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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Carleton chapter.

I can’t even begin to count the number of times someone has told me, “Enjoy your teenage years; they will be the best ones of your life.” Every time, I wish they would just shut up.

Not only people have told me that, but movies, songs, and books keep feeding me that idea. They portray adolescence as the time of your life. According to them, by the time you’re 18, you’ve found your first love that will inevitably break your heart and you’ll have a group of friends that one could only dream of. They will tell you that you’ll experience joy, pain, terror, love, freedom, and excitement but never boredom; there’s no time for that. Finally, you’ll become the person you’ve always envisioned and somehow, you’re ready for adulthood. We’re supposed to believe everyone has lived through this. Unfortunately, I grew up expecting all of those things. But then I looked at my life, and it wasn’t the case.

When I started my teenage years, I expected the High School Musical experience, where I could have the best years of my life. However, I realized this wasn’t true when I was met with reality. Needless to say, I was very disappointed. In fact, by the time I reached 18, I hadn’t found the love of my life. Parties felt very suffocating, so I did not attend many of them. I had a small friend group. I wasn’t very sociable or outgoing and I didn’t enjoy going out. I couldn’t understand why or how people felt so happy living through those experiences because I couldn’t appreciate what they loved most. I didn’t enjoy being a teenager because it didn’t feel like it, even though I was one. 

It wasn’t easy to accept that my life didn’t look like that and never would. I felt, and still feel, different. As if somehow I was losing the race that everyone was winning. Honestly, I started blaming myself for being behind. There was this unshakable feeling of being an outsider and it being my fault. During this time, I criticized myself a lot, especially how I acted, my hobbies, and my feelings. It was as if I couldn’t fit the mould that society made for us.

In my journal, there’s an entry where I recount the events that happened at a party where I felt extremely out of place. In it, I wrote about how I felt like a wall, an empty, blank, boring wall. Everyone was different, not bad, just different. At that moment, I realized I was trying to be someone I wasn’t by forcing myself to be in those overwhelming situations. It wasn’t my type of environment, and at that moment, it felt as if I was doing everything wrong. I’m sure everyone has felt like this before, where somehow it’s always our fault; it isn’t. It’s difficult to accept, but you’re not the problem.

The other day, I talked to a friend about this, especially how sometimes I compare myself to others regarding feeling behind. She understood, but she said that recently someone had told her, “Nadie va tarde a su vida,” which translates to, “No one is late to their own life.” That stuck with me, and I honestly haven’t been able to stop thinking about it because it’s true. How are you going to compare your life with the ones of others if it’s YOUR life?

Everyone is unique and different, so who’s to say what and who you must be when you’re young? Societal expectations shift constantly, and so does our perception of life. Adults are right about one thing: Life goes by too fast, so why do we waste time feeling stuck when life keeps moving on? We’re young; experiences and opportunities WILL come, just not right now. Not everything has to happen today; give it time. There are still many years to come where you can experience it all. Your feelings are entirely valid, and it’s okay to feel like that; try not to let them interfere and change who you are. Your surroundings must adapt to who you are, not the other way around.

So yes, maybe these aren’t the best years of your life, but they’re yours.

I guess I’m saying that you get to choose, and it can be outside of the expectations you used to have. If you decide to spend your time going out and partying, I hope you have fun, and if you choose to stay inside and drink tea while you read, it is also worth it. Life doesn’t have only one path; instead, there are a million ways you can navigate it. Whether that’s spending your teenage years hanging out with a small or big number of loyal friends, playing soccer or a videogame, listening to music on your headphones or going to a concert, drinking coffee or alcohol, meeting new people, or reconnecting with old ones, it’s okay. There’s something for everyone, and especially, there’s a place for you. You’re not a blank wall; you’re full of colour and uniqueness.

And to quote Taylor Swift, “I wanna be defined by the things I love, not the things I hate, not the things I’m afraid of” (Swift, 2019, 4:10).

So yes, I may not be the person the younger me imagined. Maybe I’m not the teenager I wanted to be, but I’m the person I always aspired to become; myself.

Ana Maria Cadena is an events team member at the Her Campus at Carleton chapter for the 2023/24 year. Her role entails helping design, plan, and host events that engage HCC members and the larger Carleton community in the mission and values. She’s also one of the writers for the chapter and has an interest in writing about life and experiences. Ana is currently a first-year student in the Journalism BA, and she’s also doing a minor in Sociology. She’s an aspiring journalist and writer. One of her goals as an events organizer is to support students by planning events where everyone feels comfortable, accompanied, and included. Ana has had a lot of past experiences in organizing events for her community. For instance, she was vice president of a Girl Up chapter in her high school last year. While in this position, she organized conferences, sales, discussion groups, and events where the students at the school could feel welcomed. She was also a co-creator and director of a podcast called “ya lo has hablado?” where students interviewed specialists on current issues related to mental health, feminism, and relationships. As director of the podcast, she also acted as editor and interviewer. Ana likes to immerse herself in different worlds in her free time through her love for books. She also likes to watch video essays and deep dives on various topics of her interest. Finally, Ana is a very passionate person, not only about what she writes but also about everything she does.