Dear Charley

Confused about School, Friends, Family or Relationships? Charley & Co. to the rescue!

We're travelers through time—and guess what we've learned? Teens' problems today are not so much tougher than they've ever been. Just different.

So we've consulted with experts across eons, sweeping up their wise words—wisdom that’s not built from random search terms and automated algorithms but actual thought and experience.

Tell us what's got you worried, excited, or upset and check back regularly for updates.

What Is Wrong With Me?

Sep 15, 2016

Dear Charley,
Hope all is good in Italy. I don't know but it seems like the guys at my school go for girls that have skinnier bodies than mine. I'm not very happy with some parts of my body. One of my friends let me borrow her shirt and it just looked so different on me compared to how it looked on her. And I'm starting to worry about how I look in all my clothes. People tell me I look nice but I'm starting to doubt. Any ideas?

Sincerely,
Body-Conscious

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Hello, Beautiful,
First of all, I totally get it. It is completely normal—especially at our ages—to feel this way. For some reason, as soon as we hit 12 or 13, we start looking in the mirror a little differently, and it seems like our friends do, too.

Second, it's healthy to worry about your body a little —just make sure that it isn't affecting your life. You may be critical of yourself sometimes, and that is okay, but don't let it get to the point where you feel bad about yourself. Instead, try to replace those thoughts with positive affirmations instead. You can check out some more cool tips here: Body Image and Self-Esteem.

We see celebrities on TV and we think we need to look like them—but these people are made up and dressed for the camera. They probably don't look like that when they get up out of bed in the morning and you might not even recognize them if you saw them then!

Believe me when I say you are perfect the way you are. Bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and if your friend's shirt looks different on you, that is perfectly okay.

If you feel like you want to work on eating healthier, though, you can look at the United States government's daily recommendations here: BAM! Body and Mind

In the end, all that matters is how you feel about yourself. Focus on what makes you happy and achieving your dreams, and the right guy for you will appreciate you for exactly who you are.

Your Partner in Time Travel,
Charley

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Feeling Crushed by the Crush

Jul 29, 2016

Dear Charley,
Even though you’re gone right now, what with the time travel and all, how do you handle the new romance between Beth and Lex? I've liked this guy in my class for a long time. He's so funny and nice but he told me the other day that he actually likes my best friend. I feel kind of dumb for not realizing he’s not really into me, and it's really hard to see the way he looks at her. She doesn't know, but I'm afraid she'll start dating him when she finds out, and it'll ruin everything between me and her! How do you get through something like this?

Sincerely,
Hopeless Romantic

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Dear Hopeless,
Man, I'm sorry that happened to you. That's a rough situation to be in but, trust me, it will be okay. First of all, don't beat yourself up! Take the "hopeless" out of your signature, because you're just going through one of the many bumps that teenagers go through when they're looking for love—it's not hopeless!

I haven't talked to Beth much about Lex—you know, what with my current situation and all—but I'm sure she probably feels pretty embarrassed that Lex doesn't like her the way she likes him—no fault of hers!

Meantime, you're not sure if your friend even likes your crush back, and I'm sure she loves you and would not want to hurt you. You have to talk it over with her and decide what to do. Even if you have a worst case scenario—meaning she does like him back and wants to date him—you wouldn't want to lose a good friend over this.

What happens if you try being happy for both of them? If she's really your bestie, she would want the same thing for you. Really, that generosity of spirit would be a sign that she is a true friend: 4 Signs of a True Friend.

My point is it hurts right now but the hurt will go away in time even if it doesn't feel like it will ever stop. (Trust me: I know something about the way time really works!) Sometimes we think there are people meant for us but they actually aren't, and that's part of the experience.

That just means someone—or something—better for you is comin' your way.

Your Partner in Time Travel,
Charley

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What's Up with the Parents!

Jul 2, 2016

Dear Charley,
Just wondering if your parents ever tried to signed you up for clubs and stuff that you didn’t really want to do?

My Mom's always signing me up for stuff. I've been drawing cartoons and want to be a fine artist one day but she's like "STEM this-STEM that." But science and coding are not my thing.

I want to sign up for Art Club at my school but I can't because she says these other things will be "good for me."

How can I talk to her so she'll let me do the things I like?
Signed,
Not yet Rembrandt

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Dear Not Yet,
I think all kids growing up get pressure from their parents to take up things they don't want to. Look at me - my mom wants me to be a professional violinist like her, and Dad's all about "the future of the world is in cyber security," like him.

And I get that what they really want to do is make sure I'm successful. And this is what they know. Maybe it's the same for you.

There's a lot to unpack here, so hope you'll bear with me.

