If I Knew Then
Hope is sixteen, and I’m honored to be a guest at her ongoing birthday and blogoversary celebration! Yay!
No need to do the math in public, but sixteen was kind of a long time ago for me. Still, I remember it well, and what a crazy time. If given the choice, I don’t think I’d ever go back there again (like in any Freaky Friday sort of way), but I do have some good memories of the times that became the foundation – however unstable ;-) – of who I am today.
Hope asked me to talk about some of the things I know now that I wish I knew then. As I sat down to write, I realized just how much I’ve learned since sixteen – how much I could share with you. I’ve had lots (no need to name numbers) of years to reflect on this, so I could tell you tons of things. Like, a whole ginormous list of things. I could tell you that when I was sixteen, I wish I knew…
- That some friends would disappoint me, and that the pain of losing friends would never get any easier no matter how old I got.
- That all that 80s gear I ditched during high school would come back in style (especially the ruffled skirts and shoulder pads). No, you’ll never see me in those clothes again, but maybe I could’ve eBayed them for some book money!
- That a lot of people felt just as lost, as misunderstood, and as scared as I did.
- That everything would get better.
- That learning how to write in cursive wouldn’t matter because by the time I started college, writing anything by hand was almost obsolete. For some reason, my printing was and is typewriter-neat, but my cursive? Barely legible.
- That even though I hated getting up early on Saturdays for swimming lessons and fought my parents every inch of the way to the pool, knowing how to swim would keep me alive more than once in my later years.
- That some of the people I would’ve died for back then would later pass out of my life completely, as if they were no more than casual acquaintances.
- That others would become lifelong friends.
- That bras would be soooo expensive. If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have wasted so much time wishing for bigger you-know-whats.
- That being true to myself was (and still is) better than being cool.
- That I would become one of those people who thinks most new music sucks compared to the “good old days” of east coast rap and alternative rock.
- That cutting one’s own bangs is never as simple as it sounds. Especially with curly hair.
- That 120 pounds isn’t fat.
- That my parents weren’t trying to ruin my life – they were just trying to prevent me from doing the things they did at my age.
- That social networking would be invented, creating a platform for all those embarrassing pictures of the big-hair, shoulder pad era.
- That even the most popular, best looking, richest kids had problems. Sometimes really bad ones.
- That getting caught wasn’t the worse thing that could happen.
- That I was smart and knew a lot of stuff. But…
- ...I didn’t know everything.
- That I didn’t have to have it all figured out yet.
- That everything would be okay.
Yep. I could tell you that I wished for all those things; for the advanced knowledge and wisdom so that I could better cope with the tumultuous times and really appreciate the good ones. So that I wouldn’t spend so much time fretting and crying and obsessing. So that I’d be well prepared for The Future (there’s always talk of The Future in high school, right? Everyone talking and readying for it like it’s some exotic trip, telling you how if you’re not careful you’ll mess it up or miss opportunities or ruin your whole life. "What About The Future?" *insert ominous music*).
I could tell you that I wish I had all of that, but… I’d be lying. Because good or bad, right or wrong, serious or silly, all of those experiences and emotions and craziness are part of who I am today. They’re why I understand the rarity of true friendship and love, and why I so treasure them. Why I decided to live in New York City after college and Denver later and have all of the adventures that followed. Why I write books about teens. Why today, almost 20 years later (*cough* again, not that we do those calculations in public… shhhhhh!), I love my life and the person I’ve become – the person I’m still becoming. Life is a never-ending learning process, and having all of the answers up front would have been like cheating on a test. Sure, it would've made things easier. But would I have learned much? No. I’d probably still be bobbing around the shallow end of the community pool with my swim fins, trying to figure out how to go under without getting water up my nose and how to distinguish on paper between my cursive b and cursive f. Without all the pain of that bad stuff, I wouldn't know how good the good stuff really is.
So Hope, as you celebrate your sweet sixteen, and as friends and blog readers celebrate their own amazing and crazy teen years, my only advice is this:
Remember that it’s all totally worth it. Smile as much as possible. And take lots of pictures.
Happy Birthday, Hope, and best wishes for an amazing year!
Thank you, Sarah!