I was not good at being a teenager. But I do have some advice…

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There are some people who claim they enjoyed their teenage years. These people say – and I swear this is true: I have actually met them – that the years between 13 and 18 were “a laugh”, “brilliant”, even “the best years”. I’m happy for these people, I really am. How marvellous to look back on your youth and see the extended director’s cut of Happy Days, Gregory’s Girl, Beverly Hills 90210 or American Pie (delete as appropriate to the decade of your youth). But those people? They are not my people.

I was not good at being a teenager. I lacked both the fearless sense of rebellion and the carefree desire for fun you need. My teenage years were spent alternately hiding in my room because I was so miserable and anxious about everything and nothing, and hiding in various psychiatric hospitals when that misery became life-threatening. Like I said, Ferris Bueller I was not. I wasn’t even Angela Chase in My So-Called Life. I was more like Angela’s history classmate, whom you never saw on screen because she was too busy self-harming at home.

And for a long time afterwards, I worried I’d ruined my life when it had barely begun. Ever since movies, pop music and TV started mythologising the teenage years in the 1950s, there has been a sense that those years matter enormously. From James Dean to John Hughes, pop culture has pushed the idea that being a teenager has some kind of mythic grandeur to it, and that if you do it right it will resonate into your adult life – save you, even, from the banality of becoming average. Your teenage years are when you forge the person you will be, the cliche goes, when you learn how to drink alcohol, have sex – not be a child, in other words. No wonder they’re so important. But all I did with mine was hide from the world.

Well, teenagers of the 21st century, I am here to tell you something: none of this is true. That is not to say that any emotions you feel now don’t matter – of course they do. But they won’t, in all likelihood, dictate the rest of your life. You will be an adult for far longer than you were a teenager, and any adult who considers their teenage years to have been their peak is always a bit odd. (The only man who ever said that to me was a 32-year-old snowboarding instructor who went by the name of Malibu and pursued 17-year-old girls. So there you go.)

Who you are now is not who you will be. How I wish someone had told me that. And despite what pop culture might tell you, who you are now is not the best of you. You are still clay, taking shape; no wonder you feel disoriented. If you are the kind of teenager I was, or perhaps a less extreme version, let me tell you something else: this too shall pass.

But I do have three pieces of advice for making it pass a little more painlessly. First, create something. Write, draw, bake, knit, make a magazine, design a video game – whatever, it doesn’t matter, as long as it comes from you. Just make something that wasn’t there before, so you can look at it and say, “That came out of my brain, my fingers, me. Without me, that would not exist.” One of the best ways to learn who you are internally is to find out what kind of mark you can make externally.

Second, do things just for you. I’m sure you’re sick of condescending oldsters like me wagging their fingers at you about “the selfie generation”, which is just our way of trying to say how worried we are about you coming of age at a time when your worthiness is measured in likes. But try to do as much as possible just for yourself, not external validation: make something and don’t Instagram it. Go to a gig on your own, and don’t Facebook it. Validate yourself.

Finally, remember that you are currently wearing teenager goggles. This means that everything you are experiencing is being refracted through the crazy hazy hormonal moshpit in your head, as well as the various injustices that come with that time of life when you’re not sure if you’re an adult or a child and no one else is, either.

Your confusion is not misplaced; this really is the weirdest time of your life. But here’s the good news: the best is just around the corner.