The Teen Years: 9 Cringe-Inducing Realizations

Yesterday, home for the holidays and assigned an attic chore, I stumbled upon a box—well-taped up, covered in dust, and clearly labeled as “TIM’S STUFF” with two underlines. Oh yeah. That box.

When I graduated high school, I decided to gather up everything I owned that had meaning to me and put it in a big cardboard box. That was 14 years ago.

With almost no memory of what was in the box, I decided to open it up. Inside I found old schoolwork, report cards, things I had written, things my friends had written, pictures, audio and video recordings, tickets of things I had gone to, and a ton of letters. It quickly turned into a very weird day for me.

First, it’s been fascinating—it’s amazing how many things you remember incorrectly, and I’ve been doing a lot of revising of off-base memories.

Second, I’m a slight emotional wreck—right on the edge of doing this.

But mostly, I spent seven straight hours cringing. Looking at yourself from the outside always has the potential to be mortifying, but looking at yourself and your friends as teenagers is like watching the least endearing, most excruciating reality show ever made. Here’s why:

Teenagers Graph

Anyone who knows 9 to 23-year-olds knows that they tend to detract more value from the world than they add, but as you can see on this graph, the teen years, and especially ages 12 to 16, are a full train wreck. The reason we sometimes forget this is that the only people who spend time with teens are other, equally un-self-aware teens, parents of teens (whose judgment is clouded by their love for their kid), and professionals who have chosen to work with teens because they have an inexplicable soft spot for them. All the people in a position to see teenagers for who they actually are don’t come into much contact with them, so we often forget what kind of people they are.

But there was no forgetting yesterday, as I pored through this mound of primary sources—especially since in this case, it brought back all the inner thinking behind the way my friends and I were.

So all teens reading this, especially those on the younger side: You have a right to live your life, but at least do so with the knowledge that you’re probably bringing down the general quality of the world by being the way you are. I can’t fix you—no one can—but I’ll try to offer some basic suggestions that will help you minimize the amount of embarrassment you’re causing to our species and to your future self:

1) Don’t attempt to be profound, for any reason whatsoever. Profound is not for teenagers, and you’re 100% not an exception. In particular, if one day at the age of 16, you decide to write a short philosophical story in red ink in all tiny capital letters and you’re quivering by the end with a sense of sublime connection to something bigger than yourself, what you should do is A) stop feeling this way, B) keep this whole experience to yourself, and C) throw the story away, since reading it later in life, once you have clarity, will shatter the incorrect, more impressive image you have of yourself as a teen.

2) Don’t be such a dick to your parents, you entitled little shit. You live in a world where 99.9999999% of humans care more about how their hair looks than whether you live or die, and then there’s this person, or two if you’re lucky, who’d give their lives for you. And how do you feel about all this? You feel the exact levels of entitlement and gratitude of this horse:

Show Horse

3) Girls between 11 and 13 and boys between 13 and 15 should implement a strict no-photography policy. For your future self, it’s like being reminded how the hot dog was made.

4) 13-14-year old boys: Your newfound sexuality is extremely icky and upsetting to everyone else.

Just a year or two ago, you had a high voice, a microscopic penis, and people found you endearing. A lot of changes have happened in your life since then, and none of them are appealing to the rest of the world. Even your parents are kind of sickened by your whole vibe these days. Here’s the issue:

Frequency

There’s not really anything you can do to shield humanity from what you’re thinking about, since everyone can see it on your greasy little face, so I’m not sure there’s any advice here—just try not to hurt yourself.

5) 12-14-year-old girls: Try to form one notch less of a medieval empire of sadism and tears. There are a few people crueler to their peers than 12-14-year-old girls—

Cruelty Scale

—but not many. One of the things I found in the cardboard box was a photo of some Play-Doh creation of a human head with a bunch of little red spheres stuck to it, which at the time was made by an acne-ridden girl’s peers and passed around the entire 7th grade at school. Another finding was a letter a friend had written me while I was away the summer after 8th grade, telling me that a girl we knew had been crying yesterday because a bunch of people had been hanging out at a house, but they hadn’t invited this one ostracized member of the group, and the girl whose house it was wouldn’t let her in the door when she showed up.

No one else can quite understand the psychology of a 12-14-year-old girl, just like we can’t understand the way medieval dictators thought—all you can do is remain wary when you’re around them and be careful never to show weakness.

6) Be aware that there are no winners when a 14-year-old boy decides to grow his hair into a shoulder-length bowl cut.

7) 16-18-year-olds: You’re not in love. You’re in something—I understand that—but that thing you’re in is very likely not love. What’s happening is that you’re a basket of hormones that has become infatuated with another basket of hormones, and that’s fine—go for it. But if you find yourself tempted to do something like sever an old, otherwise-strong friendship of yours over it, or alter your college-application plans in order to go to college together as a couple, or write some horrifying love note about this person in your high school yearbook—the thing you need to be made clear on is that friends, and college, and paper are real, and your relationship is fictional:

relationships

This is a graph of a group of sample relationships I created based on no actual data (the graph seemed like a good idea in my head, but then when I made it, it came out totally weird and confusing. Luckily, that’s your problem and not mine). Anyway the point is, when it comes to high school couples, a vast majority of them who are still together after high school ends will be finished by Thanksgiving (late November) of their freshman year of college—the high school relationship wall. The problem is, lots of high school couples are pretty sure that they just might be that one outlier couple on the graph who actually will end up together forever—except then they won’t make it past the wall. So keep this in mind and try not to bump something over in the realm of long-lasting things for the sake of this relationship.

And if, for some incredible reason, you decide to write a song related to this situation of yours, and you choose to write the lyrics on a physical piece of long-lasting paper, and before you graduate you decide to put a bunch of things into a box for the future, understand that you’re only hurting yourself by putting the paper with the lyrics on it into the box, because it’ll cause you to read them when you’re 33 when you had otherwise completely forgotten about the incident.

8) You’re not a Communist, you’re not a Marxist, you’re not an Anarchist, you’re not a Nihilist. No one likes a teenage zealot. Just stop.

9) When your 7th grade girlfriend gives you this note—

Note 1

—realize that A) it means she’s incredibly not into you, and B) if she has to write her last name, it means your relationship was lacking in the first place. You should also explain to her how to do the “It’s not you, it’s me” thing correctly, instead of basically saying, “It’s not you, it’s me—me not liking you.” Whatever you do, don’t convince her to get back together with you, since that’ll just result in you going through all the pain again two weeks later—

Note 2

If someone you’ve spoken to no more than three times in your life A) is acting like she’s divorcing you after 20 years of marriage, averaging 2.5 sorry’s per note, because of how devastated she thinks you’ll be when you read this, and B) feels the need to use the word “look” with you, which is the step right below a restraining order—and all this from someone who thinks it’s okay to hyphenate the word “would”—you need to make some big changes.

So, teenagers, I suggest you take a long look in the mirror and understand the perils you face by being you. Your entire existence is like a drunk person dancing at a wedding—fun from the inside, horrifying from the outside—so just think about that when you’re choosing what to put in writing, put online, and gather into the box at the end of high school. Your future self might be better off without all the details.

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  • You wrote “you’re” instead of “your” in that last paragraph. Not quite as bad as hyphenating “would” though 😉

    I have a giant one of those boxes in the attic. I’m afraid to look at it because I know for a fact there are diary pages in there that are written in my own blood :s If you ever feel like you may have the stomach for venturing inside the 12-15 year old girl’s psyche — no you don’t. I just need to figure out what to do with it before I risk traumatizing my future children after I’m dead…

  • Guest

    I think I might have similar age to you Tim and I agree totally with this post, I always thought about those teenager facts over past years but never put them organized that way.

    This reading was very fun as well as made me cringe sometimes 🙂

    I’ll try to translate this and show it to my 12-year stepson, who knows it makes him think about it.

    As a survivor of teenage period I freak out as my stepson’s teen age arrives…

  • WW

    Thank god I burned my diary from my teenage years a long time ago.

  • Pepperice

    What about the couples who get married but then live unhappily and divorce horribly thirty years later?

  • Gabe Harris

    Based on experience with the “me-generation”, it seems that 23 years old is a good 6-8 years early for “net value to the world = 0”.

  • Tom Miller

    If I could go back to the 12 year old me and tell him what to do, and what not to do, I’m sure that there would be only 1 outcome; He’d ignore everything I said and do it all his way anyway!

    • aldvpso

      Remembering what it was like to be a teenager and working with and counseling the teenager population for years now, I can assure you, things like this will never make a teenager take a step back. Teens are almost incapable of such a thing. And no matter how much you tell them they are not the exception, they will always believe they are the exception, to even that. But that’s ok. I think the teenage years are incredibly vital to our personal development, even if we make dumb decisions that negatively affect our lives. And if we don’t learn from those events and decisions, we certainly won’t learn from someone else’s advice. (Though I get that this article may be more for the sake of venting than actual intervention)

  • RF42

    Totally disagree about destroying all of these relics from that horrible Age of Angst. I think you did it exactly right, Tim, putting everything in a time capsule for later enjoyment. As cringe-worthy as digging through that box is, what a wonderful snapshot of that time in your life. And if you ever have teens of your own, they’ll get a total kick of finding out what a total idiot you were. I have a shoe box full of notes passed between me and my two best friends, and my 16 year old daughter thinks they are hilarious. It makes me relatable.

  • Francis Derpington

    Ha-ha, time to read my old forums posts.
    Oh God, why.

  • AramMcLean

    I’ve been dwindling that box down for years. Every time I look through it even less of it is worth holding onto. Old journals and notes are the best though. Talk about a whine fest. I’m just glad I’m not a teenager today, where every ‘profound’ thought in their little heads is going on the internet for all time. That’s gonna suck in a few years.

  • Annabeth

    As a teenager this doesn’t make me feel good at all. It’s hilarious, but terrible, because now I’m scared to do anything for fear of coming off like this. I probably shouldn’t even post this comment because it will leave evidence of my apparently awful self on the internet. Sorry. Is anyone cringing yet?

    • Johnny5

      Annabeth – The fact that you’re cringing is reason enough to give yourself a break. You will more than likely come off as some shade of these bullet-points no matter how hard you try not to. It’s just what being an emotional, self-aware teenager is all about.

      Laugh off the ridiculousness that is your teenage years. I promise, when you’re in your late 20s to early 30s, you will feel the exact same way Tim describes.

    • seawall

      …and when you are in your 40s and 50s you will love the young teenager that you once were. You will be far less judgmental then, than you were in your 30s.

    • istvan

      Don’t let yourself be intimidated. Teenagers have real emotions and real thoughts and anyone who denies this seems to be trying to justify their superiority based on their age… Think for yourself right at your age. I’m 26 now and throughout my childhood I often made to mistake to think that kids in class above us (1 year older) were so much more knowledgeable or that my most vocal classmates knew so much, but actually they just used phrases that they heard from their parents or read superficially somewhere. So if you feel you have actual opinions, then write about them. You may change your mind later, but that’s part of it.

