4 Key Lessons for My 16-Year-Old Self

by Kesiena Boom

At 16 years old, there were lots of things I was blissfully unaware of, but really could have done better with knowing. I wasn't getting these lessons at home or at school or via the media, and I most definitely suffered for it. I wish that I could go back through time and sit my younger self down and imprint a few things into her poor adolescent brain. In lieu of the ability to transcend time and space, here are the four top things I really needed someone to tell me. Disseminate this to the teenage girls around you and let them know their worth by imparting all the wisdom you can.

Embrace Your Blackness

The hours you’re spending in front of the mirror, frantically smoothing your hands over your butt and willing it magically flatten under your touch could have been much better spent. Your desperation is not going to transform into superpowers. Biting your lips until they bleed to lessen their fullness should also be firmly thrown out of the window. Don’t listen to the boy with a barely showing beard who kisses you and then leans back disdainfully and says that kissing you is “different than kissing white girls.” In fact, please give him a slap from your present day self and tell him to get gone. Don’t laugh it off when the white kids call you nigger, however hilarious they think it is. Fix them with your stare and stand strong. Put the relaxer down for a second, and try to remember what your natural curls look like and feel like to touch. Do not get addicted to the silky sheen just because that blonde boy with the weak blue stare tells you that you are only pretty under a dead straight curtain. Get used to the coarseness of your kinks and realize they will not go away no matter how much you deep condition. The flaws you perceive in yourself are just the world trying to push you down. Shut it out. Throw away your fashion magazines, stop drinking in the pale and pallid as the epitomes of beauty. You are beautiful as you are. Your Blackness isn’t anything to be ashamed of; it is part of what makes you so extraordinary.

Learn To Accept That You’re Not Going To Have It All Figured Out

Honey, you’re sixteen. You’re not meant to have your shit all the way figured out. Obsessing endlessly over having a set plan for what you’re doing and where you’re going is only going to send you into a spiral of anxiety. The fact is that you’re only at the very beginning of having anything close to control over your life, so it’s not surprising or troubling that you’re not quite where you want to be yet. Have goals and aspirations, but don’t be so wedded to them. You have no idea what the next few years will bring and how you may need to temper your expectations about where you’re headed. Despite how sure and stubborn you may feel at times, you’re not done growing into yourself yet and you have no idea about the myriad of undiscovered facets of yourself that are lying dormant under the surface.

Don’t Let People Manipulate Your Sexuality

When boys ask you out and you don’t fancy them, please, for the love of God, just say no. Do not feel that you constantly have to perform for and please other. Just because people tell you that Black girls are always down for it, doesn’t mean you need to bend to their racist assumptions. When white boys call you a “Nubian princess,” back the fuck away. When white boys tell you that they’ve “…never been with a Black girl before,” make sure it stays that way. Here’s some wisdom: Sex is meant to be mutually pleasurable. When boys push their eager fingers down your pants and you’re not feeling it, push them the hell out. Learn to vocalize what it is you want and separate that out in your mind from what you’re being told you ought to want. When you realize that you’re attracted to girls, please don’t freak out, go to church, and take a vow of purity. It’s not going to help. Learn to listen to your desires rather than pushing them down into the depths of your mind. Lying about who you want to be with will only be easier in the very short term. It’s difficult to confront the realities of your sexuality, but my god is it worth it.

Things Will Get So Much Better (And Worse)

You know what makes life about one hundred times easier to deal with? (Aside from the ability to legally drink, hahaha). Having independence. One day you will live under your own roof and make your own rules and it will mean that so many of the things that are majorly annoying to you right now will dissipate right into the ether. Your mother will no longer be able to dictate every aspect of your life for you and it will be a relief… until it isn’t. Here’s the thing, being sixteen is really not an awful time. You’ve escaped the super awkward years of thirteen and fourteen, you’re driving and have some semblance of freedom (but your parents still pay for the gas.) You’re old enough for little kids to look up to you and adults to not immediately dismiss you. BUT you have no real worries or responsibilities just yet. Cherish it! Revel in the fact that you’re nearing adulthood, but are not yet tied down by its endless drudgery of bills and taxes and remembering to buy toilet paper. Enjoy this phase of life, as much as you can, because one day you’ll wake up and you won’t have to go to double maths anymore but you will have to work 9-to-5 under a boss who hates you and the weekends will never last long enough and summer holidays will be a thing that is firmly of the past.

What do you wish your younger self had known?

Photo credit: Deposit Photos

Kesiena Boom is a Black lesbian feminist and writer who adores Audre Lorde, sisterhood, and the sociology of sexuality. She is twenty years old and also writes for Autostraddle.com.

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