Being a teenager is a sorely loaded, wildly complex, gloriously wicked, undeniably memorable five-year-span of life.
It's when we start the messy process of figuring out all of life's greatest complexities: sex, love, navigating relationships, affirming our identity in the cruel, cold world.
It's the most profoundly tempestuous, brash journey of self-discovery that we will ever embark upon.
All too often, we reflect back on our teenage years and shudder with spirals of shame over our failed outfits, embarrassing slew of lovers and unflattering self-created hairstyles. We cringe at old pictures and sigh in relief at how much more refined we've become with age.
I don't what I'm going through, but I feel inclined to confess: Lately I've been sort of missing my teen self.
Yes, I was a living, breathing train wreck teeming with an over-abundance of wayward hormones and hell-bent with irrepressible sexual desire, but -- damn, I was alive.
More boldly alive and present than my adult self has ever been.
I felt everything. I fearlessly dove into reckless romance after reckless romance without ever worrying about the pressingly painful heartbreaks that would inevitably consume and destroy my frail teenage heart.
I wore whatever the f*ck I wanted to wear, never caring if it was "too much" or "too inappropriate" for the occasion. I rocked mismatched accessories as if it was high school war armor.
I was perpetually in the throes of passionate, all-engrossing love or a devastating, harrowing heartbreak.
I decorated my room in Nine Inch Nails posters, unabashedly rocked black chipped nail polish with zero shame and dyed my hair whatever color I liked, never caring if it was "flattering" to my skin tone or not.
I thought I was the hottest sh*t and the worst piece of sh*t at the same time. I lived in a barbarian sea of extremes.
I would spill my heart out to my friends on the phone until 3 am, not giving a flying f*ck about my 6-am wake-up call for school. I was addicted to primitive creative expression, never questioning if I was "authentic" or "talented" enough to make art.
I just did whatever felt good in the moment.
There was no fear of failure. There was no consequence. There was no second thought or doubt.
All feelings were woefully intense yet fabulously fleeting. It was always the best day ever AND the worst day in existence. Nothing was flat. Nothing was in between or boring. Nothing was muddled or murky.
I grew up and became a polished version of myself. Arguably better in a lot of ways.
I became a more stable, responsible, reliable and functioning adult entity, but I can't help but feel like I lost a few precious things along the way too.
I'm certain wild teenage Zara could teach rigid adult Zara a couple of essential life-enhancing lessons...
1. Dream big
When you're a teenager, you're unafraid to dream BIG.
You think there is no chance in hell that you won't be one of the special ones. After all, you're an outrageously talented and direly lucky person. Of course you will make it in whatever field you wish to pur-f*cking-sue.
You were born for this. There is nothing in the world you could possibly want that you can't and won't have.
After a few years of being an adult, the massive, teeming, whirlwind of fantastical dreams gets knocked out of you. The cold sting of reality sets in and burns the surface of your increasingly delicate skin.
The trouble is your adult self gave up too quickly and too easily. You shed yourself of your resilient idealistic teenage flesh and chose to settle instead.
You just might have been on the brink of bringing your fantasies into reality, had you only still believed it was possible for your sky-high dreams to come into fruition.
2. Crush hard
Oh, there is nothing quite like an all-encompassing teenage crush. You would ascend into the air when your crush of the moment sent you a simple "hi" text message.
It was complete and utter ecstasy just to feel the light brush of your hand up against the person you were hot for.
The innocent excitement, the audacious plunge into another person's heart, the full-bodied chills, the endless fantasies that penetrated into your dreams. It was consuming in the best way possible.
Our teenage crushes made life so exciting. We had no qualms about getting crushed by our crushes and, instead, savored the f*cking moment.
3. Like whomever the f*ck you like
When you're a teenager, you like who you like. You don't care if he or she has the admirable career, an impressive income or a lifestyle cohesive to yours.
You're attracted to whom you're attracted to. You grow up and shut down what could be electric connections incessantly, all because he or she doesn't fit your bill of the "perfect" mate.
4. Make time for your friends
When you were a teenager, your friends bound you to the world.
You would eat, sleep and breathe friends. In fact, they weren't friends -- they were soulmates.
They knew every intimate detail about your life, and you felt like you would die of loneliness without them.
When you grow up, you can hardly make time to meet your best friend for dinner twice a month. The connection doesn't run as deep, and I can't help but feel like we're all really craving to unabashedly spill our guts out to our "bestie."
5. Incessantly makeout for hours
When you're a teenager, you're driven by your newfound sex drive, but you don't necessarily have actual SEX.
Sex is complicated. It makes you nervous, and it's a BIG, giant step in your young relationship.
The beauty of your resistance to sex is you would indulge in the wonderful art of making out. For hours, and hours, and hours and hours on end.
You would kiss, kiss, kiss until your lips were swollen, and sore and bright red. Exploring another person's pillowy lips with your pillowy lips sent electric shockwaves of excitement through your entire body.
Making out. It was brilliant. It's a lost art in the world of adult.
It was the most glorious pasttime without the risks, the complexities and the inevitable letdowns of sex.
Let's just MAKE OUT for hours, and hours, and hours and hours on end, pretty please?
6. It's okay to be both deliriously happy and sorely sad at the same time
When you're a teenager, you feel everything to the fullest possible capacity. In the span of 24-hours, you feel the most blissful highs matched with the epic, dire lows.
You were unafraid to feel. As you get older, you become programmed to numb yourself in order to stave off the "bad" feelings.
But putting a cap on the "bad" also stops you from really feeling the "good" ones too.
You become listless and empty. You don't let yourself ride the soft waves of irrational emotion.
You get in the habit of intellectualizing yourself out of feeling anything at all. If it doesn't "make sense," you better medicate it away, right? If it's not conducive to your life, what's the point?
When you're a teen, you let the feelings wash over you without feeling inclined to justify or stifle them. In turn, you were able to heal quickly. You felt the feels out.
Now it's like a constant dull lingering pain that follows you everywhere. You don't confront the negative feelings out of fear, but they never go away.
I think all of us adults could use a nice, healthy teen breakdown once in awhile. After all, how good did you feel after a really amazing, full-throttle cry out? It was the ultimate release we're all still secretly hungry for.
The greatest lesson we can take away from our teenage selves is to remember that sometimes it just feels f*cking good to feel. Without explanation. Without rationale. Without apology. Without holding back.
Cry your eyes and pour your heart out. It's the only way to really, truly heal.