My daughter is having the worst time in high school. She’s 15, and has lost a lot of friends this year. You’ve been through some hard stuff, but you love your life. How do I make her fall in love with her life again? Yes, she’s in therapy.
Do you remember high school? I mean, really remember it, not just in a nostalgia-drenched longing for the days when you were rich in collagen and could look gorgeous and dewy even on three hours of sleep.
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My own recollection was a little hazy, so I dipped back into my yearbooks and my diaries from age 15 and all I could think was HOLY CRAP WHY DIDN’T MY PARENTS PUT ME IN THERAPY? By the way, you are an excellent parent for making sure she has mental health care access. +5000 Parenting Points to you!
Back to my diaries: some days, I had it all. Friends! Good grades! A spot on the volleyball team! And some days, everything was the absolute pits. My crush kissed my friend, and not me (jerks). My friends all went to the mall without me (also jerks). I forgot the extra credit assignment in history and I was going to get an A, not an A plus (tragic).
I am currently 34 and some days, I have it all. Friends! Lots of social media likes (the adult equivalent of good grades). A great family! A mini-van! And some days, everything is the absolute pits: online trolls, a four-year-old who refuses bedtime, the constant feeling that I am failing at everything.
To borrow a phrase from terrible boyfriends everywhere, I love my life, but I am not always IN LOVE WITH my life. I don’t have to be, and neither does your daughter.
To borrow a phrase from terrible boyfriends everywhere, I love my life, but I am not always IN LOVE WITH my life.
It feels great to be in love with your life, but it’s not always possible. Hard things are hard, and sometimes the very best we can do is just get through it. That’s no small feat, but when the standard is to be in love with your life? Well, that’s a lot of pressure to put on a person. Should you be in love with your life when all your friends ditch you at your most physically awkward and emotionally vulnerable? Should you be in love with your life when the people you love die and everything falls apart?
Yes, I love my life. I know that I am damn lucky to have two arms, two legs, people who love me and work that fulfills me. I know that even my worst days are better than some people’s best days. And I know that sometimes everything just sucks and I’m grateful for my therapist and my generic Zoloft.
We tend to want to rush each other through the hard stuff—find the silver lining! Make some lemonade!—which makes our difficulties all the more burdensome. How can we be grateful, gracious humans if we are also grappling with regrets and sorrow and jealousies? By remembering that we are all allowed the full spectrum of human emotions, especially the uncomfortable ones. They’re not a distraction from your life, they are a part of life.
This is something you should talk to your daughter about now, because those highs and lows will never stop. As crappy as high school can be, we’re not all guaranteed an upward trajectory once we get that diploma.
For those of us who came of age in the late 90s, Vitamin C and her infamous Graduation Song are full of lies. Some friendships last forever, but others unravel faster than a Forever 21 dress. And even though we all want to always think the very best of ourselves, there is a minimum of two sides to every story, especially when the story is about a friendship ending. Friend breakups are harder when you are forced to see these former friends of yours in the hallways for the next few years, but 15 is a fantastic age to start the process of self-examination, to take stock of what is and isn’t important in your life, and to start to be particular about where you direct your limited emotional energy.
It’s natural for us to want a magic wand to wave over our loved ones and protect them from any unhappiness. My kids are a decade away from high school and I’m already upset about the unpleasant things they have yet to experience. I get it. Fixers gotta fix. But even the very best fixer in the world can’t make anyone fall in love with their life, and that is okay. Life is not just a highlight reel of our best and brightest moments. Life is shitty days and brilliant ones. Life is laughing until you cry and crying until you puke. Life is high school and everything that comes after.
We all need reminding that we will not always love our lives. Even if we aren’t the smiling, happy teens in an acne treatment commercial, or the serene Instagram models posing with their smoothie bowls (whatever the hell those even are), we can be—and are—still loved.
If you have a question you would like Nora to address, email firstname.lastname@example.org.