What I Learned about Teenagehood from Mindy Kaling

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For teenage girls trying to shape their own identities while juggling school and activities, Mindy Kaling’s Book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) is the perfect, humorous read to reassure us that we are all on this introspective journey together. Ms. Kaling’s book, which was published in 2011, continues to be relevant as more women take the lead in television, film, and other areas, just as Ms. Kaling herself did when spearheading her own show, The Mindy Project. Weaving moments from her childhood and early adolescence into her essays and incorporating her quirky humor, the author offers advice useful to any girl starting to transition into adulthood. Here are a few important lessons to be learned from Mindy Kaling’s book:

1. Take a risk, even if you might be stepping out of your comfort zone during the process. Ms. Kaling recounts her embarrassing ordeals trying out for the Broadway production of Bombay Dreams and interviewing to be a page for a famous television network, two events that led to a dead end, but her short-term failures helped her gain experience to become a television writer. Moreover, the free time she had while working on another job allowed her to co-write the successful play Matt & Ben, which won numerous accolades and garnered public attention.

2. Don’t accept typical stereotypes applied to women. Through her humorous criticisms of modern culture and movies, Ms. Kaling explains that most depictions of women on the big screen fail to capture the nuances of real life. For instance, she sums up several typecast roles in Hollywood assigned to women, which include the “sassy best friend” and the “woman who is obsessed with her career.” Being a woman of color who does not fit these oddly specific roles, Ms. Kaling had to forge her own path by creating characters of her own, such as Kelly Kapoor on The Office.

3. Enjoy meaningful friendships with other girls. Ms. Kaling remembers her group of three other friends from childhood who all used the first letter of their names to form the acronym “JLMP” to solidify their relationship in her book, but she realizes that they never truly shared any interests or in-depth conversations. Instead, she began to gravitate towards her friend Mavis, who instilled a love in comedy in her and helped spark her creativity. As teenage girls, we often feel regret when friendships naturally evolve or break apart, but Ms. Kaling shows that this is a natural process that helps us learn more about our own personalities.

4. Don’t peak in high school, according to the aptly named title of one of the chapters in the book. Ms. Kaling describes her own steady ascent to fame, which resulted from hard work and not viral success. She reminds us that being the most popular students, top athletes, and valedictorians of high school rarely matters later in life, since most individuals achieve even more in adulthood. Instead of trying to be a star as a teenager, Ms. Kaling did typical teenage activities, which included watching movies with friends, joining clubs, and spending time with family. Your teenage years will allow you to explore what makes you truly unique, not to lay out your entire future.
5. Alleviate your stress with a bit of humor. After all, Mindy Kaling is a comedy writer and actress, and she would never let you read her book without either chuckling a few times or descending into a huge fit of cackling laughter. Ms. Kaling proves that any bad situation can be improved with self-deprecating yet truthful humor, as shown when she described her own aspiration to be impersonated by Kenan Thompson on Saturday Night Live. While this may not be everyone’s dream, Ms. Kaling suggests that you take life a little less seriously and enjoy your teenage years, even when they seem to be anxiety-inducing than entertaining.