Even though I am 48 now, I was once 15 years old. When I was 15, I had all the answers and did not need advice from anyone. What I proceeded to do was to make almost every mistake in the book, many of which I still live with today. So actually, I really knew nothing and my ignorance forbid me from taking advice from anyone. I hope this top ten list of things I have learned helps you to realize that there are always consequences for their actions and that by putting your ego aside you can make decent decisions.
I realize that some mistakes have to be made in order to grow and learn. This list is about some of the big mistakes that can be learned from someone else. The teenage years are a time for experimentation and trying to find your place in the world. That is the wonder of being young, but my hope is that by thinking things through a little bit, the wonder can stay wonderful.
10. Take school seriously. I had such low self-esteem that I thought I was too dumb for school when, in fact, I was just lazy. It was easier to claim ignorance than to actually try to do well in school. I figured I would never need an education because I wasn’t going anywhere anyway. That is such a ridiculous mindset. Education is a tool, an asset and it is yours and always will be. Education gives you power to make choices. Without education, your choices are limited…really limited now and as you get older. If there are subjects you are not good in, get tutored or read books on the side. DO NOT ever discount your ability to learn. Unless you have a physical reason why you cannot learn, then you can. My comprehensive skills are slow, but I still learn new things…DON’T GIVE UP!! I hope to have my Bachelor’s Degree by next year (yes, at 48 years old!); it’s never too late but it is easier to do it when you are younger!
9. Think about the future, at least, a little bit. That way when the future arrives (which is does) you won’t be taken by surprise. The teenage years are about living in the moment, but in those alone times think about what you want and what you want to do. There is nothing worse than being 48 years old and not knowing what you want to do when “you grow up.” Also realize that tastes and desires change, what you want to do at 15 may not be what you want to do at 48, but just give it a little forethought. It is okay to think big, but also have a medium-sized plan in case the acting career doesn’t take off. I don’t say disregard your dreams, but a Plan B is good to have.
8. Realize as young as you can that other’s peoples opinions of you don’t matter much. Of course, you should care what friends and family think, but to be overly concerned with everyone’s opinion of you will drive you insane. I always worried what everyone thought of me, I had to have everyone’s approval. Unfortunately, you are never going to get everyone’s approval, learn that early on. Work on your self-esteem every day, so that you will be confident in yourself. That is much easier said than done, but it is important. When loved ones voice a concern about something you are doing or a friend likes something you are doing, listen to that. Take advice from those who honestly care about you. There is nothing wrong with wanting to make good first (or second and so on) impression. But there are some people in this world who will never give you approval and you need to quit beating yourself up about not getting it.
7. Your life will not end without a boyfriend or girlfriend. Don’t get me wrong boyfriends or girlfriends are nice, but when you are 15 you should be concentrating on you and thinking about what you want. Take the time to be a little bit selfish. I used to think that I HAD to have a boyfriend since everyone else had one (which is a horrible reason for anything) and it clouded all my decisions. I should have been having fun and learning about what I wanted instead I was hooking up with guys who did not want what was necessarily best for me. They tended to be controlling and overwhelming. I am not saying don’t date, but the serious relationships can wait until you are older. There is plenty of time for that. Don’t rush a serious relationship. I think about all the things I never accomplished because I had to have a boyfriend. My boyfriends required all my time and I missed time with friends and family and was not able to experiment with different life options (working, sports, volunteering, etc.). You should be in charge of your life and make your own decisions with the help of those who truly care about you.
6. Don’t completely discount your family. I know at fifteen families seem lame. If you come from a loving, close-knit family, don’t completely shut them out. Enjoy some time with them. If your family doesn’t give you the support you need, find your own “family.” When I was growing up, I was alone a lot and missed out on family-type activities and did not get a lot of guidance. My friend’s family “adopted” me and allowed me to join them for holiday dinners and sleepovers. They were instrumental in helping me take my current religious path. They gave me some structure which I needed. My family was great but they were scattered all over the country, so having my “adopted” family close in proximity helped me in ways I cannot even imagine.