  1. Learning to be an artist is great! We need more cool art, and there are lots more options these days than ever. Painting, drawing, sculpting, photography, video, filmmaking, making murals—super cool!
  2. The other cool thing about art these days, is what you can do if you know a little coding. Like animation, anime, digital design, Jumbotron scoreboards. There's even 3D printing to create fashion or jewelry.
  3. Why does it have to be either-or? You could make, say, cartooning, your main thing, but also check out what, say, science has to offer. There are some very cool bio-artists who combine biology and art—and sell it online!
  4. There's another cool trend around eco-design. It's where artists, architects, and environmental engineers get to work on sustainable living and workplaces.
  5. And maybe none of that is for you. NO prob! Dive in to Art Club. Draw from Nature. Sketch and doodle. Mush around with some sculpey.

My advice: don't rule out the coding and science stuff, just because you aren't totally a computer geek. You should learn it, even if you decide never to do it. There's a reason many people want to change to STEAM (integrating Arts into STEM)!

Whatever you decide you're passionate about, show and tell your parents about that. And maybe talk about how you plan to make your dreams come true.

That's the main thing they want to know: that you have a plan.

As for me, I say, let your inner Rembrandt shine!

Your Partner in Time Travel,
Charley

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On pressure, passion, and having just so much time in a day

May 23, 2016

Hey Charley,
So, Renaissance genius wannabe, why even try to do it all? Hard enough to keep up with all the school/friends/afterschool stuff. Feels majorly stressing.

And how'd you come up with the idea of a time machine, anyway?

Just chillin',
A 21st-century bro

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So, bro,
I know what you mean about the pressure. People expect so much of us teens these days. Even though my parents are always telling me I take on too much, they'd be majorly bummed if all of a sudden I got bad grades or stopped playing violin or soccer.

My wanting to "do it all" has to do with intrinsic motivation [definition: undertaking something I feel passionate about, coming from the inside]. So the time machine thing comes from wanting to solve a problem that no one else—not even Leonardo da Vinci, the original Renaissance genius who dreamed it up—was able to solve.

I've found out the hard way, turning a dream into reality is not easy! A lot of it's about failing the first gazillion times and learning from that failure. Thomas Alva Edison once said, "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration." And he should know: he supposedly failed at making a workable light bulb thousands of times before he succeeded. (And yeah, maybe that's a little extreme, even for me! But you get the point.)

Oh, and about that stress. Often that comes from a goal being set extrinsically [definition: goal-setting imposed externally] and then expecting yourself to measure up to society's standards. And we could text about that all day and not solve it. (Don't even get me started on standardized tests.)

Like I told my friend Billy when he was working out kinks in his virtual reality app:

  1. Do something you love doing, whether it's improving your distance running time, creating a graphic novel, or inventing an app;
  2. Set a goal for yourself; and
  3. I bet you'll discover that driving force that propels you to practice and repeat and fall down and pick yourself up again until you succeed. (NOT like when a teacher or parent tells you you're not trying hard enough—that's where the stress comes from.)

And stick with it. Edison said, "Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up." And who would've been p.o'd if they'd known they were that close.

So, bro, let me flip your question:
Have you ever tried to do something that everyone else said was impossible? How'd it feel to actually make it happen?

Wink, wink.

Your Partner in Time Travel,
Charley

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The Whole Boy-Girl-Girlfriend Thing

May 23, 2016

Dear Charley,
For the first time in my life, I have a boyfriend. He's really cool, and other girls, who never noticed me before, suddenly want to be bff's with me! Loving this newfound popularity; however, I also notice that they are jealous of me, make fun of what I'm wearing in front of new BF and only invite me to their parties to make sure new BF will come too.

So far, new boy is wonderful and we have fun together. I am worried, tho', about becoming clingy when other girls are around and trying to get his attention.

Here's my real prob: if new BF suddenly becomes ex-BF, what happens to me?

Signed,
Dating and Desperate

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Dear D2,
I can relate to the issue with BFs. Been through some confusing feelings about the boy thing myself lately. And trust me, what you're experiencing is NOT new: some of my best girlfriends—both in 2014 and in the way past—have done some pretty weird things to their bff's over boys.

But in your case... phew. Where to even start?

First of all, if you're clingy, he is not going to like you. If he thinks you're trying to hang on too tight, sure thing that he'll rebel. Plus, if you're so worried you're going to lose him, you probably will. Law of Attraction 101—whatever you put out there will come back to you. So if you're expecting the worst, you'll probably get it.

Second, about those "girlfriends": they're not yours now and probs never will be. It's all about a boy in this case. If they only like you for the the guy you hang around with, why would you even want to be friends with them?

When it comes to girlfriends, I always look at what we have in common besides the boy: do you like going to the movies? Play the same sport? Love to sing in the school choir? If there are things you truly enjoy doing or talking about together, you may get to be good friends. But if you end up being, for someone else, just a means to an end, that's not a basis for friendship.

The bottom line? As Socrates said, "Know thyself." Not easy at our age. But if you and BF really like each other and being together makes you happy, congrats! If going out with him is your idea of a ticket to the "in" group at school... well, I think you're better than that.

Your Partner in Time Travel,
Charley

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