I am a staff member at Maine Youth Leadership. I attended the four-day seminar as a 15-year-old kid, I was changed by the program, and I’ve been involved in a volunteer capacity ever since.

More than 100 sophomores, one from each high school in the state, come together every year and hear from leaders throughout the state, bond, volunteer, find themselves, cry, have revelations — all the great things that happen when you put kids into a circumstance such as this one.

I think it is one of the greatest opportunities available to kids in this state. It changed my life, and it continues to do so every single year.

The seminar takes place next month, and we’ve been gearing up, so it’s fresh on my mind. In particular, it makes me think of my own teenage years, which were equal parts dynamic and awkward, as most tend to be. Increasingly, as I get older and engage with the program more, I find I’m giving more and more advice to the ambassadors, which is really not much more than advice I wish had been offered to me when I was a kid.

Were I to take an inventory of my go-to nuggets of wisdom, they would be as follows:

Be good to people who offer to help you out or show an interest in what you’re doing. Don’t be too busy or disorganized to follow up with folks who show an interest in you and what you are doing. When I moved to New York, I got a job by reaching out to everyone of these kinds of people in my network, and I am grateful for that. But had I been more engaged with these types of people earlier in my life, my network and resultant opportunities would likely have been broader and richer. No regrets; lessons learned.

Save some of your money. You have, essentially, three expenses and say you make decent money. Save some of it. Don’t get to 30 not having saved anything, as you don’t have an excuse for it. Don’t drink all of it away. You can’t draw on having been drunk a lot through your 20s for any sense of financial security in your 30s.

You know how a lot of people in their 30s seem squirrelly, as if they have sticks up their butts? It’s because they are super worried about, among many other things, money. I know you’ve got a fear of missing out and everything, and you’re chasing after a handful of great times you had in similar circumstances, but trust me on this. Even if you put away a quarter of what you put into having a good time, you’ll have more than nothing by 30, and that’s huge. If you get especially good at putting it away, explore some retirement options so your money makes money on its own.

Don’t live for that fleeting, fun experience that can get in the way of all others. You might think you’re missing out whenever you’re not at a party, but it’s the going out and getting messed up all the time that gets in the way of some awesome stuff that happens and opportunities that present themselves in the mornings and on the occasions you’re blowing off.

This said, have as much fun as possible.

Don’t try to fight depression or mental illness alone. I had a nervous breakdown as a teenager and pursued help for it. It was incredibly difficult and laborious, and the path for that process was not evident, but I can’t imagine how difficult living without that help would have been.

This one’s for the boys, largely: Don’t write off your partners or ex-partners as being crazy. You might not realize it consciously, but you’re only able to get away with that because of unfair biases that exist against women, and you’re reaping the benefits of that. It’s gross. And anyway, it’s just not true. You’re ultimately responsible for much, if not most, of the crazy in the relationship you’re in now and the relationships you’ll be in for at least the next 10 years.

Most importantly, use whatever privilege you have to speak up when you see folks who are vulnerable to harassment get harassed. Help to create spaces for these people to speak and be heard.

Being a teenager is hard; fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone.

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was a teenager. He’s an owner-partner of a Portland-based content production company and lives with his family, dogs and garden in Cornish.

Alex Steed

Alex Steed has written about and engaged in politics since he was an insufferable teenager. He has run for the Statehouse and produced a successful web series. He now runs a content firm called Knack Factory...