      After some time you’ll realize that there is no deep inner puzzle to crack in life. Adults don’t hold some special truths (apart from things they hide from small kids, but teenagers find those out themselves). Adults and old people are just as clueless when it really comes to “how to live life”. They may settle for an approach but it’s not like they learn some deep mysterious truth.

      Therefore, go ahead and do say your opinions. Often it will be just the thing that’s fashionable or the exact opposite just to be contrary, but that’s fine. Adults vote for political parties for largely the same reasons.

      Don’t fall for the Dunning–Kruger effect where smart people underestimate their intelligence because the vocal and stupid people seem to be so sure about things that it’s intimidating.
      Too much self-doubt can be paralyzing.

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  • d

    hahaha – the last paragraph was pure gold!

    Although, I challenge you to keep all your profound teenage writings and have another look at them in ten years time. Because, you might just get to the stage where you no longer cringe, but look back on your younger self with fond indulgence; thinking kind thoughts like, aww, look at me being all philosophical about life, wasn’t I smart. Trust me, 30s are like the teenage years of being an adult. Don’t trust your emotions 😉

    Oh, and as if it wasn’t Christmas and season of serendipity, this happened within 5 minutes of me starting to read this post: https://myplacedmyname.sharefile.com/doremotedownload.aspx?type=direct&id=fi79ba9b-9244-658d-8356-e6827143aab1

  • Jenny

    I always love your stuff, but this may be my all time favorite. Thanks for sharing it!

  • Jennifer Gagnon

    When I was in high school we all hung out in a friends basement constantly and wrote all over the walls. Some people wrote jokes some drew pictures, and a select few wrote the poetry of others and bullshit quotes in an attempt to be viewed as a person of substance. Even as a teen I hated (disliked) those people, number one reminded me of this.

  • Steven L

    I’m close to the end of being 18, and I avoided a fair bit (most certainly not all) of the stuff above by just saying this to myself after I made a big decision: “You’re probably really fucking dumb. What if your friend did this? Would it be dumb?” It was pretty much always dumb.

    Amazing how much clarity we have in judging anothers’ actions while making similar decisions ourselves.

  • Cassandra M. Sieja

    I definitely agree that there are a lot of things in this list that are very very very true. However, some of these embarrassing things that are left behind can be good for you. It helps you to see and understand that you have grown and become better. It’s good to see that “philosophical garbage” you wrote when you were 18 now that you are 28, because you can see how you have changed and what new perspectives you have. I think the major difference is the emergence of social media. Now everything that people do when they are young is displayed for the world, and some of that stuff comes to bite them when they get older. Sometimes you even lose employment or other opportunities because you did some dumb stuff you forgot about when you were 16. Kids need to watch what they put on social media vs what they keep for themselves. It’s good to have something to measure your personal growth by, but you don’t need to keep everything, and you don’t always have to re-read everything, though sometimes it’s worth it. I want to be able to look back and think, Thank God I’ve grown since then,” as opposed to, “Damn, what happened, I was smart and now my perspective has gone to hell.” But the truth is we can learn and take things from our past selves to make ourselves better in the future. Regardless, though, I still love this blog and I love the ideas you have. And you are definitely right, those teen years are horribly embarrassing, and you don’t have much to give the world at that point, but it is the prime time to learn things so you can give back later for being such a prick!

  • BrianL51

    What I really want to know is what you did to Samantha in two weeks that completely changed her handwriting?

    • Djyo

      If you look closely, the handwriting isn’t that different between the 2 letters, except from the shape of the “y” letter. The signature “Samantha”, although differs from the rest of the handwriting style: old style, very cursive, m shaped like w, …
      This could mean that the first letter has been signed and written by 2 different persons, or that she used a 2nd handwriting. We will never know….

    • What if that is different Samantha? :O

  • Shreya Manna

    There are a lot of teenagers in the world.
    There are teenagers in the Dharavi slums in India.
    I assume you’re talking about the typical privileged American teenager.

    In any other post, my age would irrelevant. But I feel compelled to post a comment on this post, considering I’m 13 years old. Surely I can’t be the only teenager who reads Wait-But-Why? I surround myself with good company – intellectuals that would love this website. There are anomalies, and not all of us are feral, foul-smelling creatures of humanity. Not all of us are into unmitigated vanity (a.k.a. the selfie) and all out narcissists.

    It’s pretty much guaranteed someone from the comments will condemn me as bleary-eyed and babbling, but that’s my point of view.

    • Jonathan

      Many teenagers are amazing… and frankly, teenagers are getting more awesome every year. There is less juvenile crime, less teen pregnancy and even less risky sex than when the wait but why author was a teen. (Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4SfcGmEVuBY )

      This post is incredibly pessimistic, even if it’s in jest. Be proud to be a teen now. You’re among the most enlightened cohort ever.

      • mysticmuffin

        I’m 12, so thanks, I am fully aware of the fact that humans were built to only live to 30, so therefore, 18 is the primary age. I suppose we are only frowned-apon because of the phrase ‘teenager’. Which other nations don’t have, teenager is an excuse to be bad, a reason to commit crime, you’re supposedly invincible and young, but after 20 years you start to ponder after becoming part of the real world how insignificant you are. I right now, sit and think, about my future life plan – and try to drown-out the disillusionment that your younger, cleverer, more ‘up-to-date’ and generally more motivated than adults (because we have a very, very strong sense of hope compared to adults).

        I like thinking like this.

        • Shreya Manna

          Besides I think youth brings a lot of fresh prejudices and new ideas to the world. One wilts from the sheer amount of ideas trodden on by the great, the mediocre and the neophyte. The youth have a great deal of hope/imagination that adults can lack – hardly anyone could have dreamt of the electronic gadgets we have today back in the 50’s, but someone came along with a radically different thought that changed our everyday lives.

      • Hz

        Okay, so we’ve had four generations of teenagers in the West since WWII who (as a rule) haven’t had to work and take responsibility for their lives, and that of their family, from the age of 14 or younger. We’re exactly 100 years from when tens of thousands of teenagers were lying about their age so that they could serve their countries in one of the most bloody and brutal wars in history. Hundreds of thousands more either volunteered or had no choice in the matter at 18. We’re less than 100 years from when teenage women were active in the campaign for suffrage. We’re 50 years from when African-American teenagers were fighting for their civil rights. But you think that this generation of teens are exceptional? And you think that because with their unprecedented access to information, greater opportunities and longer adolescence (more are staying in full time education until early to mid 20s), they’re acting slightly less like a*holes across a couple of metrics than the two generations before them? It really is an incredibly naive, uninformed and, quite frankly, ungrateful view.

    • mysticmuffin

      Hey! I’m twelve! You’re right though, in countries of the world that are starving the phrase ‘teenager’ isn’t even used. Teenagers are respected as learning adults. I personally think a lot with my syndrome of autism (I am in the ‘deep thought’ state of mind more than the social, and occasionally shout out the very amazing thing on my mind at that moment like ‘I think the centre of a black-hole is a ball of energy because the atoms have been compressed to pure energy!’ – which two days later seems much less interesting as how the HIV virus replicates).

      But anyway, nice to see another teen on WBW, I was pondering if the amount of foul-language was aimed only at adults, but it seems not after this post.

      • 21yearoldJenny

        Hey mysticmuffin, I’m going to assume you’re a girl (sorry, if you’re not). Anyway, I, too am a girl, and growing up, I found that I was much more self-aware than my peers, leading me to not like most of them. Now that this article reminded me that I just turned into the momentous 21 year old, I think back to when I was younger-specifically when I was a “16 year old girl”. Since I’m Asian-American, left-brained, and socioeconomically poor, I too didn’t relate to being a typical “teenager”. I wasn’t sure if any of my peers felt the same way. So basically, your comment just made me feel a lot better about my intellectual/emotional isolation way back then. Thanks for that.

        • mysticmuffin

          That’s ok,
          I’m a boy (lol) – It’s rather annoying being surrounded by people who only enjoy football, I sometimes am thinking about hardcore stuff like why did the selfish gene creates us and some other kid comes to me and says something inexplicably ‘thick’. I started to ponder whether other people think these kinds of things, then I realised ‘hey, I have autism – the same thing Einstein had’. All it does to me is make me be in the deap-thought state of mind longer than the social state of mind, making me socially unprepared to follow the crowd like everyone else (e.g football) and making thinking funner for me than others.

          So using that info, I do think more than adults and therefore I am smarter. Tim is classing us as a whole, from your background teenagers are smart and respectable and classed as learning adults.

          • Shreya Manna

            Besides I think youth brings a lot of fresh prejudices and new ideas to the world. One wilts from the sheer amount of ideas trodden on by the great, the mediocre and the neophyte. The youth have a great deal of hope/imagination that adults can lack – hardly anyone could have dreamt of the electronic gadgets we have today back in the 50’s, but someone came along with a radically different thought that changed our everyday lives.

    • a fellow teenager

      Hi Shreya, I’m a fellow teenager here (a little older than you). This comment is 8 months after yours, but I just want to say that you sound pretty amazing 😀

  • Aaron, just…. Aaron

    Re: #1. I wrote out lyrics to Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” on some window trim in my bedroom. I’m going to repeat that.. I wrote out lyrics to Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic”.. *physically* IN INK on something that is at least semi-permanent, and visible to visitors of my high school bedroom. Awful. Thank god I wasn’t old enough to get a tattoo of it.

  • Cuz Suz

    As a parent of two kids currently in this age group, this is possibly my favorite WBW post ever. Thanks Tim!

  • mysticmuffin

    hi

  • mysticmuffin

    im 12

  • V

    Hey! There is nothing wrong about masturbation – it’s a good stress relief, and a perfect way to procrastinate. If a teenager, or an adult, masturbates – good for them, why would you use it as an example of something gross to be ashamed of? If anything, some people need to masturbate more. (Come to think of it, masturbation may increase their value to the world by making them less insufferable, how about that)

  • mysticmuffin

    I’m 12, good advice

  • mysticmuffin

    though I count myself much more clever than some adults –

  • mysticmuffin

    Hey! I’m twelve! You’re right though, in countries of the world that are starving the phrase ‘teenager’ isn’t even used. Teenagers are respected as learning adults. I personally think a lot with my syndrome of autism (I am in the ‘deep thought’ state of mind more than the social, and occasionally shout out the very amazing thing on my mind at that moment like ‘I think the centre of a black-hole is a ball of energy because the atoms have been compressed to pure energy!’ – which two days later seems much less interesting as how the HIV virus replicates).

  • BreezyM

    *sigh*….

    I wrote fan mail/love letters to Wil Wheaton. And kept them. And subsequently found them when I came home from college. I can’t even bring myself to admit what I wrote in them…but I will say that it involved crying. And describing the crying.

    • Megan

      Maybe you could post that. I would be very glad to read it!

  • hehe ty men

    I’m 12 and what is this?

