DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: I’m a fifteen year old, 5′ 11″, ~150 pound male. I guess you could say I am an introvert who can be extraverted when necessary. I’m not afraid to walk up and talk to someone new. I do have an unusual set of hobbies, though. Bike Riding, Computer Science (Linux, specifically) and Swimming. I have every intention and the passion to pursue IT as my career field. I currently write technology tutorials for a leading cloud hosting company based in New York City. At any rate, I could really use your help keeping my emotional sanity.
I was introduced to the concept of “dating” in my first year of Middle School, resulting in a huge crush and a heartbreak shortly there after. Ever since then, I have been at battle with a vicious cat-and-mouse cycle of crushes, short-lived relationships, heartbreak and (surprisingly severe) depression.
I just moved to a bigger high-school last year, and I decided I was going to put in honest effort into finding a new girlfriend, since my latest ex turned into a never-shortening long distance relationship. (We were together for six months, and was a fairly stable and healthy “relationship.” it saddened me a great deal when I realized we weren’t going anywhere because of the distance and had to break it off…) I have pursued a few girls, but I guess I haven’t gotten lucky yet. I’ve found out they either (a) currently have boyfriends, (b) are getting over a breakup (but flirt with other guys while rejecting me at the same time) or (c) thought I was “following them around” when I was simply trying to converse with them.
I’ve read over some of your articles and I think you hit the nail on the head with many of your suggestions. The issue is, I can’t seen to control my emotions to implement the suggestions. I could tell myself, “You have to take a deep breath and let it go,” all night long, but when I have to sit behind said girl that rejected me in class the next morning my brain falls into “depressed, rejected one one will ever like you… ever” mode.
What should I do about this? This is the second or third time my emotions have overloaded me so much that I can’t function properly at school or around anyone somewhat attractive.
PS This probably sounds weird coming from a fifteen year old. I realize that. I state things the way I see it… maybe someday I will look back and realize my stupidity.
DEAR YOUNG BLOOD: I’m just gonna preface this by saying that you’re not going to like my advice YB but… your problem is that you’re 15.
You’re in the middle of adolescence, with all of your hormones raging like a tiger in a cage, your brain chemistry is all out of whack and every single cell in your body is screaming “GET OUT THERE AND BANG SOMEONE!!!!” Meanwhile, you’re stuck on this weird and infuriating precipice where you feel like you’ve got the world figured out and nobody seems to quite understand what you’re trying to say but at the same time nothing seems to quite go the way you think they should. And with your brains, you’re probably feeling especially frustrated as you’ve got one foot in the real world (I mean, dude, if you’re doing tutorials on a professional level, that’s pretty damn impressive) and one foot stuck in the weird purgatory that is high-school where nothing seems to make sense and people all value the wrong things.
Throw all of that on top of the bulls
t and frustration that is dating (doubled when it’s dating in high-school) then yeah, I’m not surprised you’re having these intense emotions. You’re basically the emotional equivalent of the Tower of Terror – occasional moments of stability followed by plunging to the depths, rising back up again only to be dropped even faster this time.
The problem is: a lot of this s
t is kind of out of your control. It’s in your head and I mean that literally – it’s all the chemicals and hormones surging around as you transition into adulthood. You’re feeling everything so intensely because in a lot of ways, this is how we learn to handle all of this. You get flooded with all these sensations and emotions and Nature is saying “swim or die, motherf
ker,” and you have to learn how to roll with it. And you will. And as you get older and get more perspective, you’ll realize that yeah, it all kinda sucked and some of it really did suck as much as you think it does now but most of it really didn’t and yeah, you’ll look back and laugh at all the things you thought were earth-shattering and cataclysmic.
The problem that all teenagers have — I had it, my readers had it, you’ll realize you’ve had it – is that when you’re 15 it’s really goddamned hard to maintain a sense of perspective about this. It all just feels so goddamn intense.
And ultimately, the biggest thing that’s going to make a difference is time. You just need to recognize that ultimately, you’re ok. Before you realize it, you’ll look back on all of this and realize how unimportant and silly it was.
