Dear Teenager,


Dear Teenager,

I’m really hoping this reaches you.

Maybe you’ll come across it in your social media travels or someone will tag you next week or send it to you months from now.

Whenever it gets there I hope the timing is perfect.

These words are ones that someone close to you would probably really like to share with you, but maybe they haven’t found quite find the right time or just the right way. That happens to all of us sometimes.

Maybe they’ve tried, but you weren’t really able to hear them because there is so much baggage between you in the way and their voice is just white noise to your ears. It’s easy to tune out those close to us.

Or maybe these are words that someone should have said to you a long time ago but never have. For that, I am so sorry.

Either way, let me say them to you now:

You are beautiful.

No, not in some sugary, greeting card, disposable pop song kind of way.

Not in the way that people use to speak about the surface, fading, unimportant stuff.

I’m talking about the everything that is you.

Your very life is the kind of raw, unpredictable, radiant beautiful that alters the planet even as you are reading this. The kind that’s already been leaving amazing ripples in the world that you can’t imagine.

My friend, I mean you are an absolute freakin’ miracle; a once-in-all-of-history atomic masterpiece that no one else who has ever existed can come close to duplicating.

You are a bona fide world wonder, an original stroke of genius designed with care and embedded with greatness.

But I get it.

I’ve been there and I know right now you probably don’t feel that way too often. You probably don’t feel very miraculous or wonderful or beautiful on most days.

No, most days you feel more like a failure, a fraud, an imposter; a complete and total hopeless mess, stuttering and tripping and losing through life.

I know you probably feel like a permanent outsider wherever you are, one who never quite fits it, never quite measures up, never quite makes the grade.

The truth is, everyone feels that way. I promise you that. The world is filled with misfits in disguise; every single one of us. You’re in good company.

I know that lately everything within you and around you is changing. There’s so much shifting, so much that is unsteady (even in your own head) and it probably feels like there’s no solid ground for your feet to stand upon, nothing stable to hold onto.

I know you feel dizzy and disoriented from fighting the daily battles you face, and that on many mornings it takes all the strength you have just to get up and walk out that door into it all again.

I’m guess I’m just here to say: Do it all again.

Don’t let the difficulties in these days, prevent you from seeing how much more there is to see in them; how much good and right and amazing is around you and within you too, even in this very second.

Sometimes over time our eyes can be blind to blessings, so look again and again and again.

And don’t let the rotten, painful, horrible Today you may find yourself in, prevent you from realizing what Tomorrow still has for you.

I understand that you may have made some terrible mistakes in the past. You may have screwed things up royally. You may have spectacularly dropped the ball: Welcome to the club. Welcome to Humanity. We don’t get perfection here, we just get to try again. That’s what the sunrise brings.

That’s what today is for, so forgive yourself and keep moving. And if you get another day, do it all over again.

You may have been hurt or betrayed or scarred by someone else, and though those wounds can’t be taken away or erased, they don’t get to have the last word unless you let them.

If you’re reading this, there is breath in your lungs and a heart beating in your chest, and those two things are all you need to rewrite this story and to twist the whole heartbreaking plot until it is no longer a tragedy at all but a surprise victory.

There is no demon or darkness that is greater than the light in you. You have plenty of time, so use it well and craft the story you deserve.

And let me tell you a little bit about the future, because I can see it from where I’m standing: There are days coming when you won’t feel quite so unsettled, quite so unsure, quite so unseen; days when you’ll feel much more comfortable in your skin and in the world, and you’ll find that singular sweet spot in the Universe that you alone are meant to take.

There are days coming when the cloudy will get clearer, when the churning waves will be stilled, when the dark, lingering nighttime will finally give way to glorious, brilliant morning and then, my friend you are going to remember these words of mine and declare me a stinkin’ genius, but I’m only telling you the truth:

Your best days are still ahead of you.

In the meantime, push hard through these challenging days even if you have to do it one labored breath at a time. I promise you it will be worth it. And when you can’t push anymore, pause and rest until your strength returns.

The funny thing is, I was a teenager once and so I know you probably don’t believe any of this. You probably don’t believe that people see what I’m telling you they see in you, or that any of what I say about you is true—but you’re wrong.

Yet even if people don’t see you for the miracle that you are, that isn’t on you it’s on them. Lots of us completely miss the beautiful things around us every single day, so never let the failure of those near you to acknowledge your inherent awesomeness, keep you from doing the same.

And my friend, if you do ever question any of this, (and you will) I hope you’ll reach out and ask me to help you believe it or remember it, or that you’ll reach out to someone else close by who will.

You probably have more fans and friends than you realize. Chances are if you really take a look, you’ll see that I’m not the only one who wants to be here for you in this life, but even if I am, you do have me.

I’m in your corner. I’m here cheering you on. I’m for you.

I’m standing on the sidelines as you run by exhausted and breathless, with a cup of water, a smile on my face, and a big ol’ sign that says:


Dear Teenager, believe it.

You are.

You really are.

