“Girlhood Around the World” is a special, 10-week series from The Lily. Each week, we will offer a glimpse into the world of a girl in a different country. To receive these in your inbox each week, sign up for our newsletter, Lily Lines.

Sophie is a 16-year-old girl who is a junior in high school and wants to be a journalist when she grows up. She lives in a suburb of St. Louis with her parents, her brother and their two dogs.

She has a group of friends she spends a lot of time with, “We can be found at Barnes & Noble quite often, sipping iced tea from Starbucks and obsessing over any and every book, especially those written by Sarah J. Maas,” Sophie writes, “Groups of us are constantly attending concerts, whether they’re in St. Louis or Chicago. We travel together frequently, and each trip always makes me more grateful for them.”

In her diary entries, Sophie writes about the end of a summer trip spent with family, the ever-relatable end-of-vacation road trip home, her love for books, her struggles with mental illness, and her aspirations and apprehensions about college.

There were about 40 million people between the ages of 10 and 19 in the United States according to 2014 data — they’re diverse (46 percent of them are not white), a majority of them live in the suburbs, and they spend many hours of their days consuming media.

A lot of the conversation and reporting on teens and teen culture in America is about smartphone and social media use, and how it’s affecting them. According to one 2017 study, more than a third of teenage girls in the United States experience depression, and other studies have found that teen mental health can be linked to smartphone use.

July 21

Normally when I spend time with family, I feel isolated and alone, and gradually becoming a closed off version of myself. But with these cousins, the exact opposite happens. I always feel lighter and happier with them. Even though Grace was at her camp most of the day, I still had fun with my other cousin, Thomas, her brother. My brother, Thomas and I walked around the Illinois State campus, our laughter a constant echo. I liked the campus, but am not considering going there. I’ll be starting my junior year of high school, so college is now looming in the distance. I’m excited for change, but scared out of my mind as well.

When we got back to the hotel, I got some snacks and Uno, and headed down to the lobby where I played card games for a couple hours with Thomas and my brother. When the clock was nearing 11 p.m., we became instantly slap happy and everything was superbly funny. I cannot begin to explain the immense joy I feel around them, but I definitely know I am a better version of myself when I’m in their company. We bring out the best in each other, something I hold dear to my heart.

Sophie from St. Louis. (Photo courtesy of Sophie)
Sophie from St. Louis. (Photo courtesy of Sophie)

The one word I can use to describe today would be joy, a word not constantly seen in my everyday life. Despite all the good things in my life, I have many struggles, which can get the best of me. I’ve grappled with different mental illnesses since I was in elementary school. Now I’m a junior and still struggling. Some days are darker than others. That’s why I’m glad I have constants in my life such as my family to keep me grounded and happy.

July 22

On top of finishing another book, I spent the day with my cousins. We walked around the downtown area of Normal, Ill. It was very colorful and inviting. We went into a record shop filled with such a variety of music, I was stunned. No one bought anything, but I love looking at records and the plethora of designs on top of the vinyls. We also took a peek into a comic book shop, which was amazing. They had everything from Archie to Star Wars. My cousin Thomas bought an old Superman comic book, and he couldn’t wait to read it when he got home.

After the comic book shop, we visited a half-priced book store. I love used book stores because they can provide a homey feel that Barnes & Nobles can’t provide. This one was quite small, but still cozy. I bought the book “​Insurgent” by Veronica Roth for such a good price. I’ve already read that novel, but am collecting the series, and since it wasn’t my favorite, I plan on buying all the books from half-priced stores.

After dinner, it was time to say bye. We plan on seeing each other in the next month or so, so this bye wasn’t hard, but I still felt myself missing them as we drove our separate ways.

On the way home, I just read and listened to music. I’ve been in love with Lauv’s album, titled ​“I Met You When I Was 18.” ​All the songs are breathtaking, and the album is perfect for car rides. Once we were home, we greeted our excited puppies and unpacked. My dogs and I share a special bond, so we ran to each other right away. Even though it had only been 24 hours, I still missed their constant presence in my daily routine.

After I was unpacked, I made some tea and got in bed to finish my book. I tore through it, loving the ending. It was such an exciting read, I can’t wait to begin the second book soon. Once I finished my book and tea, I wrote myself a to-do list for tomorrow, something that has become a constant in my routine this summer. It gives me things to do when I feel distracted, and overall keeps me busy. I have a nice day planned, just the perfect amount of busy and relaxed.

If I could describe today in one word, I would say content, because I am content with the people in my life, who I am and what I’m doing right now. I haven’t felt this way for years and I know my younger self would be proud to see how I far I’ve come.

July 23

I cleaned my room, did some laundry and read more of my book. I really like cleaning. It calms me and every thought rushes from my head whenever I organize things. I guess that happens because no matter how chaotic my life is, cleaning makes me feel in control.

My plan for the rest of the day is to brush both of my dogs because they are shedding like crazy right now and then take them to the dog park. I’ll bring my book and read while they run around. I highly recommend reading at dog parks. It’s so relaxing because if you’re in the middle of a boring scene and need a break, looking at all the dogs running around is perfect.

Summer is slowly ending and I’m excited but scared. I have to take the ACT this year and begin searching for colleges. I know that I want to be a journalist and I’m already working toward that goal by being a features writer on my school’s newspaper. I’m reading so many books so I can take in a plethora of writing styles and hopefully find mine in the process.

I’m looking forward to falling back into the routine of school and the constant work, even if it feels like I’m drowning in it at times. I had a pretty tough last school year, so I hope this school year is better.

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