Looking back at my 15 year old self is slightly painful. I made some frustrating choices that forever altered the course of my life. Even if I could go back in time to talk to that girl, I wonder if anything would have changed. As I was pondering what advice I would give my 15 year old self, it occured to me that I get stuck in the same patterns time and time again.
But, given the opportunity, this is what I would tell her;
1. “Their” Opinions Don’t Matter. Stop spending so much energy wondering what “they” think. Thanks to the internet, I have been able to re-connect with nearly everyone in my high school class, their siblings and many teachers from the small “farm” school I attended from elementary through high school. It’s amazing how level the playing field becomes after high school.
2. Family Matters. Spend more time with your sisters. They will be a part of your life forever and the regret of not really knowing them will stay with you for a lifetime. When I was 15, my sisters were 8 and 1. (my youngest sister wasn’t born until I was 21) I was always to busy to play.
3. Don’t Diet. Dieting controlled my life starting at age 15. By my early 20’s I had spent too much time in a hospital across the country, all because I had to be thin. Eat, enjoy life.
4. Accept Your Hair. I have straight, dark hair. My parents couldn’t afford the massive amounts of hairspray required to make it look the way I desired. Truth be told, I couldn’t feather or tease my hair anyways. Surprise, everyone laughs at “80’s hair” now.
5. Trust Your Instincts. Your intuition is generally dead-on. Trust your gut. Walk away. In fact, since we are not worrying about what “they” think, run. Fitting in is completely over-rated.
6. Jealousy is Not Worth It. Those perfect families you are envying; the ones with the nicer homes, the ones who take “real” vacations, the ones whose parents are always dressed appropriately are not all that different than yours. In fact, your old farm house, camping trips and early hippie/camo parents are perfect just the way they are.
7. Keep Writing Letters. Sometime around age 15 I stopped writing weekly letters to my beloved grandma. When I picked up habit again in my twenties, the connection was lost. We wrote to keep in touch, but I should have stayed the course. She was a truly a magical woman. When she died a few years ago, much too young, I was devasted.
8. Pay Attention to Your Mom’s Hobbies. The gardening, cooking, sewing and artwork she does are all useful skills. You will save yourself hours, days, weeks of frustration by just paying attention to how she does what she does. It looks easy, seems so petty at 15, but trust me, you will want to learn someday.
9. Regardless of the saying, Friends are not always forever. It’s hard to imagine at 15, but even your closest friends will not be a part of your life for very long. Their influence is brief, shorter than you can imagine. Several move on, others die.
10. Stick with It. Giving up just before really suceeding is a character flaw that would have been nice to have conquered early on. Unwilling to stand out, I squashed any and every chance I earned. I would tell my 15 year old self to press through, do my best work and see where it takes me…rather than quit for fear of the unknown.
One last thing, 15 year old self, fifteen is not all that different than 40. Those adults around you are just big kids. When they say how surprised they are at how fast time has gone…they are telling the truth. Time goes by fast, don’t waste your life.