Dear Teenage Kate:
I haven’t been a teenager in almost a decade now, but I still remember what it feels like to be you. I know that you need to learn from experience, but I hope that you’ll at least hear me out. Dating isn’t everything. It can feel like it; especially when you’re bombarded with movies, advertisements, TV shows, family, and friends who all make it seem like the most important goal in life. Try and make your own decisions about the importance of dating.
If you do decide to embark upon the dating world; I hate to tell you this, but no one is going to teach you what a healthy relationship is. I entered the dating world with more examples of unhealthy relationships than healthy ones. The worst part is; I didn’t even realize they weren’t healthy. Remember “The Little Mermaid”? Ariel changes her entire life to be with someone who she’s only seen one time. That is not a healthy relationship. If I could re-write that story, Ariel would continue hanging out with her friends until she finished her education, and met someone who fit seamlessly into her life, and contributed to her happiness.
Keep an eye out for the positive examples. Dating is just like friendship. You wouldn’t befriend someone who has nothing in common with you, or treats you badly. It shouldn’t matter how attractive they are. Don’t be afraid to say, “It’s not me, it’s you.” You’ll be taught the opposite, but when it comes down to it, you are all that matters. Self-preservation is not rude.
Lastly, if you aren’t happy in a relationship, the other person probably isn’t either. Relationships should make you feel bigger, not smaller. Build you up, not pull you down. Occasionally, you may find yourself in a relationship that hurts; when this happens, don’t be embarrassed. Ask for help, advice, anything that you need to process the disappointment and move on. Find the people who remind you who you are. Friends, family, co-workers, strangers even; talk to someone. You are so important.
I wish you the best,
Kate Kehayes is currently a graduate student in the Counselor Education program at East Carolina University. She enjoys spending time with her partner and their dogs, and working with Girls Rock NC; an organization dedicated to empowering girls through creativity.