We all wish we could go back and tell our 16-year-old selves a few things about life once we hit our 30s. We all have our own important things we would tell our younger selfs and well we at least get the chance to tell our kids and hopefully they will listen when they are 16.
When you are prone to anxiety (aka a mom) you probably should just focus on the day at hand. Thinking about the future can send you into a downward worry spiral. This is why I haven’t started watching 13 reasons why yet. I should watch it, my 3-year-old will be 16 soon and I want to stay up to date with the 1st world problems teens feel are ruining their lives. I remember my teenage years like it was yesterday. The shit, abuse, and bullying burned in my brain like an etch-a-sketch I can clearly see but is just out of my reach. If I could reach it I would shake it up and just forget about it but it isn’t that easy. We all took our turns being the victim, the bully, the silent bystander who knew it was wrong but was too scared to intervene and from time to time some of us would work up the courage and stand up for the weak or even ourselves.
One of my biggest worries as a parent is how my kids will conduct themselves in certain life situations. When they see someone getting picked on will they be the bully or the brave? When they walk into a job interview will they be the first to offer a firm handshake or will they avoid eye contact and hunch over offering one-word answers to the questions asked of them? Will they realize that no one can determine their worth and life is worth living even when times are tough? We all want to raise strong young adults, confident to take on the world yet humble enough to know they too are not perfect. They will be smart as a whip but still have some wit and hopefully a dash of grit. It can’t be that hard right? So basically just a younger smarter version of yourself.
I thought my adolescent years were tough. Back in my day you would get a call from a girlfriend asking you how you felt about another friend (let’s call her Susan) and instantly your spidey senses would tingle, you’re being set up, think fast…is that biotch Suzy secretly on the other line…is this a 3-way takedown call? You know… so what do you think of Susan? Tell me how you really feel…That was the nuke of the late 90’s/early 2000’s. Maybe you were foolish enough to say something about her and she would sit on the other line silently wishing she could just say I HEAR YOU but she wouldn’t. At school the next day it became clear you should dummy up and trust your instincts more because they were right and now Susan was giving you the cold shoulder. Then you would then be placed on Susan’s shit list as she was this week’s ringleader, now forcing you to eat in the bathroom stall and use the north doors instead of the south. You would have to wait it out until it was someone else’s turn to be ousted and then you would slide right back into BFF mode. Life barely skipped a beat. What I wouldn’t give to have those days back. I could help my daughter deal with those situations. The minor hiccups of the high school food chain. But now we have the devil otherwise known as social media. Live video, screenshots, and enough pressure to blow the lid off a slow simmering pot. The worst part of it is kids are killing themselves more and more every day and it feels almost like it is semi-glorified. Even with the anti-bullying campaigns, the threat of charges being laid, suspensions, and interventions bullying will probably never stop. So along with talking to our kids about the importance of not bullying, I think we need to teach them to be stronger and smarter than the bullies.
What I wouldn’t give to have those days back. I could help my daughter deal with those situations. The minor hiccups of the high school food chain. But now we have the devil otherwise known as social media. Live video, screenshots, and enough pressure to blow the lid off a slow simmering pot. The worst part of it is kids are killing themselves more and more every day and it feels almost like it is semi-glorified. Even with the anti-bullying campaigns, the threat of charges being laid, suspensions, and interventions bullying will probably never stop. So along with talking to our kids about the importance of not bullying, I think we need to teach them to be stronger and smarter than the bullies.
High school seemed like the be all end all… but it wasn’t and if I could go back and pass down a few life lessons to 16-year-old me, they would look something like this:
Never poke a sleeping bear
That person you are making fun of might grow up to be your boss one day. Work is where you spend 60% of your life, this person can make or break you, give you raises and let you off early Fridays, see where I am going with this? If she remembers you belittling her in high school your early Friday just turned into you being voluntold you will be now be staying late Friday and she also needs you to work Saturday. More importantly, you don’t want to end up on anyone’s kill list. This isn’t a joke…take a look at the news. In the unfortunate even this does happen to you in your lifetime and let’s hope it doesn’t your chances of living are better even if you are in the direct crosshairs of the shooter if you were that one person that was actually kind to them. Be that person that says hi and smiles at everyone. People like that person, even if they pretend not to.
