Being a teenager is hard. And I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I think being a teenager is harder today than ever before. Although I have some issues with the millennial generation—after all, right or wrong, it’s quite easy to look at them as a group and claim they are mollycoddled, cossetted, oversensitive, and entitled—I also think in many ways they get a bum rap. I know for certain that the strong, confident, fearless, creative, motivated, imaginative, and generous girls featured in this special issue turn the notion that today’s millennial generation is off track upside down.

I haven’t been a teenager for more years than I care to admit to here. However, the melodramatic angst that accompanied that time in my life is hard to forget. And while I’m certain it’s difficult to be a teenage boy—I’ve raised three of them after all, and I’m a little grayer and a bit less sane as a result—I do know for a fact that being a girl is not always a cakewalk.

I wish I could go back in time and tell my 17-year-old self some things that might make navigating those years a little easier. But then again, knowing 17-year-old-me, and judging from the wrinkles and gray hair my own mother earned when I was that age, I probably wouldn’t listen to myself. When I was in my teens, I couldn’t wait until the next big thing: getting my driver’s license, high school graduation, going off to college, getting my first job, starting a family. I was in such a hurry to get through those years, I didn’t really experience them. So if I could tell my teenage self anything, I would say “Slow down. Watch. Learn. Soak it all up—what you are experiencing now will help you in the future. If you can’t embrace it, at least don’t resist so much.”

I’d also advise her to follow her heart, have faith in herself, take a chance, mistakes are ok, stop worrying so much about what others think, and there are far cooler things to focus on right now than boys. I’d counsel her that no one can wrangle away her confidence; that she is the only one who can defeat it. I would probably tell her to listen to Mom a bit more, she was usually right; I would definitely tell her to call Grandmom more often, to hug her tight when she visits, and tell her how much she loves her—and don’t put that one off for very long.

Of course, in today’s digital age, I’d have to add “And whatever you do, don’t video anything, post anything, tweet anything, or text anything that you don’t want the entire 11th grade to know about tomorrow morning.” That’s why, if I were given the choice between being a teenager in the 1980s or today, I’d choose the ‘80s, with no hesitation. Today’s teens have to deal with the anxiety of having the most experimental years of their lives documented online for all to see and with the knowledge that mistakes can live forever on the Internet. I don’t know about you, but my teenage blunders were embarrassing enough without the entire planet watching them on You Tube.

The stories you’ll read in these pages are just the opposite. Our Amazing Girls inspire me with their unique skills, visions, and their indelible senses of self. They are tomorrow’s leaders, the ones who will be setting the pace, and judging by what I’m seeing now, I can say with great confidence that our future is in good hands.