5. Think outside yourself. At 15, the world seems to revolve around you but the world is actually bigger then that. Look outside your teenage angst to other people in need. I suggest volunteering, and not just to fundraise for football jerseys, but to actually serve food to homeless people or help out at a senior center. See what life is really like outside of your home and your school. Experience the great feelings you get by helping to build a home for a needy family with Habitat for Humanity, doing yard work at a domestic violence shelter, working at a hospital or any number of things. There has to be something you like, something you are interested in…take that and help someone else. This one step helps create empathy and sympathy and makes you grow as a person. I wish I would have started volunteering in my younger years. Not only was I stronger and had more endurance, but I thought I was “it” – the center of it all. I could not have been further from the truth. Take a moment to see things from another person’s perspective. Take a moment to see what other people have endured and learn from them. Use the experience to better yourself. I cannot say enough about how volunteering changes your life. Sometimes you have to try several things before you find the right fit, but don’t give up.
4. Smoking only looks good on TV and in the movies. It is so hard not to smoke when you are teenager. Smoking only gives the illusion that you look grown up. It is a terrible, nasty habit that once you are hooked is very, very difficult to break. I live with the repercussions of smoking every day with increased asthma problems. At 48, I can barely climb a flight of stairs. My life has been so negatively impacted by my earlier years of smoking, that I can hardly even believe it. I also watched my mother die a slow death due to the effects of smoking. Remember it is hard to quit, some people are never able to until they die. Smoking is serious and you should consider everything about it before you try that first puff. It is just NOT worth it.
3. Drinking is another thing that only looks good on TV. I have had my share of times when I was drunk. Granted, not all the times are bad but many of them were. When you drink you generally act stupid (I spent more time apologizing for my actions the day after a party, than I spent actually at the party drinking). Your decision making processes are severely impaired. Many of my bad decisions (which will be discussed later in the list) were undertaken while under the influence of alcohol. Factor in the statistics that are compiled that show how many teens are killed or injured in alcohol-related automobile accidents, and you should always stay away from drinking.
2. Drugs…see #3. Drugs make you do stupid things and they can outright kill you. If they do not kill you, you run the risk of becoming addicted. Addiction is a terrible crutch that NEVER goes away even after you are “clean.” Addiction ruins lives, not just yours but your loved ones, and affects your entire life. Many people die due to their addictions, just look to Hollywood for examples. People cut down in their prime because of drugs and alcohol. Don’t be a statistic; really stay away from these substances. That is why your self-esteem is so important, without high self-esteem it becomes too easy to run with the pack.
Please, please do not ever start smoking, drinking or drugging. Nothing good ever comes from it!!!!!!
1. The last subject may be uncomfortable to talk about, but it is another important one. Stay as sexually pure as you can for as long as you can. Once you start having sex, there is no going back. Especially for girls, there is a horrible stigma that goes with being sexually active (there is a double standard and it is not going away). I know it is hard with all the hormones raging, but this is a decision that you will have to live with for the rest of your life. You need to seriously consider the fact that there are a lot of STDs out there and it is easy to get one. Also, it is easier than you think to get pregnant. I had an abortion at 14 and a child at 17. Those are decisions that haunt me every day. The fact that I was sexually impure as a teenager took its toll on my self-esteem causing me not to have any and in turn causing me to be more impure. It is a viscous cycle that is hard to end. Once ended, the damage is already done. I am not saying that you have to be totally pure (although that would be your best decision) but think about all the consequences of early sexual behavior. There will be people who tell you that it is okay (I did that to friends and caused them to make bad decisions and that also haunts me to this day), but listen to your heart and listen to your brain. If you have sexual questions, please find someone older you can trust to talk to and be sure you can trust them. You don’t want to take highly sensitive issues to someone you are not completely confident talking to. Ask questions and be prepared for when the situation comes up.
Please, please think about your body before having sex too young. It is your body and you have every right to hold off on sexual activity until you are ready. DON’T let anyone pressure you ever!!
I know this list is somewhat of a downer, but if you think about some of the mistakes I made and rethink some of your decisions, you may not have to be haunted by bad choices. You will still make mistakes, but if you can not make as many big ones as I did, you will have a better start into adulthood than I did. I do not wish my struggles on anyone and hope that you heed some of my advice and think about yourself, keep your self-esteem high and be confident. You can be a success, no matter what that means to you, all you have to do is be prepared. Good luck to you; I wish you all the best!!