for you.
Knowing Yourself Will Help You Tame the Beast
A huge part of overcoming my emotions was getting to know what made them tick.
When you identify patterns in your mood cycle, it helps you learn how to function better through it. Emotions aren’t a mysterious force that just does whatever they want. Like a child, you can manipulate—er, encourage—them to behave how you want them to.
Figure out what improves your emotions and what is unhealthy for you. Sometimes memes are nice, and sometimes they are just a waste of time or make you feel more shallow.
On the other hand, things like eating healthy, sleeping well, and exercising do help. You might like to avoid these things, but if you think back to a day where you were tired and hungry and sitting on the couch, you’ll see why they are important.
And if you are spending too much time overthinking, maybe you need to get a hobby. Finding a way to express yourself can be extremely helpful when those feelings don’t know what to do with themselves. (Plus, spending a chunk of your day as an emotionless robot working hard is often more fun than the melodramatics.)
If there’s a certain time of the week that is harder for you, it could be good to shift the bulk of your schedule to the easier part of the week. Not only is it productive, but it also relieves what could become unnecessary stress later.
Put on your analytical side when it comes to your emotions. You might just find that you can motivate your emotions to work for you, rather than against you.
If You Pursue Friendships, You Might Just Find Them
One cause for sulking when I was a tween was that I felt like I didn’t have any really close friends. My melodramatic side deemed all conversation as shallow chitchat and longed for a kindred spirit to share a deeper, closer friendship with.
Eventually, those people and opportunities seemed to fade away, and I continued to sulk.
The turning point in that stage of life came when I decided to stop sulking and pursue friendship where new opportunities opened up.
Our church formed a youth group, and I thrived during small groups. I joined American Heritage Girls, a Christian scouting group where I reconnected with a few friends who had moved out of my church. I also joined an online program called The Young Writers Workshop, where I found Christian writers my age and started to invest more in my gift of writing.
But ultimately, it wasn’t these opportunities that brought me new, deeper friendships. It was that God gave me the boldness to pursue fellowship with the people He put in my life.
He helped me to be vulnerable and to open up about my faith. And in turn, I was able to find other people who were willing to do the same.
Maybe you don’t have the same opportunities. Or maybe you just don’t see them yet. Sometimes you have to get creative.
Kindred spirits don’t have to be the same age as you—they can even come from your own family. God has blessed me with many siblings and two loving parents, and they have tested and strengthened my faith in ways no other mortals have.
But most of all, I’m thankful that God pursued a friendship with me during those years in my life. He is the best, most faithful friend.
Even if you don’t see any opportunities for friendship, God is offering you a friendship better than any you could ever imagine.
The Priority Is Being the Friend You Want to Have.
Don’t pout because nobody’s going to send you a spontaneous note of encouragement today. Go write a note of encouragement for someone else. Be the friend you wish you had.
Sometimes we get discouraged because we have this picture in our heads of what an ideal friend looks like. A friend who adores us and says just the right words when we need them. A friend who is always thinking of us rather than himself or herself.
But we wouldn’t be so discouraged if we put our time and effort into becoming that perfect friend instead.
Do you want a friend who is vulnerable with you? You need to take the first step and be vulnerable with another Christian in your life.
Do you want a friend who is kind? Loyal? Who reaches out to you when you are having a rough day? Stop putting your effort into wishing for that friend and put your effort into becoming that friend.
Ultimately, that perfect friend is Jesus, and we need to press closer to Him when we need the comfort only He can give.
Just like how human friends influence and shape us, we need to press closer to Christ and let him shape us into people who follow Him with all our hearts, minds, and strengths.
A Few Final Words
Yeah, my tween and early teenage years were rough. And I still carry part of the baggage today that I picked up back then. I’m still a messy work-in-progress.
But through the trials over those years, God made me stronger. He used that time to shape me into a better person and to pull me closer to Him.
If I hadn’t experienced the tears and confusion of that stage of life, I wouldn’t be who I am today.
God used the unique hardships that come with the tween and early teenage years to teach me lessons that will stick with me for the rest of my life, and I am so grateful to Him for that. I pray He will do the same for many other young people who take up the challenge to follow Him.
If you are struggling with some of the same things I did, remember that there will be good moments and bad ones, and embrace them both. Look for patterns and take advantage of what you know about yourself. Pursue friendships and be a friend.
Most of all, friend, pull close to God.
There are so many unique struggles in every season of life.
But He’s there for you through them all.