  • Biff Wonsley

    I’m 49. I have one of those boxes. It’s up in our attic right now, totally forgotten until 10 minutes ago. I think it’s going to lie there, undisturbed, for a good bit longer now. Salut.

  • Megan

    Oh Tim, you always make me laugh! Thank you for this. I kept all my journals from high school and junior high (thank Darwin reliable internet was not a thing when I was a teenager, or all that embarrassment would be available to the public and my kid). I occasionally read them, which always leads to the thought of burning them to ash and evaporated tears.

  • Mechelle B

    Smantha seemed like she was succumbing to outside pressure to end the relationship. That must’ve sucked. Some teenagers really are in love and end up married or together for a long time (high school sweethearts). And profoundness has to start somewhere…to reach the pinnacle of development. Seemed to have worked 4 you

  • Awesome post which reminds me of this. I agree with Valerie and hope you keep every last jewel of history you found in your magic box!

  • istvan

    I’m 26 and I really hate this sort of bashing teenagers. Many times they do realize true stuff but they don’t yet know all the social norms and dances, the topics you have to tiptoe around for various reasons and so on. They don’t see through certain kinds of manipulations but that’s true for most of us.

    I don’t think you can say such general statements about a whole generation. People don’t get automatically wise with age. Just go out to the street and interview people on topics that this article touches on. They won’t know. Likely you don’t know either. You’ll cringe in 20 years about your 25-30 year-old self and how naive and enthusiastic you were when you started out in “real life”… There are these sorts of people who always feel recently enlightened. You were probably like this when you were 12, you looked down on 8-year-olds and thought they are so stupid. When you were 16, you looked down on 12-year-olds. With 20 you thought 16-year-olds were so lame. Bullshit. This just leads to the kind of grumpy old people.

    The more I learn, the more I see that teens are often right about many things. Then they are taught these myths of adulthood and how a decent person ought to behave, but deep down it never changes. Love is like that too. “True love” is a myth and believing in it will just crush you when you see couples around you divorcing who were so “made for each other”. Are 31-year-old panicking women more truely “in love” than 16-year-olds? I doubt it.

    When I was a teen and we pondered society and how ancient tribes lived and whether we could live like that, what we need the state for, and we “concluded” we were “anarchists” for a period of time, we did explore profound ideas and we did have more meaningful conversations than what was yesterday on Disney Channel. We didn’t know too much about anarchism but you have to start somewhere. I’m not an anarchist today, but this period of time when you keep questioning conventions and customs is very important for all society. Revolutions and big changes come from young people, only the 16-25 generation can look at things as they are, without emotional investment and baggage. Without the congitive dissonance of having to explain why they wasted effort on things that didn’t play out so nicely.

    Also, many teens could have written the same things you wrote here and in fact they do it. All the time. Not all of them, but some do. They criticize their own generation just as vehemently. Maybe they haven’t learned all the cross-cultural references and the right way to express themselves but they see stuff that you try to deny and instead patronize them. Just as your religion post said, a teenager can see what’s wrong with religion perfectly clearly, but they may sound harsh because they don’t yet fully appreciate how you have to tiptoe around this. They feel the urge to have sex just as 20 or 30 somethings, they just don’t have all the cultural things in place yet.

    All in all, this post was a negative record here at WaitButWhy. Bashing generalizations and playing the pretentious older generation who knows so much better. Again, bullcrap.

  • I respectfully disagree. Teenagers should absolutely not stop being zealots, or writing all-caps color-poetry, or attempting to be profound, or jumping into probably-doomed relationships with both feet. Though it all may seem cringeworthy later (or to those older than you at the time you are doing it), it holds lots of emotional value at the time. Plus, there is no other time in your life you will feel things so intensely and absent of self-doubt (and, true, the intrusion of logic).

    I’m 30, and when I look back at my own box, I cringe a little, but mostly I remember how nicely enveloping it felt to be the kind of person who could feel, write, and live like that. I wouldn’t want to live my whole life like that, but I’m glad I went through the phase. Let’s not rush the constant babble of self-doubt that comes with growing up.

  • I agree with most of this, but I really hate generalizations. My Mom kicked me out of the house, never had food in the house, would yell at me to get a job if I asked her for five dollars for soda, and left me to rot literally as far as you can get in the United States (I was homeless in Washington with my Dad, and she was in Florida, and refusing to help because… well because she’s a bit of a bitch). I do feel teens need some self help, but you need to talk to them about it constructively, not attack them, and tell them their stupid, or shitty for doing this or that. And I don’t know if I’m being too PC or not, but don’t fucking generalize.

  • fliptherain

    Oh Tim, why are you so weirded out by your past? It’s cute and it’s all typical teenage stuff. Embrace it! Also I am loving how these new posts just keep coming.

  • seawall

    OMG Tim you old curmudgeon you, and at such a young age, too 🙂 I laughed and reminisced about my own teenage years as I read your post. What great writing !

    But just you wait till you hit 40 or 50 or 60 and look back on these current years. As we age we gain more perspective, and – I should hope – more compassion for our younger selves. So we were all clumsy and goofy during our teenage years, and so self-important and full of newfound knowledge? It continues, let me tell you. I have learned that this does not change as we cross off the decades, the knowledge only becomes more refined, more accepting, and more imbued with humour.

    Thank you again for a great read today.

  • Ronen

    Am I the only one who noticed the striking omission of the song lyrics?

    • Tim Urban

      Shh quiet.

      • DeeDee Massey

        Yeah, and what would be especially interesting to see are some pathetic, pining love notes from obnoxious teenage Tim that Samantha might have tucked away in her parents’ attic.

        One time, I was helping my best friend move and we came across her keepsake stash, which swept us into a nostalgic procrastination spiral for a couple hours. In it was a letter I had written to her while I lived overseas (back in the day, when people still communicated via post). I shutter to think about the embarrassingly hilarious black-mail material she and other friends probably still have on me.

  • wobster109

    Tim:
    I’m afraid I’m very disappointed in this week’s post. Teenagers are lovely people for the most part. They are not shits, they are not Kim Jong Il. You just put down all teenagers because of YOUR box. A box that sounds quite ordinary and lovely. There you are, sneering down from your high horse, going “look how much better I am than you.” Well you still have a lot of maturing to do.

    Teens:
    1. Go ahead and be profound. How will you ever get it right without practice? When you’re bad at math, soccer, anything else, you get better through practice.
    2. I agree with this. Be nice to your parents.
    3. Take all the pictures you want. You may be changing, and you may be unused to your body, but you are still lovely.
    4. Go ahead and masturbate. It’s perfectly normal. Just don’t creep out your peers by masturbating around them or saying uncomfortably sexual things to them. Clean up after yourself when you masturbate.
    5. I can’t believe Tim compared making a play-doh head to torturing and killing people on fake charges and enslaving their families. Preteen girls are mostly lovely and sometimes cruel just like everyone else on the planet.
    6. Wear your hair however you like. Preferably keep your hair clean.
    7. Oh, so any relationship that doesn’t end in marriage can’t possibly be love? Yes, you are in love. Yes, your feelings are real. You are still changing, so your feelings today are likely to change too, and that’s ok. Love doesn’t have to be once in a lifetime. Don’t plan your life around this love. You’ll find love again.
    8. Be a communist et al as much as you like. How else will you figure out your worldview for yourself? Don’t force discussion of your communism et al on unwilling conversation partners though.
    9. Samantha was polite and tried hard to break up with dignity. She sounds like a lovely person.

    • Driffle

      Hear, hear!

      @Teens (including Shreya and mysticmuffin, below): Don’t listen to Tim here. I don’t think he means to sound like a bully. Clearly, he’s insecure about who he used to be. He’s working out his own stuff, and it’s not about you. I’d suggest you listen to wobster, but here are my opinions tacked on:

      Being profound, falling in love, etc. aren’t things you’re just doing for “practice” for some later date. They’re real experiences right now, and you’re really having them. They might be the strongest, deepest such experiences of your life! Many people remember their teenage years that way.

      @Tim: I get what you’re going for here, but think about it. You’re attacking teens in the very ways that society already brutalizes them. Your messages are A) teens aren’t real people (their ideas aren’t real ideas, their feelings aren’t real feelings); B) teens are ugly; C) teens should be ashamed and embarrassed about sex. None of this is funny to me, and I think it exacerbates an already-tough time. I hope you retract this whole post, or at least recontextualize it in some affirming, youth-positive, sex-positive, body-positive framework.

      • wobster109

        Thank you, I agree with you completely. You picked out exactly the messages that were troubling, and I really hope Tim sees your note to him. A few weeks ago he was writing about being on step 3 and appreciating everyone https://waitbutwhy.com/2014/10/religion-for-the-nonreligious.html, and I hope he’ll remember that. 🙂

    • imgoingtohell

      Honestly, when I was reading this (I’m 21), the part with the numbered advice points seemed COMPLETELY SARCASTIC to me. I didn’t think any teens would be reading this and the back of my head thought that if there were a handful of them reading, they’d be the unimpressionable ones.

      Therefore, I found this article very funny and relatable. I especially remember my own “profound” ideologies and even one where I *tried* to meticulously plan to eradicate all non-atheists to make the world a better place (Please don’t hold that against me! I don’t believe that now!!)

      I think Tim was just caught up in the huge emotional box of time-traveling with the insensitive advice. I don’t think he means any harm. Hopefully, he will reaffirm this by updating the article. 🙂

    • Rena

      He obviously means it in a humourous way, and didn’t he remark on a previous post that he didn’t think there would be too many teens around here? (I vaguely remember a graph on the ages of WBW readers).
      I do agree Samantha seems lovely and graceful.
      But the rest of it? I do not agree. Girls can be cruel, and so can boys! I don’t wish to generalize, but the skinny effeminate boys aren’t bros with the quarterback. Haven’t you experienced the division of the school population – jocks, geeks, selfie queens, cliques, weirdos, artsy types and a couple more? It’s part of psychology – your rate of maturation separates you from your peers, teens form friendships, test boundaries, experiment with sarcasm among other things.
      I think it is a pretty natural process that most (I refrain from saying everybody because you don’t) go through to find their identity. At the same time, it is a period of raging hormones and magnification and overreaction and validation through attention, which may not be so endearing to complete strangers.

  • DR

    The only thing funnier than this post (probably my favorite so far) are the people who get riled up about it. It’s a comedy post, where he’s making fun of himself more than anything. Commenters need to learn the difference between a post trying to make a serious point and a humor post.

  • Christian

    OMG this was awesome, you have big balls for showing those love letters!

  • James

    16 year old here. What do you reckon I should spend my time doing? Also, should I delete my journal to avoid cringing in my 30’s?

    Cheers,
    James

    • N00less Cluebie

      Keep doing what you’re doing and keep your journals. They’re for teenage James mostly. Don’t worry about what old-fogey James is gonna think

    • Rena

      Never! The benefits outweigh the cringe factor by far. And don’t let future embarrassment stop you from taking risks (well, mostly).

