What would you tell yourself, if you could go back in time and have a little one-on-one with your teenaged self? Have you ever thought about it? I think about it a lot, for some reason. Turning 40 gave me permission to own my past: the good, the bad and the ugly. But if I could give my then-young self some words of advice, here’s what I’d say:
1. Know who you are. Own it and love it. Stop trying to be like, dress like, talk like other people whom you deem more interesting than you are. Hint, hint…they are faking it, too. Just do what you like, listen to what you like and be friends with whom you like. Being authentic is better than being popular.
2. Realize that when you do this, not everyone will be OK with it. There will be people who don’t like that you’re not agreeing with them. There will be people who challenge you when you go against them. And there will be people who will persecute you when you reveal them. Stay strong. Lean on your faith and your true friends. This too shall pass.
3. Things that are important in high school and college are really not important in real life. In 20 years, no one will care that you weren’t a cheerleader or in the best sorority or a debutante. In fact, a good amount of those “perfect” girls will end up married to rich assholes who play golf every weekend and cheat on them. Yes, they will all drive Range Rovers and vacation in Europe, but they’re miserable. Trust me on this.
4. Always try to be patient and kind with people. Even when you are right and they are wrong. Try to take the high road. Be humble or chance being humbled.
5. Use your voice. You know how Mom & Dad always say not to “rock the boat”? Go ahead, rock it. If it’s in the name of truth or love, your conscience will never be at peace unless you speak out and do what’s right.
6. Don’t be a slacker. Just because you hate your job, you have a lousy boss and you make barely more than a worker at McDonalds, always do your best. Do not slack off or take the easy way out. Long after your co-workers have forgotten about it, you will still feel badly about it.
7. Alcohol: don’t drink so much. Really bad things can happen when you’ve had too much to drink. No further explanation needed.
8. Keep the faith. Continue doing exactly what you’re doing, because everything turns out the way it’s meant to be. Don’t worry so much. Give it to God. The things that are supposed to happen will happen, in the way and time they’re supposed to happen.
And one last thing…coloring a strand of your hair red with a Crayola marker to try and look punk is not a good look for you. Stick with preppy. It stands the test of time.