A Message To My Teenage Self

At times I forget how far I’ve come in my life. I sometimes forget parts of my past that shaped me into the person I became. But when I let myself think about them, I remember a whole lot. The more I close my eyes and envision myself back as a teenager, the more memories that start to pour in. And if I had the chance to speak to him, my teenage self, to share with him what I’ve learned since then, I would tell him:
“My Teenage Self,

I remember when I was You as a teenager. You were only starting to understand yourself and the world around You. You didn’t have a lot of opportunity to do so. I remember You in middle school and You feeling a greater sense of freedom. But simultaneously I remember You also feeling the extremes kids went to in treating each other badly. While there were positive moments You lived through in middle school, the negatives stick out far more for the impact they made on You.

You started to experience a harsher reality, and You eventually built up a defensive wall for Your mental safety. You modeled off of the “tough” guys you saw in movies. Acting and speaking like characters like Tony Montana from “Scarface” or John McClane from “Die Hard” seemed like much easier people to play than whoever You thought You were.

You cussed very freely. There was a time when Your teacher heard you, and You remember the shocked look on her face that You, of all people, spoke like that. And when there were moments you felt threatened, even when you weren’t, you reactively insulted as Your defense. You may have unknowingly hurt others in the process. You didn’t really know who You were. You didn’t have a sense of purpose or meaning to Your life. You were taking in life as it went.

And then You were soon diagnosed with Autism, Depression, Anxiety, all 3 of them at once. You started to believe that this, these diagnoses with their descriptions, were the answers to Your suffering for why You felt how you did. You at first embraced these labels because they gave you answers to all Your questions.

You were told you were depressed because of a chemical imbalance. You were told You had trouble socializing because autistic people have trouble reading body language and people’s emotions. You were told there’s a correlation between people with autism and depression and anxiety. You were given multiple medications, You were given therapy, and You were often reminded of your limitations. Even when people didn’t intend to do so, You still heard it in their words and in their voice. You were told from everyone and everything, other than yourself, about who You were.

Into high school You gained weight, You went over 200 pounds, and You shamed yourself for it. You started to resist the labels you’d been given, and in many cases you rebelled from them. Again, You still didn’t know who you were, how to know Yourself, or who You even wanted to be for Your future. It was instead placed on the sidelines for school subjects You’d never use, social groups You wouldn’t follow after graduating, and beliefs you developed that turned to out to be false. You continued to have moments where You felt out of place, a stranger in a strange land. But here’s the thing, my Teenage Self: You weren’t meant to be a part of the crowd.

I know the things I’m telling you right now may not make a lot of sense. I know that what I’m going to tell now you may sound unbelievable. But all of it happens, and you will live through it all. You see: the labels You were given, the things You were told by others about You, who You were going to be, turned out to be false. You were theorized by others, but You created the verdict for yourself.

Your life’s just beginning. I know you may not see this power within you right now, but it’s there. It’s always been there, and it’s in every one of us. It will take You a while to see it, but eventually you will. Your world will get a whole lot bigger. You will continue to grow more, see more, do more, and live more. I’m continuing to experience it now!

I also want You to know that getting to my place won’t always be smooth sailing. You will experience many emotions, many challenges, and many setbacks. There will be points You’ll feel hopeless and feel very anxious. But You will soon see that these all were just small fragments of your entire journey. You’ll see these hardships happened for a reason. It wasn’t because they had come to stay; they had come to pass so You could continue to thrive.

You’ll be here soon. I love you.

Your 26 Year-Old Self


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Author: Donald "Nugget" Arteaga

Living to transcend labels, to share my insights, to inspire others to move past the generalizations and stereotypes of society. Was diagnosed with autism, but autism doesn't have me! <3

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