    • Tim Urban

      No, no, don’t do that. Check out my note above.

    • Old Kas

      You’re really going to regret deleting your diaries. Please do not do that. I did. I’m 32.

  • N00less Cluebie

    tim, I have to say that I disagree with you on this one–at least in part. If a teenager is feeling profound and wants to write down his or her feelings and thoughts there is nothing wrong with that. She shouldn’t worry about what her 30-year old self is going to feel about it all. 30-year old self is some stupid other person so fuck him. He’s on his own, and if he wants to listen to recordings of my Violent Femmes cover band, no regrets man!

    I’ll bet 60-year old Tim is going to Reread some of these blog posts with the same rueful thoughts you’re feeling now about teenage Tim, and THATS OK. To hell with 60-year old Tim. He needs to worry more about getting that job as a Wal*Mart greeter after his bank account collapsed after the tenth recession of the 2000’s….

    Teenagers-yes try to be aware enough of other people in this universe but don’t be so self-concious that you don’t experiment with your identity and grow as a person.

    There’s just no skipping over the awkwardness of your teenage years so revel in it!

    • Krattz

      I agree. 99.9999% of teenagers do *not* experiment with their intellects… even if your ideas suck compared to what 30 year old you is capable of, they’re still a lot better than what most of your peers come up with which is “SEX!!” and “GET DRUNK!!!” most of the time… I hate my generation…

      • wobster109

        Find me a single teen who does not experiment with his/her intellect. I challenge you to. Every teen experiments with his/her intellect, it’s not all sex and booze. Just because they didn’t share their thoughts with you doesn’t mean they weren’t thinking.

    • Barry Geibel

      Woah woah, you’re bending his words a little. I don’t think he meant that they should never attempt to think deeply, but that they should avoid TRYING to sound profound. There’s a HUGE difference there. So chill out.

  • Michael

    I was a pretty cool person as a teenager, and I got better with age.

  • JB

    I’m 19. I suppose I fall in the category of those not too useful too society. I mean, that’s cool and whatever. If there’s a time to make mistakes, I guess it’s now. Thanks.

    That being said, I really have to disagree with the “Don’t try to be profound” bullet. Yes, I understand the humor, and yes, it’s a common trope all teenagers (I am certainly not excluded) fall into, but it’s much like a kid falling down after taking off his training wheels. It’s around 12-14 that we become fully cognizant of the world around us, and “being profound” is just a way of trying to sort “the world” out in a way that’s relevant to yourself and how you act.

    I am nowhere near where I should be to say this, and I’m going to intentionally violate one of the rules you posted above, but I think that the sooner and closer you start wondering where you want to fit in with the world, the better off you’ll be. It’s not much; you’re only twelve or fourteen and you might not have much experience at all, but every bit helps. It’s like exploring a cave blind, or going in with a dim glow stick.

    To tell someone to not think deeply is kinda harsh. Even if it’s illogical and useless, it’s valuable practice, regardless of age.

    Eh, but what do I know? I’m some ungrateful shit, after all. 😛

    • Tim Urban

      A few people have mentioned the profound thing. Here’s my reasoning: I wrote this fresh off reading my above-mentioned philosophical story written in all tiny red capital letters. It started with the sentence, “The bird is nestled in its mother’s breast” before going on to explain how the bird then suddenly dies and sinks underground where some woman I called “Nature’s Wanderer” saved his soul and battled demons while boiling the bird’s soul in some big bubbling cauldron, which then led to a force rising up from the cauldron to the Earth, where the story ends with the jaw-dropper, “The life force ascends to the Earth where a child is born and this child’s name is Tim.”

      Oh and roughly 70% of the words in the story are descriptive adjectives I had learned studying for the SAT.

      If you read the story, you’d also suddenly tell everyone that no teenager should ever be profound again.

      Do I really think no teenager should ever be profound, just because I had to go through the pain of reading that story, knowing how brilliant I thought it was at the time? Or that no teenager should get a bowl haircut, just because I had to look at pictures of myself with a penis-shaped head? Or that every ultra-horny middle school boy should be shunned, just because I was reminded of the friend we all called The Sperm-Slayer? No. But teenagers should be made fun of—like every group of people should be made fun of—and going through this box put me in a mood to dig into teenagers.

      And of course the same kind of person who saves everything in a box after high school doesn’t actually think people should refrain from saving things—saving things is what I do. But it’s also a fact of life that your old self will always make your new self cringe a little, and that phenomenon is what I’m joking about here.

      So if you’re a teenager and reading this was a downer, keep in mind: A) It’s not you, it’s me; B) It’s also you, you’re embarrassing; C) Current me is embarrassing too, to my 45 year old self—it’s part of life; D) In a post where I’m making up fake data, censoring the last name of a 13-year-old girl’s handwritten note, or comparing middle-schoolers to serial killers and dictators, nothing I say should be taken too seriously.

      • fred

        Hey Tim,

        Just as a counterpoint to all the teenagers (in age or spirit) whining about this post, I have to say this is one of my all time favorites! The only thing you forgot is a chart indicating how seriously people take themselves, which would have a massive peak around the teenage years and explain why some of your readers are having such a hard time appreciating this post. To those wallowing in indignation after reading this post, I suggest looking at the horse picture again until it makes you laugh (as intended).

        Keep up the good work!

      • DeeDee Massey

        In your reading, didn’t you run across something that made you think: “I was pretty cool/smart/witty/sweet, especially for such a young age” and feel awesome and inspired about yourself? Was there anything that made you long for a return to the idealistic outlook, fearless ambition, and blissful naivete of those years?

        • Tim Urban

          Yeah there were a number of bright moments as well (but they’re not especially funny so I left them out), and the whole thing was incredibly nostalgic. Underneath the cringiness was basically the same exact person with the same thoughts and sense of humor, even back to when I was really young. Nice to see that continuity.

      • wobster109

        Nice of you to say all over the place “you”, “12-14 year old girls”, “13-14 year old boys”, “16-18 year olds”, and then pretend like you really meant yourself. You were never a 12-14 year old girl.

        Maybe I should put out a manifesto bashing all Asians and then claim it was nothing serious and I really meant myself.

        You screwed up Tim. Like a politician who insulted his constituents, you screwed up. Apologize and move on.

        • Tim Urban

          I’m sorry you saw it that way wobster109, especially since I have a soft spot for you since you were the only one to figure out why I put the red dot where I did in that other post—I was very thrilled with myself for how I did that and was gonna be sad if no one figured it out.

          I hear what you’re saying, but we’re not seeing eye-to-eye on this one. Certain posts are coming from a more earnest place and others are coming from more of a hyperbolic, comedy place, and this one was the latter. I’ve made equally scathing fun of 20-somethings, 30-year-olds, Baby Boomers, and elderly people. I even once talked about wanting to throw babies to the ground and creeped everybody out.

          One of the risks of writing a blog that alternates between writing genuine, earnest posts and sarcastic, satirical posts is that one can get confused for the other. If you and others interpreted this post as giving real advice, maybe I didn’t make that clear enough here.

          Either way, thanks for the feedback. And if you ever put out the Asian-bashing manifesto, let me know.

        • d

          I was a 12-14 year old girl once and my first instinct when I read what Tim wrote was to be upset on behalf of my own young victimised self, until I recalled that most of my bullies were other girls and also, how horrible I actually was to other people. So, yes, girls can be utterly cruel. (they are still not likely to string up kittens on tree branches and stone them like boys, though, so, let’s just make that point)

        • Lookoverther

          You can’t compare jokes about a time period in every person’s life to a racist manifesto, and only the forced gravity of an internet comment section could goad a person into pretending the two are similar.

      • N00less Cluebie

        Tim, without boiled-baby-bird-soul there never would have been social anxiety mammoth. YOU would never exist without all the embarrassing things teenage Tim did. There might be some Tim-prime out there who is computing actuarial tables on 60-65 year old non-smokers or maybe a Tim-subscript 2 who is selling used Winnebagos in Tallahassee, but none of them would be you. Maybe some of these alternate Tims would have been more successful or more happy but their existence would imply that YOU do not. Might as well thank Samantha too while you’re at it as Tim-subscript 45 married her at age 18, and although he’s very happy with his 3 kids, you don’t exist in his universe….

        • R1ckr011

          He should still be a little embarrassed by his analogies. I mean come on 😛

          Not gonna judge. I still love the shit out of this blog. It’s like Hyperbole and a half and XKCD combined.

          • N00less Cluebie

            30 year old Tim should be a little embarrassed, just like 50-year-old Tim will be embarrassed by some of the stuff in this blog. But it’s important that TEENAGE Tim NOT be embarrassed, for its important for teenagers to explore and grow and take risks

      • Shreya Manna

        Hey! First of all, it WAS a great post, and funny as I expected. Part of the reason why I clicked the link to view it from my email feed.

        To be honest, you can’t always be politically correct in a post. Someone’s going to like it, someone’s going to say otherwise (like my defensive rant below). This post is speciesist, because it doesn’t include axolotls and blobfish. Whatever. In this post, it was teenagers, and truth be told – some teenagers are exactly like you described. Probably not the ones reading WBW.

        Keep posting!

        • mysticmuffin

          blobfish are way better!

      • R1ckr011

        You should have posted that XD There would have been no confusion at that point.
        I know what you mean about that kinda nonsense. I used to write like that a fair bit, but mostly it was taking bad analytical philosophy and naive understanding of the foundations of mathematics (as in, I didn’t know the first damn thing about Large Cardinals).
        I wouldn’t say that this was all worthless though.
        And If you scratch off the “and it’s name was Tim”… that would improve the story by like 10% at the very least. Change the font and the alt-caps and you are looking at 15-20% At that point it’s already almost passable!

      • mysticmuffin

        I think the problem you’ve accidentally made with this post is the fact that it is impossible to write from the point of view or an adult or a child. No adult can class a child, nor no child can class an adult.

        My point implies that what you’ve tried to do in this post is both mock teenagers and mock yourself, as so what everybody has found is that your distinction between the two was not at all clear.

        There are many famous teenagers in history, teenage kings, teenage inventors, all ideas and targets and dreams of your life are born in one stage. The teenage years. Their not “cringe-inducing”, it’s just the point in life when you come out of your shell and see the real world for the first time. Teenagers are foolish, yet eager, and foolish in their eagerness. They only do bad things when the adults forget that they are still learning, but learning a new stage in life.

        The average person back in the neolithic times lived for 30, making 15 the prime of your life. When you can walk, hunt, gather, the point at which you actually become useful. I think the problem is not in teenagers in this day and age, but the society they live in.

        Nobody hates you for saying this, certainly not me, but remember what happens when you discriminate classes of people like this and then say you were talking about yourself when you very well weren’t as stated above in the article. You made up fake data to prove a point, a point you didn’t really understand. You’re right, some teenagers are like that due to the strange world they live in, full of social media, slang, social status and friendships, but good luck to them all, and put this post on some other site where the teenagers reading are more like what you described.

