Carrie Ryan is the 2009 debut author of The Forest of Hands and Teeth. Here she is telling us what she wishes she knew when she was a teenager.
Happy Birthday Hope!!! Man, I loved my sixteenth birthday, where I grew up in South Carolina turning sixteen meant you no longer drove on a restricted license (i.e. I could drive at night by myself). I remember popping a tape into the player and the first song that came up was someone shouting “Freedom” and I rolled down the windows and sang along as loud as I could. Best. Feeling. Ever.
Looking back on it now, I can think of a million things I’d tell my sixteen year old self if I could: relax, give people the benefit of the doubt, you look great in that prom dress, it will all work out in the end, stop worrying so much about having/not having a boyfriend. But if there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s that my sixteen year old self wouldn’t listen to any of it. I’m one of those people who just has to learn the hard way.
There is something I’ve learned in the years since high school and wish I could drill into my head back then: stretch yourself -- take risks outside your comfort zone (not bodily risks per se), and truly believe in yourself. When I was sixteen I thought I had it all figured out and I knew the path I’d take to get there. Anything that deviated from that path, I wasn’t interested in. And I look back on it now and realize that I had so many opportunities thrown my way! Some of them I took advantage of, but other ones I scoffed at for not being “part of the plan.”
On the one hand, being so focused did kind of work out for me. I loved English and took every English elective I could which led me to take a class on Southern Fiction where I wrote my first short story and decided I wanted to keep writing. But on the other hand, I scoffed at the music class about opera and now I kinda wish I knew something about opera. I wish I’d kept an eye on my path, but deviated enough to try lots of new things.
Recently someone asked me specifically what I wish I’d known when I was sixteen about love, friendship, family, career, the world and life. Here’s what I told them I’d learned:
About love... relax about love. If it's true, it will find you. You will experience so many types of love in your life!
About friendship... friends can be the family you choose. Some friends come and go, some stay for a long time. Some you'll rediscover later in life.
About family... you'll be surprised that one day they might become your best friends! Your parents were once your age too and they once had the dreams that you do. They still have dreams...
About your choice in a career... follow your passion. And you can have multiple careers over your life so don't stress so much about making the right decision right now.
About the world... it's huge. It's crazy big and you're a part of it.
About life... it goes on. Don't try to be perfect or someone else's idea of who you are. Figure out what and who you love and enjoy every moment!
Thanks for the great advice, Carrie!