16-Year-Old Me

Day 4: List 5 things you would tell your 16 year-old self if you could.

HAHA! Ummm, truth of the matter is most 16-year-olds don’t listen. I was probably one of them. So let us pretend for a moment that I had been willing to listen to my adult self and not let everything go in one ear and out the other. After telling myself not to freak out at the image of myself over two decades later, here is what I would say:

1) Grades matter, but they are not everything. I admit that there were instances I was in the principal’s office in tears because I received a B on a test or a paper I had written. It was like the end of the world for me. The school would have to call my father to calm me down. Yes, this is a true story. I would let myself in on the secret that after the college applications are sent out, no one on the planet will even care that I graduated high school let alone got a B on a Physics test!

After spending an hour trying to convince myself, I’d say:

2) Be more open-minded. Wait. Maybe I should have started with this one! I admit, all this time later this is a work in progress. I did not dance. I thought it was frivolous. I was not going to eat meat and eewwww on the people who would put dead animal flesh in their mouths (oh and 16 year old me, when you’re in your later 30’s, you’ll LOVE animal flesh – especially filet mignon and fish) or goodness help the people who called themselves vegetarians but ate chicken and fish! If I had an opinion, I was sticking to it come hell or high-water.

3) It is okay not to be adjusted to the civilian world – yet. When my father retired from the military, it was a handful of months before my sixteenth birthday. When I lived among civilians for the first time in my life, I just didn’t get them. I hated civilian life. It got worse before it got better, and that spilled over into my 16th year and 4th high school. I would have told myself that it would take time. I’d get there. I felt so alone even though I had friends. This was a perfectly normal adjustment period. I wish I would have known there were other kids like me going through the same thing.

4) Don’t take life so seriously! You’re 16! I was an extremely serious kid. I didn’t give myself time for enough fun. Dance! Laugh! Paint something even if you think you suck at art. Let loose! Gasp! People even expect teenagers to be silly! It is OKAY. Give yourself permission. You’ll even like it!

5) YOU.ARE.AWESOME. And you know what? I was awesome! Not perfect, but the world and its people mattered to me. The community – MY community – mattered to me. I didn’t cause my parents trouble. Well, too much trouble. I loved the ocean, boating, swimming, marine science, science in general, math, snorkeling and scuba. I didn’t have a clique. I spoke up for what I believed in and I didn’t follow the crowd because it was the “in” thing to do. I’d tell myself to keep walking to the beat of my own drummer.

It’s a mighty fine walk.

How about you? Any advice for the 16 year-old you?