Braces, dance classes, awkward silences, strange looks, sexual tension, sexual discovery, kisses, acne, bullies, fights, writing, old friends, new friends, old new friends, new old friends, confusion, confusion, confusion, change, change, change. Teen years are not for the faint of heart although latest reports demonstrate that most of us make it. Some of the most painful deaths in your life will happen in these years. I had my share. My grandfather was awesome. And one day he was gone. So was one of my dogs. The first one to pass. That’s teen years for you. Sudden changes. Slow changes. Sudden deaths. Slow deaths. Mortality 101. Love 101. Desire 101. Master’s in confusion. Croaky voice, unwilling yelps as your voice breaks. Hair begins. There is enthusiasm with hair. Not like when you’re in your thirties. REAL enthusiasm. Protein and hormones conspire to give you a soft felt lip. Moustache hair. Armpit hair. Chest Hair. Hair down there. The kindling of manhood. I always liked girls. Now I REALLY liked girls. I thought of girls. I dreamed of girls. Girls, girls, girls. My first kiss was a tongue kiss. Here’s to overachieving. Everyone around you is breaking in their own way. Teen years bring heartbreak of varying kinds. 31 flavors of rejection and then some. No sprinkles. No whipped cream. Just rejection. And heartbreak. And Confusion. And redemption. Teen years are unpredictable. Things can be lukewarm, then an inferno, then artic tundra. There’s no escape from teen years because those formative scars, complexes, frustrations, and pain live for you. These are some of the most permanent memories in your life. Some of your best memories will be playing videogames. Being able to relate to pixels is weird. But you can. And you do. Part of who I am is defined by Super Mario, by Samus Aran, By Link, By Edgar, Shadow, Locke, Terra, Celes, and the liberating ride atop a chocobo. You want a mog. You also want to ride a luck dragon. You swear you know everything when you’re a teen. You know everything and your parents know nothing. I remember having a discussion with my dad. I was pissed. When he left the room I started doing one of those angry teenage dances where you’re flipping off into nothing and getting really into your moves at how unfair life is. Very mature. He walked backed into the room. He saw me flipping him off. He lowered his head and said in a low voice, “Why did you have to do that?” He turned around and left the room. That wound is still there. I’m sorry dad. There’s a lot of I’m sorrys when you’re a teen. That’s one of them. I’m sorry for falling in love with people I had no business falling in love with. I’m sorry the girl everyone wanted was into me even if only for one occasion. I’m sorry we kissed. I’m sorry she stopped kissing me. I’m sorry she told me she was thinking of her boyfriend. I’m sorry I was so afraid I had to go throw up. This was not a normal teenage guy. Actually this wasn’t a teenage guy. But she was a teenage girl and was with a man no one should be with. I’m lucky I wasn’t some sad headline: Stupid teen gets shot for making out with beautiful girl and boyfriend commits double homicide. In an alternate universe I’ve died so many times. Two of those times would have been in the water. I almost drowned twice when I was a teen. Got caught by a huge set one day and dragged across the reef. I was held down against my will. I was force-fed seawater. But I made it out alive. The same as I made it out alive from my teen years. I fell in love so hard I scraped my heart’s knee. Almost busted a kneecap on two occasions. I had a best friend I had a bad fight with. We had been best friends since 2nd grade. We fought at the end of 8th grade. We talked again well into 10th grade. That’s two years of being too proud to admit it was a misunderstanding. It was a lesson in life and friendship. Now when things like that happen, I accept it. I had my first kiss at 14, first drink at 15, first cigarette at 16, and first cast at 17. I’m proud of only one of those facts. In Puerto Rico, underage drinking happened often. I saw Mortal Kombat under the influence of alcohol. I would have given it an Academy Award. You weren’t carded in the good old days. That’s why teens did stupid things under the influence. Now they do more drugs. Or maybe I’m just less ignorant. My dad smoked Winston. My mom smoked Marlboros. Yeyo smoked Salem. Padrino smoked Camel. My family smoked and I carried the tradition up and out of my teenage years. I’m happy I quit. But as a teen you know better until you finally know better. I used to get bad migraines in high school. A combination of needing prescription glasses and hormones. Or maybe I just liked to watch TV on a school day. I picked up a guitar when I was 17. I took two classes and learned I don’t like to take classes. Everything I learned, I learned on my own. It’s not much, but it’s mine. Much like life in teenage years. Sure you can have people tell you what will happen, but there is no better lesson than a cold bitch slap courtesy of life. There is an overabundance of those during your teen years. You eat anything when you’re a teen. You wonder why you don’t feel great. Then you do a recount of the tube of Pringles, the 3 sodas, the bag of Oreos, and still wonder what the hell happened. Just like teenage years. Often you’re left wondering what the hell happened. And somehow you survived.