Here lately J-Man has been asking a lot of questions about when I was younger. I guess in a way it’s hard for him to imagine me being anything but his mom but as he gets closer to his teenage year he wants to know:
Mom, were you popular in high school?
Did you ever get made fun of?
What kinds of things did you like to do?
The questions seem endless. And as he’s asked me it’s really gotten me to thinking. And as I look back on those days, I wish I had known then what I know now. I remember my mom telling me the same things that I tell my son which is you should have to be an adult before you are a child so you can truly appreciate all the things that being young entails. And as I answer his questions, I find myself telling him things that I wish I had known. Things that I probably was told looking back but disregarded since obviously I knew everything (as all kid’s do). But it did get me to thinking about the things I would tell a sixteen year old me if I could have a conversation with her. And here are some of them.
Don’t Waste Time Being Someone You’re Not. Instead, Just Be Who You Are!
I will admit it. I was one of those girls who wanted to be popular. Who wanted to fit in. Who tried to be what everyone wanted me to be. And I worked so hard at it that I can see looking back that I missed so much of who I really was. I was so worried about looking nerdy if I liked certain things or not fitting in if I didn’t pretend to love what everyone else did. But now, I wonder who I would have been if I had just been true to me. I can say with certainty that I would have enjoyed those years more because I would have been doing what I loved instead of pretending to love things that I didn’t.
What Other People Think of You Doesn’t Matter Nearly as Much as What You Think of YOURSELF!
I guess this really ties in with the first thing I’d tell myself. However, it’s one of the things that I would stress to myself. I look back at who I was at sixteen and honestly, I had a lot going for me. I was involved in sports. I was cute (although I didn’t realize it then). I made good grades. But I let people tell me that I was a little awkward. A little too tall. Not quite coordinated enough. And instead of loving myself for all the good things I was, I despised myself for all the things that I couldn’t control. I didn’t know that I would grow into my height. Or that my personality would turn from quirky to fun. And so I spent those teenage years feeling bad about myself because of what other people said instead of enjoying the things that I knew I was.
Mean People are Everywhere
Everyone had those people when they were younger. People who just lived to be mean – to ruin your day with snarky comments and laugh at your expense. The thing that seems unfair in high school is that these people are generally pretty popular because nobody wants to cross them and be on the receiving end of their comments. The truth under all of it is that these are generally the most insecure people of all who simply cut others down to make themselves feel better. And as they grow up and become adults, they will most likely lose their popularity as they are seen for what they truly are – people who feel better about themselves by making others feel bad. So, I’d tell myself to be nice to these people but take what they said with a grain of salt and not to measure my worth based on what someone else said about me. Because in all honesty, no matter how popular they are, you probably are a whole lot more secure than they are underneath it all.
Being Single Doesn’t Mean You’re Alone
I’m going to say it: I dated some real losers in high school. Yes, they were popular. Yes, they were good looking. But they were cruddy people who treated me badly. And yet I kept going back for more because in order to present the perfect high school image, you of course have to tame that bad boy. Truth of the matter is, it ain’t gonna happen! So I’d tell myself not to spend my time being miserable over a guy when I was much happier without one! It seems like so much emphasis is put on who you date in high school but chances are, they are not going to be who you marry. In most cases, you’ll grow up, realize that you’d never date that loser now and happily end up with someone who is totally opposite of them. So I’d tell myself to stop wasting my time (and tears) on guys who so aren’t worth it and in stead make memories with the friends that I would have for life.
High School is Just for an Instant
No matter how high school was, most likely there are days you would go back to it – to the carefree days of your biggest decision being what to wear and no bills on the horizon. But I know I spent much of my high school experience wishing that I was grown so that I didn’t have to listen to my parents, follow rules or go to school. In fact, I was convinced that I would grow up and have a home where I could sit and listen to music while hanging out with friends all day. Yeah, so not reality. Looking back, if I could tell a younger me something, I’d say enjoy every day. Live in every moment. And stop wishing away your childhood. Because all too soon you’ll be grown and will wish for just one day you could go back to a life where responsibilities were small and having fun was big! And all the little things that seem so life changing back now won’t matter quite so much when compared with real life.
And as I thought of all these things I’d tell a sixteen year old me, it made me realize what I need to be telling my own child. That I need to be teaching him that when you look back, you won’t regret who you were but you will regret who you were not. That you won’t remember all the things you did but you will remember the things you wish you did but did not. So, when your children ask you about your teenage years, stop and take a minute to think about the things that you would tell yourself now looking back and then pass on that information. Maybe they will take it, maybe they won’t. But those are the thoughts to share – instead of simply telling about what car you drove, what music was popular and who won homecoming queen. As a parent, use your experience to help your child not look back in 20 years wishing they had done it differently. Encourage them to live every day to the fullest. To cherish every experience. To embrace who they are. Because that’s what I’d tell a sixteen year old me to do.
Tell me – what is one thing you would tell a sixteen year old you?