I don’t know about you, but my teenage years were like a crazy roller coaster–the highs were super high and the lows…well, those sucked.
I’ve asked myself if I would go back to those years a million times and the answer is always the same. Hell no.
But, I gotta say, sometimes I miss that girl. She was so full of dreams and excitement about the future. Sometimes I catch glimpses of her in the mirror–especially when I’m excited about something, like after I get my hair done and I’m so excited that you can’t see the gray anymore.
As much as I would hate to relive those days, I do wish I could share a few things with the 16-year-old me.
Oh, sweet girl.
I think about you a lot. Especially now that I have a teen of my own…I remember how tough our teen years were and I’m sorry for that. I wish I could give you a big hug.
I know you can’t wait to turn 18 and go off to college–no parents to nag you to clean your room, no having to ask for permission to go do things, no getting grounded when you go do the things anyway. I know you think you’ve got this all figured out but believe me, you don’t have a clue.
There are so many things I would love to tell you about our life and the way our story unfolds. How our story is still unfolding…
The thing is, even if there was a way for me to give you some advice, I doubt you’d take it. We’re nothing if not stubborn. Still, if I could tell you anything, it would be this:
1. Slow. Down.
Don’t be in such a hurry to grow up. Stop trying to take in the world like it is all going to disappear tomorrow. You’re so busy trying to live like you’re 26 that you’re missing what’s right in front of you. This is the time to daydream, to stay up all night, laughing and being silly and talking about boys with your best friends, to make mistakes and learn more about life and the world while you’re still at home with your mom and dad and your sisters.
Because that world you think you’re so ready to experience? It’s not going anywhere. But you only get to be 16 once. And if you’re not careful, someday you’re going to look back and wish you had taken the time to enjoy it more.
2. Stop trying to fit in. What other people think doesn’t matter. Just be yourself.
I know right now it feels like your whole life depends on hanging out with the right crowd, on being friends with the right girls and dating the right guys, on wearing the right clothes and going to the right places so you blend in with the others.
Don’t spend this precious time pretending to be someone you’re not. Learn to be comfortable just being you. I promise there will be people that know you are kind of nerdy and they will like you and want to hang out with you anyway. In fact, a really great guy will even want to marry the real you! Bonus: you’ll even get him to start reading books for fun!
The truth is, the world doesn’t need more people trying to be something they’re not. The world needs more people willing to be themselves.
3. Your parents aren’t being assholes.
They have rules because they love you and they want you to be healthy, happy and safe. One day you’ll see that raising teens can be hard and lonely and sometimes parents have no idea what to do next. Parents aren’t perfect but what matters is that they always keep trying.
Yours are pretty great and are doing the best they can. Try to cut them some slack. And maybe give them a hug. You don’t know it yet, but trust me, they’ve earned it!
4. Be kind.
It’s easy to get absorbed in the details of your own life but you aren’t the only person in the world. You are part of a family and a group of friends. They have their own hardships, but all of them have been there for you when you’ve needed them. Make sure you do the same for them in return.
5. Relax with the boy craziness.
I know it seems like spending 3 hours analyzing every single thing your current crush said during 2nd period or sitting by the pink Swatch phone in your bedroom, doodling hearts and wondering if he’ll call is a good idea but you’d be better off hanging out with your friends or studying. You are going date some great guys and you are going to date your fair share of jerks. A couple of the good ones will break your heart but don’t worry, it all works out, I promise!
Your Mr. Right shows up when you least expect him. He literally walks through the door of your apartment one Sunday morning with your roommate’s boyfriend. You’re going to be in your pajamas and your hair will be in a hot mess of a bun. You are going to want to die of embarrassment right there and you all but sprint down the hallway to the shower.
Y’all go to lunch, then for a motorcycle ride that afternoon and dinner that night. You hit it off and before long, you’re in love. He proposes a few months later and y’all get married in Costa Rica the following year. Years later you’ll still get butterflies in your stomach when you hear his voice.
You’re also parents! Crazy, huh?!
Your son is super smart, kind, and funny. He’s also stubborn like his mom and he can frustrate the hell out of you sometimes. He’s going to give you some sleepless nights and you’re going to swear his teenage years will be the death of you (fyi: the jury is still out on that one) but he’s a great kid and he has a bright future ahead of him.
In the end…
The 40-something me is far from perfect, but the more I get to know her, the more I like her. More than anything, I wish I could tell my teenage self to sit back and enjoy the ride because, in the end, things work out exactly the way they’re supposed to.