To say my teenage years were a rollercoaster is a massive euphemism. They were confusing, dramatic, full of absolutely pointless fears and excessive self-doubt. During a recent phone conversation with my 17-year-old sister, I thought about how cool it would be to give some advice to my 13-year-old version that would have never ever dared to believe that she would now be doing what she loves (on the good days at least). So, here are some things I wish I had known, and some that I know in my 23-year-old head now but still need to remind myself of.

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Holla Caroline,

stop hiding in your own head for a second and listen to me.

Don’t give a damn about the cool kids in school. That’ll be pretty darn hard at any age, so start practicing early. If you find a way that works, tell me.

It’s okay to be confused and to not be so sure of what you want. Take your time to find out and don’t let anyone put pressure on you.

Be wild. Don’t fit in. Promise me, never ever ever try to fit in. Don’t let yourself be put in boxes, don’t let your spirit be put in a cage. Be weird.

And then cultivate that weirdness. It’s what will make you more and more awesome as you grow up.

Watch this video here. It’s less about age and more about living to the fullest. Live to the fullest.

Try and think about ways to make a living off something cool once you’ve left that bloody dreadful high school.

And please, please, please, don’t ever feel like you’re not enough. Not bright enough, not beautiful enough, not funny enough, not fast enough, not slow enough, not enough. You are. If you don’t believe in yourself, who on earth should?

Don’t get frustrated by your inability with all things maths or physics. Algebra doesn’t define you, chicka! You’re hopeless, and that’s okay. But maybe you should befriend the boy who’s on top of the game in class just to get by and to free your parents of their headache. He might be a great friend too, scientists often are in fact.

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Stop running away from things. You know exactly what I’m talking about.

Friends and “friends” will come and go. It’s life. Few will stay but you most likely won’t know who that is yet. Hold them tightly and live the moment. That’s all you’ll ever be able to do.

Spend more time with yourself, even if it feels weird. Take an empty notebook if you’re in that particular “Everything’s boring” mood. You will get a lot of them as you grow up. Just try not to be boring yourself, but I’m pretty sure I won’t have to worry about that.

They always say life is too short to do something or to not do something (usually life is too short to not do something) but there are times when you wish you could escape it all because you feel trapped in a life that’s not yours. It will pass. Make it pass.

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Don’t kiss that idiot, even if all of your friends already had their first kiss. They probably lied about how good or romantic it was. Eventually there’ll be someone who will suck a lot less and who’ll give you serious butterflies. You might feel like throwing up because he makes you so happy. Wait for him.

Having said that, kissing – along with traveling – is one of the best things you could possibly do with your time. Do a lot of it.

Talk to your parents and grandparents while they’re still here. They know more than you think they do. They’re also a lot less stuck-up than you think they are.

You know this was gonna come: Stop fighting with Mum and Dad so much. You’re their first child, more often than not they themselves have not clue what’s going on. And that’s okay. Be gentle.

Have the balls to feel things. You have that habit of feeling and thinking a bit (well, not just a bit) more intensely, be proud of that. Screw the “I don’t give a shit” attitude that so many of your friends have. Don’t be scared of getting your heart broken. Sorry if that sounds cynical, but pain more than anything is a shortcut towards growth and maturity.

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On that note, forgive. You will be hurt, a lot, but don’t hold grudges. That’s toxic. Cry and let it out, but please, by all means, forgive people. I wish I could spare you the tears and the many late nights where you can’t sleep because your head hurts so much from crying.

Convince your parents to send you to summer camps, visit your cousins in the surrounding cities and travel. But don’t forget to grow some roots wherever they may be. If you don’t do that now, you’ll always feel a little restless and fragile. Now is the time to build a home.

Take more selfies. Yes, trees are beautiful and ocean waves are beautiful and don’t even get me started on the mountains that you dread at the moment and will come to love later. But when you’re as old as I am (ha ha ha), all you wanna really see is some friggin’ hilarious rockstar moves.

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Make a fool of yourself. Don’t take yourself, other people, or anything really too seriously.

Dance in front of your mirror naked. Yes, I’m serious.

And then say “You look fantastic” when you wake up in the morning (and you do by the way).

That’s it. I look forward to seeing what you get up to chicka. The next few years will be hard, chin up and … where’s the tequila!?

With love.

(I still don’t know what on earth I’m doing – and maybe that won’t ever change – but don’t tell anyone.)

All photos by Caroline Schmitt