Of course, I realize that’s not terribly helpful in the short-term, so I want to give you some practical advice that’ll help you make it through all this bulls
t and come out a better person on the other side. The best thing you can do right now is to work on your future – and I don’t mean college or your career, I mean your future. As in: you you’re going to be.
People aren’t kidding when they talk about your formative years; the skills you learn in high-school are the ones that’ll form the base of everything you do in the rest of your life. You are in a position to craft your future – and not just your far-flung future, but your within-the-next-four-years future – in a way that will help guarantee that your life is going to be goddamn amazing. I’ve written a guide about how to survive high-school that you should check out, but I’ll give you the Cliff’s Notes:
1) Learn how to talk to people. Not just girls: everyone. You’re planning on going into IT, a career that – let’s be honest – has a reputation for being a haven for the socially awkward. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to not let yourself get caught up in the stereotype of “I can only talk to my tribe” but instead learn how to talk to everyone. Being able to navigate the worlds of the jocks, the stoners, the mathletes, the geeks and all the other micro-tribes that make up school will be the best skill you can develop. Being able to relate to people who don’t share your slice of the world will make your life so much better as you grow up. You’ll be making connections and meeting potentially awesome folks you might otherwise never have interacted with. The more you can talk to people, the more you can relate to them as people instead of what you assume them to be, the better you will do over all. And – critically – it’ll make talking with the women you want to date infinitely easier.
2) Now’s the best time to start building on the future You that you want to be. I don’t just mean working towards being an IT professional, but the sort of man you dream of becoming. Want to be someone who’s popular? Develop your intra-personal networking skills and learn how to build connections with people. Want to be hot, no matter what you may look like? Work on the things that really make you attractive, like your confidence and being an interesting, fun person that people like to spend time with. And hey maybe work on the things that’ll help you look better too, like your grooming and sense of style. Take time to experiment with your interests and hobbies and develop more skills. The more you bring to the table as a friend and potential lover, the more you’re going to have to offer people who you’ll want to get to know.
3) Don’t sweat the dating thing right now. Yeah, I know this is kind of the opposite of what you’re looking for but honestly? High-school is the worst time for dating, on just about every level. You’ve got the absurd bulls
t social pressures to get laid at all costs (on top of your aforementioned raging hormones) coupled with the Byzantine rules of status and high-school dating (which change every five minutes) and the fact that, frankly, your relationship is likely going to have the lifespan of a carnival goldfish. The best thing you can do right now is work on yourself and get yourself in a position for the rest of your life. Remember those skills I mentioned earlier? Focusing on improving those will serve you much more than just focusing on trying to get a girlfriend.
And there’s one skill that will serve you better than any other: learning how to take rejection. See, here’s the thing about rejection: it’s not as bad as you think it is. Don’t get me wrong: it sucks, it absolutely sucks. But speaking as someone who’s been rejected more times than he’s had hot meals: it’s only as big of a deal as you make it out to be. Right now, you’re feeling lower than a snake’s ass in a drainage ditch and you have that voice in the back of your mind telling you that nobody will ever love you. But that voice? That voice is a goddamn liar. It’s the voice of your jerkbrain, all of your fears and doubts and insecurities all bundled together and telling you things that you’re afraid are true. Here’s what rejection really means: she’s not digging you. That’s it. There’s no value judgement, no proclamation of your worth as a person. Maybe your skills need some work. Maybe there’s a deep and fundamental incompatibility that means that you two would never work. Hell, maybe she’s just an asshole. Regardless: in the end, she’s done you a favor. You’ve got an answer and now you’re free to move on and find someone who does dig what you’ve got – there’re a million more women out there who are just as amazing, if not more so, waiting to meet you.
So learn to tell your jerk-brain to shut the f
k up, pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move on. When you can take rejection and not let it phase you and not let it make you bitter and angry, you will be goddamned bullet-proof when it comes to dating.
These’ll be the skills that help you not just survive the next four years but thrive. And when you’ve left the bulls
t that is high-school behind and take your first steps out into the real world, you will be so much more ready for it than everybody else that you’ll wonder why you ever thought your dating dramas back in the day were a big deal.
Good luck, YB. You’re going to have an amazing time.
Please send your questions to Dr. NerdLove at his website (www.doctornerdlove.com/contact); or to his email, email@example.com