Those so called friends of yours/that boy who is playing mind games with you won’t matter in 5 years
I know you want to impress everyone including that boy you hooked up with last weekend and is now making eyes at your ex-BFF Susan but they so aren’t worth it. Sure you will keep some friends from high school (the ones that make the effort to keep in touch and are true blue friends). But there are so many people from school I strived to be friends with and made bad decisions just to look cool who I now see in passing and think…what the hell is her name again?! And that boy who broke your heart. You know Mr. Cool with the flat beak hat and mad swagger… after recently getting fired from his job, he now he works at Walmart and hides behind the paint cans when he sees you coming. You won.
Pay attention in school
UGHHHH listen to me 16 year old you…I know you think this school work sh*t doesn’t matter and yes I agree in all my years of adulating I have never had to use the sin cos tan buttons on my calculator. But if I could turn back time and just tried a little harder, shown up for class a little more and actually paid attention maybe I would be saving a life right now instead of sitting here giving advice to my 16-year-old self. If you do well in school doors will fly open for you and trust me being the 30-year-old upgrading is no fun. Yes, it is never too late to better yourself but I can guarantee that at least once a day of that upgrading Calculus class you will think to yourself….I should have tried harder in school.
Love yourself and your family
You mom and dad are hard on you, they have crazy expectations and they are just awful to be seen with in public but guess what 16-year-old dummy…they love the shit out of you. They want the best for you and frankly, they don’t want you to make the same stupid mistakes they made. You only get one reputation and once it is formed it is hard to change. So make good choices and remember your family is the one inner circle that won’t kick you out for wearing the same shirt as Susan on Tuesday even when you knew Tuesday was her day to wear it. How dare you….
The pressures of life never end no matter how old you get
Don’t think for one second that things will get easier once you get out of high school. Sorry, that was harsh but you needed to hear it. People will lie to you and say life is less dramatic after high school. Those liars are probably your parents. You were crying one day and that was the ace in their pocket they decided to pull out, but they bluffed just so you know. On a positive note once you leave high school you do have the advantage of choosing friends you actually like/have stuff in common with vs. being friends with classmates due to a lack of selection. But the pressures of life will continue and you will face bullies in college, the workplace and the odd parenting event when you have kids. Also if you feel like you are being judged, you probably are, soon you will be judged at work, on the decisions you make as a parent and so much more. Yes, we all preach to stop judging others but that is like telling us to stop breathing. We just can’t do it. We all have our opinions and let’s face it, the world would be pretty boring if we all conformed and did everything the same. What you need to do it learn to not give a shit what people think of the decisions you make…as long as they are good ones. If they are bad ones than hopefully, their judgment shames you into becoming a better person. This is tough love from 30-year-old you.
Lastly, the guilt of bullying and the effects of being bullied can last a lifetime
Not to sound like a broken record but please don’t participate in bullying. It is ok to think in your head Susan’s dress is ugly but it is another to say it to her or shame her for it. Buy yourself a journal with a lock and you are free to go to town about what you think of others. Because if you don’t when you 30 you will still have flashbacks to memories that make you shudder and think you were an awful person from time to time. Names that were called, rumors spread, feelings you had hurt. When you look at yourself in the mirror you still see your things that people made for of you for…and you try to forget it but you won’t because you can’t. Memories last forever and they get drudged up when you least expect it. It will take a lifetime of therapy to get back to the confident person you were at the age of 3 when you could run around naked and not give 2 shits what anyone thought.
So in closing 16-year-old you, I am not here to rag on you or tell you how to live your life. Take chances, dance on tables, and be the life of the party. Always be kind to yourself and others. Smile at strangers and engage in useless conversation in Wal-Mart line-ups. You never know where your kindness will lead you.
P.S. Life is only going to get better. Spoiler alert… you married someone pretty great and have 2 kickass kids now. You did ok for skipping over 100 high school classes you little shit.
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