This week I saw a quote, “youth is wasted on the young.” It was posted by someone I was close with in my youth and got me thinking about how I treated said person and who I was during my youth.
How right this quote is, at least for my youth. I hesitate to look back at my teens and 20’s because I spent most of it behaving or doing things I now regret as an adult. It really is a shame that we don’t have the wisdom of our later years coupled with the energy of our youth. I often ask my parents now, “how did you even deal with me!?” Now a parent to a tween, I see myself trying to share with Avery lessons that will prevent her from the hurt I had during this time or regrets later on.
If I could do it all over again, here are some lessons, in no particular order, that I’d share early on with my younger self.
(cue Cher’s “If I could turn back time”)
10 Lessons I wish I’d Known as a Teen
- Popularity REALLY doesn’t matter! So many young people, myself included, spend too much of their youth worried about where they rank among their peers. When you become an adult where are these people you worked so hard to impress and be a part of? In my case, who knows! I would tell my younger self that compromising yourself in anyway in order to be friends with other people is a HUGE red flag that the friendship/relationship is flawed.
- What really matters is being a good person. This goes along with selling yourself short in #1, but really should be a separate lesson. I really wish my younger self would have had this lesson. Being a good person: one who is positive, empathizes with others, and has a good head on their shoulders, is who you should strive to be. Think about others before you act. Be the person you want to be remembered as down the road. Ironically, those are the people that everyone wants to be around anyways and will probably lead you to #1, at least with some groups of friends. Even if other people aren’t kind and good, don’t stoop to their levels. Always work to maintain goodness!
- Appreciate this time in your life! Not everyone is fortunate enough to get there, or survive through their youthful years. Each day is a blessing and I wish my younger self would have treated it as such. I spent a lot of time moody and looking at the negative. Recently, I went back
and looked at some photos from my time on highschool dance team. I saw pictures of competitions in Tennessee and the Super Bowl performance in New Orleans. In most of the photos I wore a frown. I wish I’d appreciated these moments more, and not taken them for granted. I’d venture to say I also wasted most of my twenties. Now I look back and think, “why didn’t you get out there and enjoy yourself?” No matter what’s going on in your life, don’t let it prevent you from appreciating the moments you do have.
- Appreciate what others do for you. No one has to do ANYTHING for you, parents included. I wish I could tell my younger self to be more appreciative of these things. I wish I had showered my parents with gratitude for the trips, the clothes, and all the activities I was allowed to be a part of. I would tell my younger self to thank the friends who are good to you. I would tell my younger self to thank the teachers and coaches who give you extra time or who pulled for you in times of need. Being appreciative AND showing appreciation not only help you in #2, but people are more likely to do things for you when they know you appreciate them.
- You’re perfect just as you are. Boy would this lesson have helped! Accepting yourself is a hard lesson. I’m not sure I even have this one down pat in my 30’s, but I would tell my younger self to appreciate yourself. I would tell her to stop spending so much time consumed with trying to change yourself. I would tell her that this focus on perfection will take you away from enjoying life. It’s no secret to many that I spent a lot of my later teens and 20’s struggling with eating disorders. What a person whose never experienced this doesn’t realize, is what mental capacity it takes from you. It’s all consuming and takes a LOT of work to overcome. Some things I find I still do as a result of the behaviors I started at age 15 (ie. weighing myself daily no matter where I’m at). The other thing this fixation did was alienate me. I remember going home at lunch to workout instead of out with friends. I remember even breaking up with a boy because he was cutting into my workout schedule. I don’t remember the workouts, but I bet there are probably some moments spent with others that I would have remembered. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self to just enjoy life. People really will be more impressed by your inner beauty (#2 again) than what size jeans you fit into. Just be healthy, and then be happy with who you are!
- Material things don’t provide happiness. Youth seemed to be so much more focused on what people have. I hate to admit it, but I was caught up in the brand names and having the best. It took me to my 30’s to realize that all this stuff doesn’t matter. It doesn’t make you a good person and it doesn’t make you happy. What I’ve tried to teach my children as a result is that experiences will give you so much more happiness than stuff. Not to mention, a lot better memories. I wish I could have imparted this wisdom on my younger self. I would have saved my parents a LOT of money, and maybe I would have had some interesting experiences stored in the memory bank instead. Unfortunately, I don’t remember much of the stuff I bought and I didn’t keep it along the way.
- Get outside and be active! My younger self didn’t realize the beauty of the outdoors and how good it feels on your soul. Spending a lot of time during my youth depressed, I wish I could tell my younger self to just get outside and go for a walk. Exercise releases endorphins and there is just something wonderful about getting outdoors. I didn’t realize till my 30’s how great it was to run, hike, and get outside. I think how much happier I would have been if I discovered this in my youth. Not to mention, maybe I would have been able to complete more half-marathons sans knee problems! The bigger lesson from this would be just to discover what you love early on. Something that makes you happy (and isn’t material)
- You are who you surround yourself with, so make sure to surround yourself with good people. Kids are dumb. They make poor choices. They make poorer choices when paired up with other youth also making poor choices. It’s like a competition for who can be the bigger idiot all in the name of “cool.” I wish I could tell my younger self to make sure you’re surrounded with good people. People who have the same values and who are making good choices. It’s a lot easier to be a good person when you are hanging out with good people. Sure everyone slips up now and then, but find a group of people who are kind, build you up, and make your life bigger. I have friends now from highschool, but I didn’t find them until afterwards. I wish I had, and had focused on these types of relationship sooner. I would probably have been a lot happier, a lot sooner!
- Don’t forget God. I went to church in my youth, not so much for my college career. However it wasn’t until I met my husband that I came to be closer to God. I would tell my younger self how much happier she would have been if she had made this relationship with God important. This would have helped her focus on being a better person. She would have chosen friends who were also doing the same good things. There are many experiences that she wouldn’t have had to look back on and cringe, thinking, “Did I really do that?!” She would have had someone to turn to when things got difficult and someone who could have helped her get back on track. This one probably should be #1 in the list, because the majority of the list is a given if you’re following a Christ-driven life.
- You can’t go back…so learn from each experience and move on. I guess this is a lesson for now, as well as back then. We can hem and haw over what may have been, or we can keep living life. As long as we learn from our mistakes, they served a purpose(the definition of idiocy: doing the same thing and expecting different results). If we spend too much time looking back, we rob ourselves of enjoying the present. I thought about going back and apologizing to people from my youth for my actions. But then I realized, that’s the past and for the most part, those apologies wouldn’t change the present. Going forward,if I come face to face with people from my past who I wish I would have appreciated or been kinder to, I’ll say something. But otherwise, all we can do is learn and move forward. I wish I could tell my youthful self not to ruin any of the present moments by focusing too much on what can’t be changed.. the past.