        Best regards anyway – I love this site, keep writing!

        Oh, and don’t just write a post about axolotls, write a post about blobfish too!

    • Barry Geibel

      You should really chill out, and now that Tim has explained this, you’ll understand that thinking deeply about anything/everything =/= TRYING to be profound. He didn’t tell kids not to think about existence and life and the universe and everything, but not to get full of themselves and focus on sounding wise and contemplative. You get the difference?

  • Krattz

    I just finished yr 12. I know *I’ll* be repressing all that’s happened up till now

    • DeeDee Massey

      What does “I just finished yr 12” mean? Your other profile answers are not typical of a 12 yr old.

      • Shayla Scott

        Pretty sure he/she means 12th grade. “Year” instead of grade is common outside the US.

        • DeeDee Massey

          LOL. I had to clarify, because some of the posts sound beyond the years of a recent high school grad as well.

          This led me to thinking about all our online stores of posts and how it would be to revisit them 10 years from now, laughing, crying, gloating, or cringing.

          It also made me think about the old letters, poems, and stories we wrote to and for other people, which they might have stuffed in a keepsake box somewhere. Perhaps one day, their grandkid will find them in a squooshed-up shoe box in a dark, spidery corner of an attic. It would be fun to re-read them, but sadly much of the sentiment we send out to the world is lost to us forever.

  • Rena

    Okay – I’m 17, so I can pretty much relate to this even though dude you’re like OLD (just kidding).

    Are you sure it’s just 12-14 YO girls? I would think 13-16 seems better.

    And what is that “Why High school relationships are fictional” graph? You really need to explain that 😐

    ALSO. I have an entire folder of those laptop selfies I took in fifth and sixth grade and I’m not cringing yet. IT’S FUNNY.

    The desperate love notes are pathetic though. Thank you for sharing YOURS! (though I cant help wondering if you wrote them out yourself).

    “In particular, if one day at the age of 16, you decide to write a short philosophical story in red ink in all tiny capital letters and you’re quivering by the end with a sense of sublime connection to something bigger than yourself”
    Now that sounds a little too real for imagination. Is there something you would like to share with us, Tim?

    Thank you for the post. Merry Christmas Tim and WBW readers! 🙂

  • Jacob

    I’m 15 and although I feel most of your statements are spot on for some teenagers, I feel like you’re generalizing too much. And if you think about it, it’s likely that the average teenager who reads this blog isn’t a stereotypical teengager if they put up with all you weird shit like instant gratification monkeys and satanic owls (both of which I laughed at; hard). Good idea for a post, just tone the harshness back a bit or make a point of not generalizing. Still amusing to read though!

  • Alessandra

    I’m 17-
    in this post there are some pretty harsh generalisations , especially in the sections instructing teens to stop attempting to be profound, and contemplating their place in the world – or their beliefs and ideologies (Marxism, communism etc.). This kind of deeper thinking is what starts forming us as people and allowing us to start seeing the world in so many new, interesting, and enlightening ways! Yes, definitely, your principles, values and beliefs will change as you grow and learn, but you have to start somewhere and your teenage years are usually when exposure to these methodologies/ideas begins.

    I think the quote “never regret something that once made you smile” is quite apt here – if you had a bowl haircut when you were 15 and loved it, or dedicated and sacrificed gargantuan amounts of time & emotion to a relationship that only lasted a month after graduation even though you thought it would never end at the time, so what? Even if it makes you cringe when you’re 35 remembering, it doesn’t mean you should regret it and wish you hadn’t done it. It’s just another of life’s experiences, and without making mistakes and trying new/different things, people would never learn.

    Experimentation is especially important while you’re a teenager, as this is the main time in your life when the world is your oyster and theres everything to explore. I completely appreciate the intended humour/sarcasm and I love this page, but I don’t think this was particularly successful in critiquing teenage behaviour in a light and joking manner. Things like indicating that teenagers shouldn’t try to contribute to society because they don’t matter, or should avoid doing anything significant or different because they will regret it in later life and be embarrassed hit far too close to home in a lot of teenager’s lives who don’t get enough support to be themselves as it is.

    Yes, you will look back at many aspects of your life and cringe, but, in the end, its all a learning experience and there’s usually no way to get something right on the first try. So even though you will cringe, you shouldn’t regret, and should certainly not aim to suppress or change your teenage lifestyle if you’re simply being yourself and starting out your life! 🙂

    Alessandra

    • mysticmuffin

      You’re right! Teenagers (like myself) should be allowed to develop their own ideas on things. Isn’t that how humans learn?

      • Barry Geibel

        Where in that article does it say you shouldn’t think for yourself? It says don’t latch on to things like Anarchism and label yourself as such, and no bowl-cuts. That Alessandra girl made up a lot of stuff in her head

    • Barry Geibel

      He didn’t say not to contemplate your place in the world, he said that saying that “I’m an anarchist now” because you read about it last week is dumb, just appreciate stuff without having to assimilate it. He definitely didn’t say you should avoid contributing to society, it was more like even when you TRY you contribute almost nothing. By all means, try. And you thought he meant you should avoid doing anything significant or different because you’ll regret it, but he actually never said anything close to this. He told 14 year old boys that bowl cuts are a bad move, but I don’t know where you’re pulling these other things from.

      Seriously, you made up a whole bunch of stuff when you posted this comment. Re-read the article, it’s really not as cynical or as condescending as you think it is.

  • Shayla Scott

    If the amount of negative feedback on this post is directly proportional to the number of people (a) feeling defensive of their own awkward teens years and (b) immediately in the throes of their own profound teenage thoughts… well then? Point made! Fantastic post as always Tim. 😉

  • Cleon
  • Pingback: The Cringe Years - CURATIO Magazine()

  • Alain Chautard

    Awesome piece of work as always! I especially love the cruelty chart, sooooo true. It’s also interesting to see that you have a bunch of teen readers. I was under the impression that 99% of your readers would be 30-35 year old males just like us.

    • wobster109

      Why would 99% of readers be males in a 6-year age range? Based on this chart http://www.censusscope.org/us/chart_age.html males 30 to 34 are 3.67% of the US. So your range (M 30-35) would be about 4% of the US. Tim has readers from every country except North Korea. Surely the diversity would spread to age and gender too.

      Tim, what percent of your readers are female? My 90% confidence interval is 30 to 65 percent.

      • Tim Urban

        Not sure how to figure that out, but my gut is it’s very close to 50/50.

        • Valerie

          Survey time!

          • Chalynn

            Yay! Can we do a survey and post on demographics of WBW readers? 😀

            • wobster109

              Survey sounds awesome! I’d be really interested in that. Reader breakdown by age, gender, state/country, optionally religion and politics. I suspect Tim has a diverse mix in all of them.

  • Jacob Nestle

    I think that, as a teen, I agree with literally all of this–except for the “don’t try to be profound” thing.

    Yeah, most of us fail hilariously. Especially when we’re trying to be profound.
    But writing down how you feel at the time–even if you laugh and shake your head later–is a big way to realize how you actually feel. If that’s terrible poetry or an attempt at a profound short story (both of which I’ve done myself, to some degree) it can still help. So what you’re a terrible writer, or your feelings are totally misguided? Attempting to be profound can teach us quite a bit about ourselves.

    In the interest of full disclosure: no, I haven’t graduated high school yet, and I was recently broken up with by phone call, and yes, I’m a very philosophically thinking person whose best friend in eighth grade thought he was the next Che Guevara.

    Keep up the great posts (even if they are listicles).

  • Rajarshi Ghosh

    Hey Tim.. I have been a fan of WBW right from the time I came across the post on generation Y yuppies.. This is yet another gem. Would like to see the ‘short philosophical story’ as well.. Do share!

  • Jay Mullen

    I can’t believe anyone was upset by this article. Reading this and saying “Hey, you just told teens to not be themselves out of fear of what others might think, that contradicts the mammoth article!” is like reading the Bunny Manifesto and saying “Hey, you said bunnies were all trying to hide something, but you should know that a bunny’s brain isn’t capable of that level of consciousness, so I think you were really off-base with this.” Someone who thinks Tim was giving serious advice or life wisdom here completely misunderstood the post. He’s poking fun at the teen years, not giving advice.

    • Megan

      Not only was I confused about what a bunny is—and not only did google images turn out to be confused about what a bunny is—bunnies themselves are confused about what a bunny is.

  • mallo

    I’m 15 and I’d like to thank you for these valuable lessons I’ll probably forget in 7 to 10 minutes!

  • LC

    I feel your pain Tim. I’ve kept diaries since I was about 12 years old. Diaries. In which I wrote my teenager thoughts. And turned my feelings into poetry. Maybe number 10 should be – “You are not a poet. Put that pen down and back away.”

  • Sooty Mangabey

    Cringed as well when I read an entry from a half-assed journal I had when I was maybe 14 or 15. The writing was toe-curlingly contrived. arghh…

  • James Apple

    Funniest post in Wait But Why history. Made me cry.

  • Darkwulfz

    i’m 19 and i find it pretty spot-on. upon retrospection into my past two years itself has made me cringe for a while but on the lighter side, i found the journey really amusing and ironical. i’m pretty sure my future self would laugh his ass off at my present self but that’s pretty funny too. Life is full of ironies and i wish to cherish them all along the way. A hilarious post! it left me laughing at myself! 😀

    • Barry Geibel

      Future self would laugh before shooting you with his laser gun, thus correcting the time travellers paradox. DUUUH

  • DeeDee Massey

    I love that horsie.

  • Ella

    16 years old and I loved this article, thanks for the advice Tim, I’ll take it.

  • Ben Lee

    24 year old me contemplating the 10 year old me: “what a little asshat of a brat i was back then!”
    24 year old me contemplating the 15 year old me: “im soooo full of shit back then..how come nobody caught on with that?!”
    24 year old me contemplating the 20 year old me: “i was such a self destructive asshole filled with more shit than a sewage treatment plant”
    24 year old me contemplating the 24 year old me: “im not as full of shit now as i was back then, but the shit i am occupied with right now, is wayyyyyy more toxic and destructive than the shit i was previously filled with”
    24 year old me contemplating the (future) 30 year old me: “shit..”

  • PinkTheBush

    Oh dear. So much teenage angst in these comments. This is called hyperbolic satire, and it’s hilarious. Pipe down. This is a man who just rummaged through a box of old keepsakes, had a good laugh at himself, and shared it with his readers in his usual dry, witty style.

    At 31, I get together from time to time with friends I still have from grade school. Once in a while, one will ask me, “Hey, do you remember when we — ?” I cringe and reply, “Please, god, don’t remind me.” We are never more insightful than we are right now, it’s just how it is. I cringe over shit I did a week ago.

    Naturally, you read the article, ignore the voice and intended audience, find those one or two things that make you think he’s referring directly to you, shed that woeful tear and say, “Meehhhh it’s gotta be all about me!!” But don’t feel too bad, grown adults do it all the time (see: #alllivesmatter).

