If only I knew then, what I know now. How many times have we heard that one? What would you tell yourself at the age of 15 if you could go back in time? The older I get, the more things I would have to say. Still, there are ten that stand out in my mind. Ten things I could have done to make life better in the future. I’m not sure if I would actually change anything, but it would be good to have the option again. These are the ten things I would say to my 15 year old self, in no particular order.
1. Attitude is everything. Start every day with a smile on your face and keep it there. Learn to focus on the good in everything and everyone. Be cheerful and helpful. The right attitude will bring you friendships and prosperity. Only complain when justified. If you do complain, have a solution to the problem. Understand that others are only human. Don’t be too quick to condemn. Whether you are 15 and misunderstood, 30 and confused or 50, overweight and wrinkled, the world is not out to get you. Think positively and good things will come to you.
2. Always do the right thing. Good character and integrity will carry you through life. No matter what happens always stick to your moral convictions. Never sacrifice them for money or worldly goods. Avoid the temptation to have the wrong kind of fun. You will have to answer for it down the road every time. You will know what the wrong kind of fun is by thinking to yourself, “will this hurt someone (including yourself).” Never do anything your Mom wouldn’t be proud of. Some things seem like fun, but you pay dearly for them later.
3. Struggles equal knowledge. I would tell my 15 year old self that there are situations where pain teaches you more. It should be valued above pleasure. Sometimes you will struggle by choice. You will give up certain material things due to your convictions. Sometimes you will struggle through no fault of your own. Sometimes you will struggle because you are human and have made a mistake. Whatever the reason for your struggle, one thing is certain. You will learn from it and go on to be a better person. Appreciate your struggles and be proud of what they teach you.
4. Weigh all your decisions carefully. Whether it be turning down that extra piece of cake or deciding which college to attend, consider all your decisions carefully. Some of the smallest ones can make the largest impact on your future. You may not care right now what things will be like as you age. In what seems like a very short time, you will be middle aged. You will regret all your bad decisions, no matter how small. By the same token, you will be proud of all your good decisions. You’ll be glad you took the time to think things through.
5. Take care of yourself. Stay active. Eat nutritionally dense foods. Stay hydrated. Say no to drugs and alcohol. Have a purpose in life that makes you feel fulfilled. Feel good about yourself. Spend time with family and friends. Do everything you can to take care of your physical and mental well being. You will thank yourself when you realize that because of all this, you will lead a long, healthy and happy life.
6. Stand tall. Stand up for your rights and your beliefs. I would tell my 15 year old self to be proud of who she is. It’s OK to be proud of yourself and your accomplishments. It’s good not to take it too far by boasting and bragging about your accomplishments. It’s important to be humble and not lord it over people. Still, self confidence will get you far in life. People more readily trust those who have faith in themselves. If you walk around with your head down and your hands in your pockets, it looks like you have something to hide.
7. Stop to stretch your legs. Rest is of equal importance to work. Taking time to enjoy the simple pleasures in life can give you great joy. Doing everything in moderation will mean a balanced life. Spread your work out over time to meet deadlines easily. You will learn more naturally this way. Cram sessions and working overtime will leave you spent and exhausted, not educated and fulfilled. I would tell my 15 year old self to work smart, not hard.
8. Open your mind to the possibilities. Don’t be so foolish as to think you know everything. I would tell my 15 year old self to keep an open mind. Life is full of possibilities and opportunities. Keeping your eyes, ears, mind and heart open to options you may not have thought about will give you a life full of variety. Don’t be stubborn. Like a branch, you should wave in the breeze and bend with the weight of the snow on your branches. Be flexible. Don’t set your thoughts in stone.
9. Always pay your debts, financial or otherwise. Life is not and should not be about money. Nevertheless, there are certain opportunities that will be closed to you if you aren’t careful about your finances. Likewise, you should pay all your emotional and personal obligations or debts when they are due. Be sure to thank those who help you. Return gestures of kindness. Take the time to put the needs of others before your own.
10. Place value on people, not things. Financial stability is important, but should never come before friends and family. There will be times in your life when you will have to choose between friends and money. Choose wisely. When it’s your time to leave this world, people will not remember you for your big screen TV. They will remember you for the kindnesses you showed them. I would tell my 15 year old self to place a high value on all the people she encounters in life. Always treat people (and animals) with compassion and love. If they don’t return your consideration, at least you can be proud of the fact that you acted admirably.