As my daughter approaches her teen years, I’m reflecting on my own. For the most part, I was a well-behaved teen, headed down the straight-and-narrow path. Of course, I stayed safe in fear of being out of my comfort zone because I not only lacked self-confidence, but I didn’t want to disappoint my overprotective, old-fashioned yet loving mom. However, I regret letting fear dictate who and what I really wanted to be.
1. Better Self-Image
Around age 11, I admit I was chubby. Within a few years, though, I grew taller and stayed the same weight. Instead of adjusting, I continued to believe I was fat from being teased and due to my poor self-image. If I’d examined myself more carefully and tried harder, I would have realized I was pretty and just needed to fix my hair, wear make-up and dress for my weight instead of what I imagined it to be.
2. Study More Carefully
School was easy when I was young which led to poor studying habits in the future. In middle school, the academics increased in difficulty, but my studying habits stayed the same. Sometimes, I’d read the assignment. If there was a test, I didn’t always study, so my grades suffered. What was I proving by not studying?!? Nothing because the supposedly smart student should have studied. It wasn’t like I had an amazing social life intervening with my studies!
3. Stereotyping Others
I allowed other people’s views to color mine regarding others. Whether good or bad, I listened, missing out on possibly fulfilling friendships/relationships. Why didn’t I listen to myself, get to know the person/group in question on my own terms, and then decide for myself? Rumors and faulty first impressions from others don’t always determine how I personally will react and/or interact with them.
4. Get Involved in School
You could say I was partially invisible in high school. Until I padded my transcripts with activities, I rarely participated or attended school events. Therefore, I didn’t reap the benefits of knowing my classmates, being part of the community and filling up down time when I was bored or lonely which would have made for a smoother and more enjoyable ride.
5. Pursue What You Want
Since I’ve begun noticing cute boys, I’ve been afraid to approach them. (How did I even manage to talk to my now-husband?!?) So afraid I was of rejection that instead of pursuing them, I’d ignore them, privately obsess over them and rarely talk to them – how backwards is that! This goes for any opportunity that appears out of reach – go for it! What do you have to lose? At least you can say you tried, right?
6. Travel Abroad
Two opportunities to travel abroad arose in high school – one to Mexico and one to Spain. I regret that I didn’t even investigate what either trip, which could have been incredible, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, would entail. Also, one summer I was supposed work at a summer camp in the Boston area. Even though I didn’t want the job, I should have taken it for the opportunity to live somewhere else.
7. Take Advanced Placement Exams
How I arrived in level 5 Spanish my sophomore year, I cannot imagine. Either way I was eligible to take the Advanced Placement (AP) exam for next year’s class. Instead of testing out my abilities, possibly surprising myself, I skipped the exam. Same for AP English – I was afraid I would fail, but why didn’t I simply try?
8. Write College Essays
Surprisingly, for all my ease in and love of writing, not one college I applied to required an essay. What kind of writer am I?!? Despite my low SAT scores and average grades, the essay portion could only help my case in applying to more competitive colleges. Again, I wasn’t confident enough in my strengths.
9. Rooming with a Friend
Rooming with a friend during my first year of college was a big mistake. We ended up destroying our friendship, annoying each other to the point of ruin. If we’d roomed with strangers, we could have expanded both our social circles double fold and still hung out.
10. Join a Sorority
When my sister pledged a sorority; I used to tease her that she paid to make friends. My opinion has drastically changed since I became involved with a moms’ organization – I wish I’d pledged one to meet more people, find more fun opportunities and fill up some dull weekends.
11. Date Different People
Please exclude my amazing, truly wonderful husband from this conversation! I wish I’d dated more before him and not concentrated on just one boy. College life afforded me opportunities to meet boys, so I should have kept things light and dated more. Don’t think I meant sleeping around campus – just not being so serious when there were always interesting ones hanging around the corner. When I did have a boyfriend, I met others I liked and felt like I missed out because of loyalty.
12. Find Related Job/Internship
Although I helmed my college newspaper, was Copy Editor and wrote articles and horoscopes, I never looked for an internship relating to my field of study. Fear and logistics caused me to refrain from searching. One summer, I lucked into a newspaper position, but usually, I failed to line something up and floundered with not enough money and gaps in my work experience.
13. Let Life Lead You
The life you imagine for yourself may not materialize how you think it will, so be prepared and open for both the magical and difficult aspects of adulthood. As kids, we fantasize about how wonderful adulthood will be. Of course it’s exciting but also challenging.
Plans you made to be a mom at 25 may not happen. The career you seek may not work out as you predicted. Your significant other may come early, late or end in divorce. All you need is a choose-your-own-adventure approach. Whatever direction life leads you will shock and delight you, but that’s okay!
So what advice would you offer to your teenage self?
This is an original post for JerseyMomsBlog by M.B. Sanok, who can also be found at her Blog, Maple Brown Sugar.