  • Robert Ricco

    Regarding No. 4 – “Even your parents are kind of sickened by your whole vibe these days.” I have a 14 year old son. Entering his room leaves one with equal feelings of wanting to leave immediately and hoping not to find anything that’ll ruin my next meal.

  • Mitchell Taco Nash

    What I’m now wondering is if Tim in about 12 years from now will look back at this article and cringe. Haha.

    I found this funny yet pessimistic. Points 1, 8, and 9 I found rather off-putting, with number 7 being a bit iffy. Quite honestly, 1, 8, and 9 are things I think teenagers should go through. They may be embarrassing to you when you’re older, but I think what’s wrong with the attitude displayed above is that it seems to miss how important these things are in our development and growth as a human.

    You most certainly need to play around with profound thoughts, think about certain worldviews and beliefs, and make mistakes [often dumb and embarrassing in retrospect] in regards to relationships. Those things are all valuable. You learn from them and they help shape who you are. Looking back you may think of how dumb they seem, but remember, you gained all this knowledge, experience, and wisdom from these very actions that you’re criticizing.

    On top of that, these life lessons are usually best learned while still a teenager, when stakes are rather low and you still have a lot of your life ahead of you. Don’t dismiss all the work your younger selves did to get you to your current perspective of things only to turn around and criticize what they did. I’m sure there are a lot of things Tim learned from that [embarrassing] failed relationship from Samantha that he forgets ever learning, yet he can only see how embarrassing it is after he’s learned those very lessons.

    I guess what I’m saying is try not to be so hard on younger people and to your younger selves. I’m sure there are ways to mitigate some of the cringe-worthiness, but this shouldn’t come to the expense of learning these lessons and growing up.

    • R1ckr011

      Agreed. It’s trying to say “stop trying to figure things out and” A) Give up, no one knows, or B) just figure it out already.

      Neither of those positions is tenable, just as the political zealotry of the people binge-reading wikipedia and writing a report on Che Guevara.

      I think people of any age can be profound. Wisdom doesn’t come with age. Perhaps patience does, or consolidation of ideas. But consolidating crap ideas will get you Tea Partiers, and some people are never patient.

      I’d essentially just like to point out that the vested interests of the world seem all to eager to prey upon the perceived or manufactured weaknesses of younger generations. THIS IS NOT NEWS! Anyone ever read Dickens? Maybe one of the generations that finally was let off the hook was the Baby Boomer Generation. I’ll leave more discussion on That issue on the relevant post, but suffice it to say that the worlds solutions rush to meet the world’s problems at glacial speed because the adventurous or crazy youth of each generation have to give all the energy to the people who are actually trying to make things work. Once you reach about 40, there isn’t really all that much hope left to have in the world is there? Same political bullshit, same tabloid news mixed with disaster porn now brought to you by the new iPhone35.

      No, being older does not make you more valuable. It just means you have more likelyhood of having collected assets. Woohoo. We’re all blobs of particles here, just trying to figure shit out. Having furniture and extra rooms for it, and faster, sexier blobs of particles to carry around the smarter blobs… it’s all rather absurd isn’t it? It makes posts like this seem insanely petty.

  • Eko21

    Man you really got the point! By the way it’s not always the truth that the school wall brokes the couple. Thank you for the article.

  • sabs546

    Good to know that as a 16 year old I’ve wasted my time
    Trying not to waste my time
    But this stuff makes sense
    Being profound in any way at this age is very much frowned upon, image is everything and eventually, no matter how much you stick to the rules, at least one fight will break out, its inevitable

    • James

      It’s not frowned upon but it will most likely make you cringe later if you re-read your attempts and that’s because you’re drawing from a much more limited pool of experience. But whatever, the article is just for humor anyways! Write, read, paint, speak, try and make a difference, be profound, be stupid, LEARN.

      • sabs546

        Oh believe me people this age people will think you’re crazy because when you think you sound profound you actually just sound like the last line someone says before the end of a movie

        One thing I realised really sucks though is you don’t have enough time
        From 13 to 18 you get 5 years
        (The 5 years don’t actually go by quickly though)
        5 years be a rebel, nerd, popular, stupid, lazy, tired, angry, funny or a loner
        Make a decision
        Did you spend your teenage years sucking out as much fun as possible
        Or did you really prepare for the future
        Or did you overwork yourself trying both
        You’ll ever them all

        I dunno I just thought of this, it’s gonna be hard trying not to regret wasting these years, I feel like I could have done more fun stupid things I guess
        I’m sorta glad I stuck with my friends from year 7 to now in first year college

  • Uncephalized

    I am half of one of those outlier high school couples–got together in our junior year, made it through a year of college apart by Skyping about 10 hours a day, then changed schools to be together again, and are now very happily married, hopefully forever (getting closer to 30 every day, yikes :-). But we’re a very rare pair of birds and were simply lucky to find each other so young.

    • Nat

      Skyping 10 hours a day?? Jesus, that’s more time than I’d want to spend with a college boyfriend in person, let alone via Skype. I mean, more power to y’all for beating the odds, whatever floats your goat, etc., but I just can’t even fathom that.

      Hell, I’m 30, and I’m not spending 10 hours with someone unless I live with them or we’re going on a Netflix binge.

      • Uncephalized

        There’s a reason we stayed together despite nearly everyone’s (well-intentioned and wrong) advice to the contrary, and a reason we are married. We are absurdly compatible and each of us prefers the other’s company to that of any other human we’ve met. On an average day we’re probably apart less than 2 hours and I’m including bathroom breaks. I miss her after less than half a day when she’s away… and yes, I’m well aware that’s a little weird. 🙂

        • Zlaja

          A couple of creeps…hey as long as you work for each other…

  • Marissa

    Tim,
    Thank you very much for this post! It was hilarious and I absolutely love your satirical insights. As a sixteen year old girl, I read this nodding my head and smiling, albeit with a small cringe because of your accuracy. I’m sorry you get flak from aching hearts who were hurt by your dry sense of humor, but I suppose since you’re mastering your Mammoth it doesn’t matter to you much. Thanks for sharing parts of your past and your hilarious perspective on it all!

  • wakagi

    I thought I was valuable to the world after 20, but apparently I still have to wait for a couple of years. 😛 I mean, I’m curious, why specifically 23?

    • Kyle Nieman

      At 21, you’re someone who just started drinking legally. And at 22, you are someone who just started drinking legally a year ago…

      • wakagi

        Oh, i guess that makes sense for the US! I didn’t even think of that. Over here you can start drinking at 16 and legally drink anything at 18, so by the time you reach 21 the whole teenage drinking craze wears off a little ^^”.

  • Shebaknee

    Hilarious, as always!

    The thing though, is that teenagers will never listen to advice, they want to think they know better than the adult (however close the adult is to his/her age), because they’re young and ‘inventing their own way.’ It’s hilarious when I think back to my own examples of the same.

    Also, I actually did sporadically maintain diaries when I was growing up (still do), AND kept notes and stuff like that (stuff I wanted to remember as special). I absolutely LOVE looking through them, because I look at myself now and say wow this is how I began, and makes me proud of the version I am today 🙂

  • istvan

    I think this kind of post is harmful. It has an effect on people who don’t need it, while having no effect on those who do need it.

    In simplified terms, there are two kinds of people: those who are overconfident and quick-to-speak and those who are underconfident, and excessively careful, self-doubting. The overconfident teenagers will (perhaps unknowingly) conjure up firm opinions on music, history (WW II or Che Guevara are popular topics), politics, sports etc. Some do it in order to seem mature and some are boneheaded and genuinely think they know more than they do. Neither will be persuaded by this post to lower their confidence, as one uses it for signaling, the other will see themselves as an exception as they are “clearly right”.

    The underconfident teenagers will see these confident-looking people around them and will be afraid to voice their opinion because they see how complicated these topics often are. But actually their opinion may be much better-founded than the confident guy’s opinion who goes around school preaching around and seeming knowledgeable in music, sport, history, sex, global issues etc. The underconfident person will be intimidated by this atmosphere and look up to the overconfident one while reducing their own self-confidence. Now you come along and tell that whatever they think, they should be less confident and even if they see themselves as exceptions, they are not exceptions. That seeing yourself as an exception just proves the point and you are even less of an exception for feeling like an exception. It also discourages learning more since whatever you do, you will still be a teenager, and it will just be an illusion that you know much. Even if you do know quite much after reading and practicing something for a long time. You will feel like an exception, but that means nothing (according to the post), you’re still dumb because you’re a teenager.

    In summary, I believe that anyone who ends up reducing their self-confidence after reading this post will be the ones who practice self-doubt regularly and are already underconfident. Thus Tim ends up totally missing the target.

    • vivid

      I don’t disagree with your points. This post above can do both of the two things, harm or help teenagers.
      But the point is, Tim’s post is the truth, though spoken in a sarcastic manner, but a very profound truth, regardless of what it will do to teenagers.
      I am with you, as well. The irony you stated is true as well.

    • Dara Savay

      Oh lord… Does The Onion “miss the target” when it writes about ISIS having trouble recruiting physically fit Americans because they’re too fat? No because the target they’re going for laughs and not the actual topic. That’s what this post is about.

      • istvan

        I’ve read all WBW posts and this site is not irony like the Onion. Tim has a joking writing style but overall he says what he really thinks. I know that not all of this post is literal, still I don’t agree with the overall intention.

    • Mark MacKinnon

      You have a mature understanding about opinions. Perhaps I can expand upon it a little bit.

      Putting aside the fact that there are not just two types of people, either overly or under confident – and there are differing ways of correcting this – there is a large middle ground in one sense, even if every human is still very ignorant in another sense, Tim’s point seems to be that later in life EVERYONE will (hopefully) know a lot more, and you will not only change your mind about what is cool, you will have better-informed opinions on things, and that this stage of development is simply Bound to be wrong, awkward, or immature in some respects. Heck, that’s almost a synonym for “adolescent”. Since adults would like the ability to go back in time and advise their past selves on how to be, the point of this post would seem to be to advise teens to try to practice a little perspective taking and not take themselves (their greatness or failures) overly seriously. But guess what – if some of us do go on to be relatively knowledgeable, that did not happen to us overnight. It was a long process from the beginnings of learning (birth or before) to the present (or future) state. So you can know that there are in fact some exceptional teens on their way there right now, and you can dare to excel and to be exceptional. Still, Tim is right in saying that everyone Feels exceptional in some respects. How can they not, when they view the world from one person’s perspective?

      That said, I will say as an adult that I agree with (Socrates?): The more one learns, the more one realizes how little one really knows. This condition is not particular to adolescence, but to the human condition. We simply don’t live long enough to become truly wise, cool, etc. So here’s hoping the underconfident will never fear to speak up if they can back their opinions up – something the overly confident often can’t.

