This past week was Spring Break for our crew and we were lucky enough to have some fantastic family time with my teenage nieces. My kids think that these ladies walk on water and as a mom, I feel so lucky that they still want to spend time with us!
While together, I spent a lot of time thinking about what it is like being a teenager these days and what advice I would give my “sixteen-year-old self”. My children are about a decade away from these would-be lessons, but my nieces are living through these complicated years right now. They are growing up to be strong, intelligent women and I feel so very proud of them. Still, being their aunt, versus their parent, makes me think that if I share a few things I’ve learned along the way, maybe they will tuck these thoughts into a pocket for a day when they need them.
It will all work out. I don’t mean that life will play out the way you think it will. Let me tell you here and now that it won’t. But that’s actually probably for the best. Life will continue to roll on regardless of what college you choose, whether you attend the dance, or make the game-winning shot. What feels like your entire world today, will be a line in your heart’s memory book. These current dramas will fade as time goes on and tomorrow’s math test (or whatever is causing you stress or pain) will ease with time. I promise you this.
Be Brave. Being young is wonderful and also really difficult (and pssst… this is true for almost everyone). When I think back to how much time I spent worrying about what people thought of me and whether I was good enough in high school, I feel exhausted. Start trying to find your own voice today and trust that it is good enough. Fitting in isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Be yourself and learn to love that person. Being who you are can mean feeling different, but as they say, different can be extraordinary.
Be kind. There is just no reason not to be. This lifelong skill is one that pays back tenfold. There were high school friends of mine that understood how to be nice to everyone and not get sucked into the drama. Although I cannot claim to have known this important lesson at the time, those are the people that I think had it all figured out. I am really happy to say that I am still close to a few of my high school friends and know that these friendships are different than others in my life. Long-time friendships are like sibling relationships – even though your paths do not always take you in the same direction, these are people who know who you are and where you come from. And there are times when this is important.
There is no perfect. There is no easy. We live in the age of Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook and it is difficult to remember that what people post to these sites is not the whole picture. When I was young I was striving for the fairy tale. But truly, there is beauty in simply surviving and getting through difficult times. Later you will look back (like I am doing now, as cheesy as it is) and realize that those really, really tough moments were actually the times when you were growing into the person that you are now (or will become). Also, remember that what goes on the internet, stays on the internet and not everyone needs to know every detail of your life.
You are loved. You are loved. You are loved. Rebellion is a necessary step of gaining independence and separating from the family. It feels uncomfortable, but it is so very normal. No one expects you to follow all the rules, but try not to break them all. That might just drive your parents legitimately insane. Despite all this discomfort, trust that there is still love. In a few years, it might even be possible to see your parents as human beings once again.
For some reason this post feels important for me to write, because right now I feel like I can remember some aspects of what it felt like to be a teenager. I don’t know if this will always be the case, especially when I have teenagers of my own. But I want these kids to know that there is so much on the other side. I am watching, from a distance, how they are navigating the choices that are in front of them and, wow, it feels overwhelming.
What would you tell your teenage self? Is there a piece of advice you wish you had known then? Please share – we all benefit from looking at this awkward and wonderful time of life through a different lens…