Over the course of the past sixteen months, I’ve had several people comment that I seem wise for my age. Self-aware, genuine, passionately curious, spiritually attuned, intelligent, etc. My first response is always a beaming smile and a gracious “thank you”; my first thought is always that I wish I’d have figured out some of these things sooner. I wish someone would have told me that I’m perfect just the way I am. I wish they had developed a way to tell me so that I’d actually have believed it.
I recently wrote a letter to my younger self, with the basic theme,” Stop taking yourself so seriously!” While that certainly still applies, there’s so much more to be said. Life is a maze, growing up is a struggle, finding balance between autonomy and outside advice is a constant challenge, and discovering what you personally believe is admittedly not easy. I see friends venturing down the conventional paths, I hear stories of kids dying before their eighteen birthday, and I desperately long to inject them all with some of the wisdom I’ve gathered up over the course my lifetime. I want to convey the same message that’s been preached for decades, but in a way that people will understand and take seriously.
Growing up, I was always a bit of a loner. Outside of my siblings and cousins, there was one little neighborhood girl who I hung out with, and another quiet friend at school. I preferred books, jigsaw puzzles, and people-watching over social interactions. I still keep to myself, and I’m perfectly okay with that. I’m at a place where criticism doesn’t bother me. If someone asks why I’m so quiet, I can just throw on a smug grin and shrug my shoulders. Be yourself. Embrace your hobbies, and throw yourself into them. Someday, once you’ve found your niche, people will appreciate you, for all you are.
I was a scrawny kid. When I hit junior high and high school, I was bombarded with concerns that I wasn’t eating by teachers and peers, while at home my family joked that I was a bottomless pit. For the longest time I was self-conscious and unhappy with my body. Despite the blistering Arizona heat, I wore oversized jeans and sweatshirts year-round. The next stage involved trying to fit in – wearing shorts that only someone my size could pull off, but that no parent should let their child out of the house wearing. At the time, I told myself I was happy with my body, but that was simply an effortful lie. You have control over what you put into your body, and how you care for your body. Beyond that, let go of your worries, and learn to be happy with the beautiful and unique body that you’ve been gifted with.
All the cool kids are doing drugs, drinking alcohol, dating, having sex, breaking the law. So what? Those are the kids who are going to end up in rehab, brokenhearted, pregnant, without a college education, or in jail. (Not necessarily, but oftentimes sticking to your guns and following the rules is the best option.) If you don’t want to do something, then confidently decline, smile politely, and walk away. It really is that easy, trust me.
Volunteer. Be humble. Be kind. Realize that you have it better than a lot of people. Be gracious for all that you have. Quit being so angsty. The world doesn’t revolve around you and it never will. Get over it. Help others, because it will ultimately help you.
Be a good person, stay true to yourself. Authenticity is more appealing that an expensive Starbucks habit, designer bags, or new outfits every day of the week. If you’re a nerd, go all out. If you’re a goofball, spread the laughter any way you see fit. If you’re kind and empathetic, quit acting tough already. We’re all strange, in our own way; that’s what makes is unique and interesting. Stop trying to hide your true nature because you think people won’t accept you. Find the right people and they’ll love you for all that you are – strengths, imperfections, and everything in between.
Life doesn’t always go as planned. You have less control than you like to be believe. The past is the done and the future will change before you have a chance to implement your intricate plans. Don’t worry about things you can’t change. Fix the things you can. Put a full effort into all you do. Learn to accept things as they are. Let go of your need to control.
Everyone has shortcoming and weaknesses, yourself included. Forgive, and don’t hold grudges. People are likely to reciprocate, but don’t hold it against them if they’re unable.
Your parents generally know best and are just looking out for you. Rules sometimes don’t make sense, but they’re in place for a reason, and one day you’ll be grateful for the guidance and discipline. Listen to your parents. Thank them. Tell them that you love them. Someday you’ll wish you’d have said more, sooner. Whether or not you realize or fully appreciate it, your parents have offered you the world, and countless opportunities for love and success. Never forget that.
Life can be tough, the most daunting challenge of them all. When you’re young, everything is confusing, ridiculously nonsensical, and simply hard. Does it get better? Yes, but there are stipulations. From all my experience and learning, the key is to be accepting of who you are and where you are. Life is in a continually transitional state – friends, jobs, favorite outfits, and hobbies will change, probably more than you could even fathom. Within seven years, your body will have completely replaced all of its cells (except neurons in the cerebral cortex). You will literally be a new person. Rather than being freighted by change, embrace it. Just look how far it’s gotten you. Think about how much you’ve learned, experienced, and overcome in your lifetime, and be in awe of it. Know that more of the same lies ahead, if only you put the time and effort into pursuing and developing it.