    • Hz

      I think you ended up totally missing the point. This is not actually a self-help column for teenagers. It’s an adult reflecting back, with humour, on what it’s like to be a teenager. We all have things we’d included in a letter to our younger selves. And we all did, said and thought stuff as teenagers that we thought were cool or clever or meaningful and that marked us apart as particularly profound, insightful and individual at the time but now know to have been precisely the stereotypical teenage nonsense, bluster and b***shit that every generation of teens since WWII has been lucky enough to indulge in. Reflecting back on earlier experiences and beliefs and examining how those beliefs have changed as wisdom has increased is a very valuable and healthy thing to do. Too valuable not to do on the off chance it might make someone currently at that earlier stage who is fulfilling the age-appropriate stereotype of doubting everything about themselves, doubt something about themselves when, as someone fulfilling that stereotype, they’d be doubting a new thing about themselves every day anyway.

      • istvan

        But publicly cringing about your past self looks like you think you’ve arrived now to the position where you can tell good and bad apart. One can’t be wise without doubt. Regardless of age. That’s why I find such posts ironic. Every day we learn something new.

        • Hz

          To me, you come across far more as someone who thinks they can tell good and bad apart than that article does. Recognising some of your past errors and laughing at yourself for them, on the other hand, definitely is not egotism.

  • vivid

    I am a 24 year old guy now, but reading this post makes me think I am still a teenager. Also, in our country (India), we grow up comparatively slower to other western countries. For instance, I just started drinking beer and want to do that daily. I recently got involved in a relationship at the age of 24, which seemed like a typical teenage relationship.
    I always think that I am exception. My age guys around me are stupid and jerk, I assume. I always assume that I have a huge artist inside me. Everything Tim said above applies to my psychology. The only thing that says that I might not be like a teenager is the compassion for others and politeness – as opposed to the rudeness teenagers display. But then again, the post above tries to tell me, stop thinking of myself as a compassionate being, I am no exception, my compassion & honesty might just be my defense for my weakness and tiny brains. I don’t know. I am confused.

  • Vanessa

    🙁 I’m 14 years old and fairly mature for my age. I agree that many girls my age have problems and are very annoying, but it makes me sad to realize that, to the rest of the world, I’m just another stupid teenage girl. I seriously cannot wait to become a legal adult and gain respect from the people who currently consider me obnoxious just because of my age.

    • JAMES RUSTLES

      No you’re not. Thinking you’re superior is a flaw in human psychology, so stop.

      Have fun with your peers, don’t act superior and righteous.

      • guest person

        That’s kind of an idiotic thing to say. If that were true, it would mean that there are no people smarter than any other people, when obviously there are. Some people are just plain smarter or more mature than other people, and so, by definition, are superior. There is nothing wrong with identifying one’s own superiority as long as you are honest with yourself and still treat other people with respect.

      • R1ckr011

        Actually, the reverse is more damaging. Ever heard of this thing called Stereotype Threat? Or maybe Confirmation Bias? If you struggle against the “authorities” saying bad things about you, you still get it ingrained in you somehow. If you willfully accept it, you probably have damaged yourself pretty badly.

        Jesus, teens are already so self-critical and emotional. No point in being a dick about it.

    • Cliff

      Trust me, darlin’, you are an annoying teen. You might be less annoying than most, but you are (at least half the time).

      I’ve also always been more emotionally mature than most of my peers. At your age, I was far smarter and better educated than the average adult, but I was still annoying. In fact, that probably made me extra annoying. I was at least on par with the average teen girl — so slightly more annoying than you are.

      There’s nothing wrong with that, though. You’re expected to be annoying. If you’re not annoying some adults, you’re probably not enjoying yourself or learning enough about life. You’ll realize it when you’re in your mid-20’s, but maybe you’ll be mature enough to forgive yourself for it, since it’s normal.

      For now, don’t worry about it. Be a teenager. Just don’t go out of your way to make your parents’ lives harder, maybe say “thank you” and “I love you” once in a while, and you’re better than most teens. If you can manage not to ignore every piece of advice given to you by the successful, well-adjusted adults in your life, you’re ahead of the game.

    • Tom Heinze

      You are not just another stupid teenage girl unless you allow yourself to be. Your teen years are a time to discover who you really are. Rejoice in that. Becoming an adult is a process that takes time and effort. You are well on your way…

    • R1ckr011

      Sorry. The world doesn’t respect the youth anymore. It won’t matter that you’re a legal adult. The price for continuing education is staggering. DO NOT go to a 4-year university immediately. Keep good correspondence with a couple schools your interested in so you won’t be surprised by stupid shit like “we don’t take our own undergraduates in for graduate school” or “based on that one class you never took because you were a transfer…”

      At any rate, maybe you’ll hit the time after the college debt bubble bursts and universities will do anything to increase enrollment amidst the flames. Maybe employers will stop being assholes and us all for “not having enough experience” (no kidding!) which translates into: “you have no networking power with us”. I don’t know what the future holds. Just be smart 😛 Never stop being curious about the world are learning new things. Ignore all the bullshit.

  • Eh, write stuff if you want to. It’s good practice. Keep it to compare with your current output. But, please, please, PLEASE don’t read Ayn Rand.

    • Rafael Andrade

      The world would be a much better place if everybody read Ayn Rand

      • guest

        yeah, just to know what wrong feels like.

  • Dara Savay

    CRYING with laughter. Hat off to you.

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  • jaime_arg

    We MUST read the lyrics to the song you wrote. Please put them up on your site.

  • Ashri

    Lol I’m a twenty year old, but I’m fairly sure there were actually some sensible teenagers (I was one of them), they were just completely masked by the stupidity the majority of the population (ie. you) demonstrated….

  • Daisy

    Well I’m 13 and I actually listen to my parents and respect their opinions and love towards me…
    No
    offence, and this is probably me just being an ungrateful teen or
    whatever but I feel like this whole post is a bit of a generalization
    towards teenagers. Obviously I am still growing up, and will probably
    agree with this post when I’m older and wiser but I still feel that
    there must be at least a few teens out there who don’t fit this
    generalization. Some people can’t act immaturely through their teenage
    years because there have been events in their lives that forced them to
    grow up a bit quicker. And maybe that helped them develop as a person,
    just a bit younger than their peers did ( I think its called the
    positive disintergration theory or something?)… Anyway, what I’m
    trying to say is that not all teens can fit into the stereotype of being
    ‘ungrateful’ or ‘moody’, some have reasons and others are just
    immature. Maybe you just have to search a bit harder to find teens that
    actually try to listen to their parents and show their respect.Just my opinion, after all the older you are, the wiser you are 🙂

    • Alison

      Completely agree. Very mature opinion for a thirteen year old!

    • Oliie C

      Same, i think the writer is so old that he got his ‘bright teenagers with a future’ and ‘annoying old males that write blog posts based on old stereotypes’ mixed up haha

    • Barry Geibel

      you don’t necessarily get wiser with age tho, keep that in mind when older folks act like they know how to do EVERYTHING better than you do.

    • Tom Heinze

      You are absolutely correct. Do not allow yourself to think you are one of these stereotyped teens, because you are not. You are you. You have strengths that far outreach anything others believe you have. Build on those strengths. But still, when you are 35+ years of age, you will look back on your teen years and think, “OMG!”

    • guest

      you’re not wrong. this post was pretty sarcastic and was most likely going for the humor factor, more than realism. as a 35-year-old, i can relate to much of this in that “oh yeah, i understand that reference” sort of way, but i’m not embarrassed by my teenage years. i can confirm, however, that there are definitely quite a few people in my past who would fit this article perfectly. the funny thing about them, though, is that they still kind of fit it, despite being in their 30s. most people who were immature in high school, will just find a more adult way of being immature when they get older.

  • jaime_arg

    I just saw Boyhood, it reminded me of this post a bit.

  • Red

    “1) Don’t attempt to be profound, for any reason
    whatsoever. Profound is not for teenagers, and you’re 100% not an
    exception.”

    I can see why you think that, and I have seen my peers back in
    the day trying to be “deep” and all and just failing,
    because most don’t have the life experience to know what they’re
    talking about.

    Actually, by even attempting to be profound/be deep/sound
    intelligent, pretty much anyone, regardless of age, is doomed to fail
    because you cannot be profound just for the sake of being profound.
    Rather, being profound is only a byproduct of
    communicating/delivering a message about something you care about and
    have done your research on/know about.

    You can have an older person who’s never thought very deeply about
    how he/she lives her life, has always been very privileged and never
    has had to struggle overly much, and overall has been alive for a
    while yet has always stayed comfortable, but will not hesitate to
    position him/herself as an authority figure with all this wisdom to
    elevate him/her above younger people and will be a self made expert
    on things he/she has neither experienced nor understands. On the
    other hand, a young child who has dealt with a difficult childhood
    and has overcome obstacles will by nature be profound. He/she will
    have a story to tell, and people will listen (case in point: Malala
    Yousafzai)

    In short, I don’t know why this has to be limited to
    teenagers. I’d like to extend it and say, don’t attempt to be
    profound if you have lived a privileged and comfortable life and have
    never faced discrimination or any serious obstacles in life, unless
    you live consciously and know/care about things other than friends,
    family, possessions, distractions, etc. Really, no matter how old you
    are, you’ll just come across as out of touch and annoying, just like
    a stereotypical teenager. If someone has something valuable to share,
    doesn’t matter if they ate a teenager or not, they can still be
    profound.

    Everything else I think is valid. 1 was
    the only one that rubbed me the wrong way.

    Disclaimer: I am 20, so some personal
    bias is at play.

  • BakuCat

    I find this hilarious as honestly this is exactly right.

  • Aya

    I was eight when i began writing deep philosophical diary entries and about ten when i started to question my existence as a whole. Needless to say, im pretty fucked up.

    • bloobloobloo

      I take it you’re a teen now

      #8 should also include “You’re not pretty fucked up”

    • Tikhung

      That’s something. I started question my existence when I was 10, and into philosophy when I was 13. I’m considered a pretty fucked up person too, such as having a lot of fetishes and thoughts that you wouldn’t imagine.

      • Jimmy Neutron

        Yeah, I like Lolicon and rape too.

    • Cruz5280

      A little more detail please Aya/Tikhung. I’m not trying to be argumentative/challenging, apologies if I come across that way..

      First, I’m very sorry to hear your assessment of your states (mental or otherwise), I truly am. Second, do you believe these issues (issues=bad wording I suspect), came about as a result of ‘deep thinking’ (once again bad wording) or have they always been present and only surfaced as a result of deep thinking?

      Are either of you saying that these thoughts were created by ‘thinking’ or that they materialized (maybe earlier that you would like) as a result of ‘thinking’?

  • Cruz5280

    Always a home run, thanks! A few things that came to mind as I read this (largely due to my own insecurities/remaining in my shell way to long):

    – Teens attempting to think is OK. An attempt at being profound and latching onto an ethos (at least until you realize nihilizm is exhausting as someone very profound once said) isn’t all bad. Tim is most likely being a bit dramatic on one end of the spectrum and and pls don’t take my statements as attempting to be very far on the other end of the spectrum.

