By: Jessie Funk

I was thinking about what summer was like for me when I was a teenager, which was not too long ago! I remember one summer in particular, between my seventh and eighth grade year. I had a couple of friends who I hung out with every single day and I remember we spent a lot of time talking about things we were struggling with. My parents were getting divorced, one of my friends was facing some serious health challenges, and the other one had been battling depression for quite a few years, even though she was only 13.

All three of us had our own challenges but I honestly remember that being one of the best summers of my life! As I think about it now, I know exactly why. We never stopped moving! We were so creative and came up with the most fun things to do. We pushed ourselves, even on the days we didn’t really feel like doing anything. We got up, got our bodies moving. We exercised our imaginations and we came up with beautiful adventures! That’s definitely not to say that when we wanted a chill day, we didn’t let ourselves take naps – or cry and watch movies back to back. But my point is that we never allowed ourselves to stay in one place too long.

We had so much fun, we were able to gain a healthy distraction from our challenges. We used laughter as medicine, and we proved to ourselves that we were strong enough to handle the things that challenged us. Life will always present us with challenges. Always, always, always. It’s how we face them and deal with the them that matters. Don’t stop moving. Figure out ways to find joy, actively look for it. Surround yourself with people who are joyful, people who actually want to enjoy their lives. Listen to music that only makes you feel awesome. Watch movies that only make you feel awesome. Hang around people who only make you feel awesome! You always have permission to take a break or end a relationship that is not healthy for you. Guard your mind and your heart like the precious, irreplaceable wonders they are – because that’s exactly what they are. For teenagers, having fun is not optional. It is as necessary as oxygen. Give yourself permission to have fun this summer and look for ways to keep joy and light in your life, even when there is darkness.

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