Keep going.

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29 thoughts on “Dear Teenager,

  1. I feel like I should become a teenager anew so as to really savor these words. No one told me this when I was a teenager. You can imagine the outcome.

  2. Dear Mr. Pavlovitz,
    Thank you for allowing the love of God to shine through you so clearly. I had to pause several times during reading just to absorb the intensity of its beauty without breaking. This message is for everyone. Some of us are still that fumbling confused teenager, we just appear to get better at playing the game. But your words are like a cool mountain steam in the dessert. You can’t possibly have any idea what a miracle you are.

    • Advice for John. Whenever you receive a comment like the one above. Be glad. But also remember this. Jim and Tammy Bakker and a host of other Christian upstarts failed to heed these words:

      • Of course everything is fleeting, not just glory. Truth seems to be the most elusive of all. So when I catch a glimpse of it I am compelled to acknowledge it. I know I won’t be able to hold on to it for long, but for that one tiny moment at least, that is when I feel the greatest sense of peace and connection to Devine love. I have stopped relying on that enforced, made-up quality of what I have learned or been told and am trying to live more in tune with the greater depths of my intuition. I don’t know if that makes any sense, as words fall terribly short but something within John’s words resonate with me on this deeper level so I have to let him know. No choice really, it just overcomes me. Tomorrow I may be rolling my eyes at all this gushing! But by then we will have all moved on anyway:) For now, may we relish the glory of our microcosmic moment.

  3. Thank you – teenagers need to hear this, again and again – and a lot of them don’t hear it from their parents. You are the best!

  4. Thank you for this!  It is a perfect time with the pressures of a new school year beginning!  I have sent it to many of my god-children and other young people in my life.  Also, it is shared on Facebook!  hehehe!

    Have a blessed day!

    Very Respectfully,

    Geni Graham From: john pavlovitz To: Sent: Tuesday, August 4, 2015 7:06 AM Subject: [New post] Dear Teenager, #yiv4025648993 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv4025648993 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv4025648993 a.yiv4025648993primaryactionlink:link, #yiv4025648993 a.yiv4025648993primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv4025648993 a.yiv4025648993primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv4025648993 a.yiv4025648993primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv4025648993 | johndpav posted: “Dear Teenager,I’m really hoping this reaches you.Maybe you’ll come across it in your social media travels, or someone will tag you next week or send it to you months from now.Whenever it gets there I hope the timing is perfect.These wo” | |

  5. Wow. Just wow. I didn’t think I needed that, but now I feel I was blatantly wrong. The way you were able to take mere words and put them and their imperfections together like puzzle pieces to create a beautiful picture was amazing. I thought those deep sinking hopeless feelings were indescribable, yet you managed to articulate every corner, every darkness of those nightmares. I applaud you. I respect you. I appreciate you. Humanity needs more of words like these and people like you. Thank you.

  6. Beautiful thoughts so reassuring for all ages and is something we can all gain from. Thank you for what you do for so many.

  7. Mr. Pavlovitz,

    I have shared this will all my social media friends and have encouraged them to have their teens read it. Perhaps if my son had read such an essay on his own he would be here with us now. He committed suicide on May 20th of this year, a month after his fifteenth birthday. He was talented, kind, smart, active in his church, and loved beyond measure, yet somehow could not see any of it. Tragedy does not even begin to describe it.

    Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers in this country. Suicide is preventable. We all need to break the silence with love.

    Thank you

  8. There’s nothing to add here other than “Wow”! – but then again, I’ve come to expect that of “Stuff That Needs To Be Said”

    If only every teenager could read this and take it to heart. If only all of us, regardless of our chronological age, who still live with periods of extreme self-doubt could read this to the adolescent that still lives within and find healing.

    Amen, brother! You truly are a blessing.

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  11. I’m just reiterating what others have said, but “WOW!” and Thank you! I have shared this with my grandchilden (ages 18-26) via Facebook. So wish someone would have told me this when I was a teen so that I could have shared with my kids when they were teens.
    Your writings have touched me and given me hope. Thank you and may God continue to bless you.

  12. The only way out of the teenage years is through them and all their wonderful, painful, tortuous, tumultuous fun and beauty. I work with teens and they inspire me every time and every time I am thankful I am on the other side of those years. So many great memories, and so many memories of emotions amplified by hormones, inexperience, and mean people.

  13. Thank you, I loved this and wanted to share it with many others, but I am unable to print this. I know that you have a “print” tab as an option, but it doesn’t seem to work. I select “print” then pick my printer and hit print and nothing prints. Not sure if anyone else is having this problem. I also asked a friend to try to print it for me and it didn’t work for them either. Just wanted to let you know 🙂

  14. Thank you for this message, John. In addition to the normal angst teens deal with, so many of them are dealing with depression, anxiety and self-harm. Kudos for providing a voice that parents aren’t always successful in relaying.

  15. This letter was given to me a few summers ago, and your words have helped me in unimaginable ways.

    Thank you endlessly for this.

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