In The Year We Fell Apart, Harper makes her fair share of less-than-intelligent choices. And sometimes she even makes the same mistake twice (okay, fine, several times) before figuring out a better path. But who among us hasn’t done something just a little bit stupid (or epically stupid) before?
So, in honor of Harper and her many mistakes, I’d like to share with you the Top Five Mistakes Teen Emily Made:
1. Straightening my hair.
Remember the early model, gold-plated flat irons that straightened your locks while also making your entire bathroom reek of burnt hair? I owned two of them.
Here’s the thing: I’ve always adored curly hair—on other people. Over the years I’ve learned to embrace my unpredictable locks, but even after all this time, I still can’t quite figure out the origin of my high school hair hate. Do we all just want what we can’t have? Or did I suffer split ends and scorched hair because I was addicted to The O.C. and all things Marissa Cooper? (Another issue entirely, I know.)
Admittedly, flat irons have come a long way in the last few years, but for now I’m sticking with spirals.
2. Not talking to that boy I liked.
Seriously, what’s the worst that could have happened? As a teen, I believed the answer was death. That I would say the wrong thing or my voice would come out squeaky or I’d start sweating profusely or WORSE, that we’d have a perfectly decent conversation but after walking away I’d find out my fly was down or I had food stuck in my teeth. And then I’d die.
Ten years out of high school, I still get nervous at some social gatherings. And occasionally I say things that sound great in my head and come out completely awkward. But I have learned I am not the only one who feels this way. Lots of people do, maybe even That Boy. So take some advice from Emily: next time you’re near that interesting person you’ve been dying to talk to—check your fly, and then go for it.
Around junior year of high school…this got bad. Do-my-homework-in-the-class-before kind of bad. Which I suppose is still better than not doing my homework at all? But not ideal for the actual learnin’.
Stuff hit the fan around finals (as it does), and I got my act in gear enough to not get grounded when the report card came home. Procrastination is something I’ve worked on since then, and am proud to say I’ve gotten at least 30% better about it.
But if you happen to catch me on bingeing on Netflix while I’m under deadline… do me a favor and steal the remote?
4. Being a Mean Girl.
Time for a confession: Teenaged Emily was not always very nice. I can recall specific instances when I knew what I was about to say was super mean, and I felt the guilt coming on, and then I said the thing anyway. Why? Because it seemed cool. Because my friends were egging me on, because I was insecure, because because because. There is no valid excuse for being mean to other people. As someone who was teased growing up, you’d think this basic truth would have stuck with me through high school. And yet. When we’re put into situations where the easy thing is also the wrong thing… we don’t always choose correctly.
One thing I love about Harper’s character is that while she sometimes has mean-spirited thoughts, she generally keeps them to herself. She’s been through enough to know tearing other girls down—even ones she doesn’t particularly like—isn’t going to prove helpful.
In sum, this bullet should have been titled: For The Love of Lindsay Lohan, Let’s Be Nice To Each Other.
5. Ignoring that little voice in my head.
We could call this voice my conscience, but I’m really talking about the warning bells that go off when I’m about to make a mistake. Listening to that voice and walking away from a bad situation has saved me from serious trouble on more than one occasion.
But I haven’t always listened.
In The Year We Fell Apart, Harper has many of these moments. She’s screwed up enough times to feel a bad decision coming on. But when she hears that voice in her head she asks herself questions like, What’s the difference? Because Harper doesn’t always believe she’s better than her mistakes.
As I wrote her story, I hoped she would figure out a way to trust her instincts. And because my characters are as real to me as any other friend, I’ll say I’m pretty freaking proud of how far she’s come.