    OK, deep thoughts aside, number two and number five are hands down the best of the list. Referencing “the toughest screw that ever walked a turn at Shawshank…” was sheer brilliance!

    The instant gratification monkey calls…ciao!

  • Ryski

    Only article on WBW I don’t like. Although I’m not exactly the target audience, considering I’m 16…
    Honestly, you’re mostly right. But bad news speaks louder than good news. You’re going to hear a lot more of the teenagers you described because they plaster themselves all over social media and shout obnoxiously in public, whereas the (perhaps) more sane ones tend to blend into the background, and as a result they get a reflection of all the shitty teenagers and strive not to be like them.

    Humans learn from their mistakes and the teenage years are the biggest “learn from your mistakes” years because it’s our first chance to be independent. Telling us to stop doing the things we do until we’re “wise” adults so we can figure ourselves out and blend into the society norms is just plain stupid.

    Also a side note. From a teenager’s perspective, most of what we see of apparently “real love” are divorces and cheating. I guess I’ll find out, but it doesn’t seem like teen love is that different from “real love” at all.

    • Madame Blue

      You’re spot on that teens need to learn, and that the only way to do that boils down to trial and error. Some people never learn, they just keep committing the same stupid shit over and over, especially when it comes to love. My 12th grade Government teacher had a quote on his classroom wall, “History repeats itself because nobody listens.” You’re already well on your way, knowing that this is a learning period. Now just keep listening.

    • Lisa

      Ryski, this state of being is MUCH older than social media… on what do you blame the ‘bad news’ from the 60s, 70s, 80s?

  • Madame Blue

    Oh man. I went through my own box at 35 (I’m 47 now). There was definitely some cringe-worthy material in there. The score:

    I’m guilty of amateur profundity (shredded the journal) and teenage love (burned the icky love notes).

    Couldn’t do much about photography between school pictures and my dad with a camera permanently stuck in his hand on every family trip. Some turned out decent.

    I was on the receiving end of girl bullying, and whole-heartedly agree with you on that point!

    I was that Gratitude Horse on several occasions.

    Bottom line, we all have our personal rap sheet of teenage atrocities and social awkwardness. Best we can do is learn what we can, and draw on the experience and perspective for raising our own teens. Thanks for a hilarious and thought-provoking article!

  • R1ckr011

    “Never Try and Be Profound”–coming from the guy who advocates Truthism? XD

    No but seriously, thinking is good, writing thoughts down is good. Feeling is good, writing down feelings is a good thing.

    The human brain is pretty much worthless at that age, so a piece of paper is a better repository than the skull.

    Also: I DEEPLY question the baby=maximal value point of the graph. Another very interesting thing to note about the graph is the subtle implication that the value of teenagers is so horrendously low because the “usefulness” is essentially a function of “cuteness” until maybe 16-18? Essentially, they are infantalized into near worthlessness. So the Egoism and viciousness are a product of this psycho-social dynamic, not to be blamed on the poor bastards.

    Thirdly, there is a delay in the sync between “personality quality/self-awareness”, again, as a legitimate byproduct of the death of millions of synapses in our brain, and the consolidation of the prefrontal cortex.

    I think the “usefulness/self-awareness” markers are horribly named. In fact, I think that the fact that teenagers are the first to begin working (yes, I started at 16) means they are finally bringing value to the world. And as many awful artísts as there are, some teens do find their talents at this point in their lives. Same with maths and sciences prodigies. They begin to shine here.

    I would also say that the problem with teens isn’t their lack of self-awareness, it’s the fact that they are blinded by their self-awareness. It goes back to the infantalism thing

    • orxman

      I think the graph should be relabeled as “Tolerability” or “Pleasure to be around”, since it’s missing a vital element of “Value to the World.”, which is how much you produce multiplied by how much you dissipate it. If you include that in the graph, the maximum value should be around 30-50, and it would be far above that of a baby’s. Teenagers would still be rock-bottom though.

  • Vlad Ivostock

    “Don’t attempt to be profound” well, good thing I didn’t attempt, I just was. Oh, yeah.

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  • Cameron P

    Very entertaining, though not very constructive to teenagers, actually its quite offensive to them. I’ll just say it to anyone who’s reading this between the ages of 10 to 16. This post is more of a way for people above that age to make some sense of what was actually a tumultuous time psychologically. It’s probably a bit too harsh, but very amusing and funny nonetheless for those who can appreciate it.

    • netsurfer912

      15 – It’s very tumultuous. Even though I like being young and feel like I’m losing something by aging, I can’t wait for it to end, especially because it seems like my environment is w-a-y worse. But I only have a sample size of roughly 30 people (which is my class), which may or may not be typical.

      I’d also like to add that I know quite a few teenagers who are totally decent people and _absolutely_ adding to the world.

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  • imaic

    i find this sort of damaging humour. theres no real reason to get twisted up over dumb stuff you did as a kid, and to become strangled with shame. making mistakes is awesome. i also find this type of commentary sexist, for reasons which should be obvious. i like jokes, but maybe this is a bit out of touch. a friend recommended your site, and i am worried it perpetuates mostly negative ideas about human interaction, with a gloss of humour. love, the inconsolable mountain of anonymous internet criticism

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  • UrsaPolaris

    I’m a bit scared as an 18-year-old in something (apperntly not love). I don’t see myself in any of the examples posted, I tink Tim stereotyped all teenagers as the American teenagy kind that he apperntly was surounded by. because most of my classmates and I have not been through this kind of phase. we are probebly the weird ones out. none the less Tim is depicting the teenage years as a phase where the teenager only sucks resources, I don’t believe this to be true, for some people sure it is but these people remain mostly the same throughout their life. young people especially teenagers have no restrictions in they’re imagination brought on to them yet, it makes them reckless and makes them believe that that one chrush is the love of their life but it also leaves them open to dream big and do something about their dreams. Nowadays there are teenagers making great scientific discovery’s like Jack Andraka, there are teenagers working on a more peacefull world like Malala Yousafzai. and these kids are not one of their kind. I myself know teenagers who participate in peace eforts with the EU and UN. I know teenagers who are pushing scientific research and are learning and teaching from a very young age. teenagers are depicted as unfinished humans uncapeble of taking are of themselfs thus leeching of their parents and society, when in reality children are high maintenance but they are the future. even when they are teenagers.

    • Hz

      Put your response in your memories box and read it again in 15 years. Your response is exactly what that of an 18yo’s would be expected to and should be. Enjoy the confidence and belief you have just now and use it to propel yourself out into the world. But, one note of advice, the sooner you learn that you know nothing, the more you’ll learn and the further you’ll go. And in 15 years time, you’ll know so much more than you do right now but also know that that’s still very very little and will just be in awe, with slight hints of despair, at how much there still is to learn. (Second note of advice, learn about thoughts, beliefs and influences as soon as you can – understand how and why you think what you think. Knowing that you can be, and very often are, wrong about that is one of the most liberating and valuable lessons you can learn.)

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  • Bryce Vickery

    I tend to agree with most of the stuff here. Being a teenager myself however I can’t help but feel certain things are situational. For example I have a friend who is the most thankful and loving person to his parents, while I admit I need to be more thankful in the future.
    On the topic of love I completely agree high school love isn’t love, I learned that one quite early. I also learned that any relationship at this age is driven by mindless emotions, as a result I personally decided not to try again for at least another 2 or 3 years.

    Masturbation wise I’m an avid member of the NoFap community.

    When it comes to profound thinking I think it’s important to think heavily and develop our beliefs at this age, we just shouldn’t tell people about them or act like there concrete. Because when one month someone’s a “socialist”, than next month there an “Anarcho-Capitalist” it’s pretty clear that they have no idea what they are.
    I agree that at this age we are extremely indecisive and have no idea what we’re talking about for the most part. That’s fine and I recognize that but please don’t lump us in with one another, some of us are bad in some areas and good in others it really is situational.
    With all of this said I’ll probably look back at this post in a few months and call myself an idiot.

    Ps. i’m not a Socialist or Anarcho-Capitalist I was simply making an example and could have been more clear on that. Also I know the grammar in my posts need a lot of work, and i’m actively working on improving it.

    ADHD Version. TEEN NOT ALL SAME, IDK BELIEF

  • Daniela Elliott

    I think you are slightly biased no EXTREAMLY BIASED towards boys- girls are cruel??? No. Boys are EVIL

  • Ksenia Kolchina

    Sad (for us, adults) reality is that ‘clarity’ that Tim refers to is in fact a brain damage, quite literary, as after 25 we are loosing brain cells, and the sharpness of our mind and many of brain functions gradually deteriorate. It is then, when the cells are no longer multiplying like crazy, making us insufferable, we start thinking that finally we’ve figured it all out.

    Nevertheless, as a 29yo woman I remember that adorable high school romance in the form of songs performed on my porch, and a 100 roses to calm me down after I went berserk at another girl for attempting to steal my boyfriend. Kind of hormonal disbalance that’s sort of cute, and at times laughable.

    That said, I’m now often thinking whether I’m being mean to my 14yo nephew and my 13yo cousin whose talking makes my soul die. Hanging out with them feels like being a ward in a mental institution.

  • Hilrunner55

    Maybe I just experienced my teen years very, very differently, but I actually
    disagreed with most of this article (a pretty rare thing on this site).

    1. I actually like most of the stuff I wrote as a teen. Well, at the very least, much, much better now than when I wrote it. I wish I had saved more instead of getting all angst-y and tearing it to shreds. Unearthing it helped me come to terms with the idea I was better at a lot of things than I was capable of believing back in those awkward years when my self-esteem was in the pits. It also helped that I realized I liked the kind of thinker my teenage self was even when she sounded silly, and that there were these crazy little hints of the person she’d grow up to be hidden in even the worst of it.

    2. If anything, I regret not standing up to my parents more as a teen instead of letting all of hell break loose after I just couldn’t tolerate some of their behaviors any longer. I still can’t get over how bad some kids are to their own parents, but eventually some of us kids who remained obedient at all costs realize with a creeping horror just how much of it was actually motivated by fear rather than true respect. The teen years are horrible in part because of that transition away from our parents to become our own independent person, but it’s so much better than waiting until you are an adult to do it.

    7. Just because it doesn’t end in marriage doesn’t mean it wasn’t love. Likewise, just because it ended in marriage doesn’t mean it was love either. I count myself as a bit lucky to not have fallen for anyone at that age because I know where you’re coming from, but I do romanticize the couples who got together young when it was all about how they felt together instead of the practicality of their relationship. I can definitely respect it a lot more than some of the adults around me—adults who should be able to realize how incredibly shallow they are when it comes to relationships but still act surprised when things don’t work out.

  • iv_an_ru

    Shorten the “Value-Detractor Zone” mentioned at the first plot by finding some job _early_. Way less than 5×8, of course, and not brain-damaging monotonic stupid work that does not require brains at all. That will eliminate most of described problems: environment means a lot.

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