Who are we? Who do we want to be? Isn’t that question at the heart of every major transition in our lives? It’s absolutely the question at the heart of my book More of Me – a question that is never more prevalent than when we are in our teens.
The concept of More of Me, that Teva clones herself once a year and all the previous versions of her still exist, is a basically a giant metaphor for growing up — how we choose our future identity and how we deal with our past selves. Though Teva’s circumstances are unique, she’s absolutely not alone in the way she feels.
I wrote More of Me around the time my own daughter was leaving home to go to college. I was looking at old photographs of her, and found myself yearning, not just for the young woman who was leaving, but for the Thunderbird-mad seven year old she’d been; the four year old who would crush you with affection given half a chance; the two year old who had incredible curiosity and courage. I longed for all the previous versions of her and it made me think about my past.
I had a bit of a difficult childhood. My first Mum died when I was very young and, in those days, there was no grief counselling — not for us children and certainly not for my father who just had to “get-on-with-it”. He remarried and though, over the years, my step-Mum really became my Mum, it wasn’t easy, not for any of us. Then, when I was around ten, my second Mum had breast cancer and I honestly thought I was going to lose another mother. Add to that, being a small, geeky, poor kid in hand-me-down clothes at a pretty rough school — and you’ve got a real cocktail of challenges.
When I thought about myself growing up, I could see that each older version was a tiny bit different, a tiny bit separate, from the previous versions. Our personalities are not static. We continually grow and change, informed by our life experience. There is less than a year in age between Fifteen and Teva in the book and they’re the same, but so different. Teva has been subdued by life, by her internal fears, and Fifteen made more angry by her isolation.
Nicola Morgan, author of a wonderful non-fiction book called Blame my Brain: The Amazing Teenage Brain Revealed calls adolescence “a perfect storm of change.”
I completely agree — it’s the most baffling of times: our bodies are changing and our friends are changing. We’re expected to do our best at school, to excel in our hobbies, to fall in love and cope with break ups. We’re even supposed to know what we want to do in the future and to break away from the safety net of our parents and stand on our own two feet — that’s daunting, but essential to becoming an adult. You stop trusting everything your parents tell you — and that is monumentally scary.
In More of Me, I wanted to take the reader on a journey where they feel as confused as Teva — she questions her own sanity, and at times, is utterly lost — but, even though she seems to absolutely hit rock bottom, Teva survives, she finds a way forward, and that, I hope, is a key message in the book. Hope. Things will get better — you can take all you’ve learned from struggles in your teens forward, into your adult life and you’ll be stronger and more resilient for it. That matters greatly to me, I’ve seen so many young people suffer with anxiety, fear and sadness — hope is essential and real.
If you’re really struggling with your identity, speak to a trusted adult, there is a lot of help available. If you don’t feel able to do that, you can contact Teen Line, Safe Teens, Your Life Your Voice, or The Trevor Project.
There is help out there. You will find your way.