A Different Me

I moved out of the house when I was 18, pretty typical age for most people I think. Every time I’ve come back to my childhood home has been to visit. Every memory I have in this house is from ages 10-18. That’s some prime growing up right there.

So you know how sights and scents can bring feelings and memories running back? That’s sort of what it’s like coming back to the home where I transformed from awkward preteen to slightly less awkward adult (yeah 18 is technically an adult. Ridic right? That’s basically still an infant.) who thought she had life figured out.

I’m staying in my old bedroom and it doesn’t even feel like the same room even though it hasn’t changed too much. Did I ever actually live here or was that a dream?

bed nook collage

^^Then/Now: My sister obv needed some more closet space

I’m reminded of all the truly immature, stupid stunts I pulled when I thought I knew everything. I can actually remember thinking that I didn’t need rules or advice or anything from anyone. Which is probably why I broke all the rules and poured all the actual good advice down the toilet and was out the window before it made it to the sewer.

I’m having these moments where I’m thrown back inside the head of sixteen year old me and realizing that I’ve actually grown up a bit in the past 8 years.

window collage

^^Then/Now

I’ve spent so much of the last few years, as I got married and had a kid, thinking that I still feel the same as I did when I was 16. I thought that even though the years were flying by me, I had stayed as young and fresh and ‘hip’ and ‘with it’ (haha that even made me roll my eyes) as I was as a 16 year old. But being home and realizing how I wasn’t those aforementioned things, I was young and stupid and clueless and immature, makes me 1) glad I’m past that part of my life and 2) nervous about raising teenagers.

I’m glad that I’m not 16 anymore. I’m glad that I’m getting older. I’m glad that I’m 24.

 

getaway car

 And you know what? I did make some dumb mistakes, really dumb ones, but I don’t regret it. If I went back in time I’m pretty positive I’d make those same mistakes again. Because if I went back, I would still be that 16 year old girl who thought she had it all together. And the decisions I made then were the ones that I thought would make me happy.

Maybe I needed those experiences and mistakes to become the person I am today. Maybe I’m going to have a daughter or son who is frighteningly like me and hopefully my experiences in my teenage years will better prepare me to guide my child through a rocky time in their life. Or maybe not.

mirror collage

^^Then/Now

Maybe I had those experiences because I was young and immature. Either way, I’m glad that I’ve been able to see how far I’ve come in the 6 years since I moved out. It’s nice to know that I’m not the same dumb, young, immature girl.

And chances are, in another 6 years I’ll look back at myself today and think, “Man I did some dumb stuff.” But hopefully as the years keep going by, the dumb stuff will get fewer and farther between.

Hopefully.

I’m not going to write a letter to my 16 year old self because I know the frame of mind I had when I was 16 and I know that I would not have even taken advice from my future self. Instead, I’ll write a letter to any teenager who isn’t quite as headstrong as I was and might know and use good advice when they see it instead of depositing it directly into the toilet.

First the cliff notes version for the teenagers who won’t ever read the whole thing anyways:

letter to teenagers

Dear teenage human,

I don’t know you personally but if you’re like I was, I might know some things about you. I know that you want people to like you. You might pretend that you’re too cool to care what other people think about you, but I know, even if you’re hiding it from yourself, you want people to like you and you want them to think you’re cool or fun or whatever. 

I know that you have standards. You have a way of life that you’d like to live and stick to and even though you may not follow the rules your parents have for you, you’ve set certain rules for yourself. Your friends know how you feel about certain things and they’re not pressuring you, or maybe they are. But you’re set on sticking to your guns.  

You think that you can go to that party where all your ‘friends’ are doing all the things that you said you’d never do and you just won’t do those things but you’ll still have fun at the party. Or maybe it’s not a party, maybe you’re just hanging out with people who you want to be your friends. Take it from someone who went to the party, and hung out with those people: even if they’re not telling you, “everyone else is doing it,” you’re going to start saying it to yourself.  

You’re going to feel left out and even though you’re with the cool people, you still won’t feel like you’re fitting in and it will seem like everyone else is having more fun than you are. The truth is, in the morning they might regret or not remember things they did the night before but all you’ll think is that you were the lame kid at the party who everyone was judging and you’ll stop getting invited. No one likes to feel judged by “the goody goody who wouldn’t join in the fun.” That shouldn’t be a reason for you to join in. 

Let me save you some trouble and fill you in on a little secret. No matter what you tell yourself, you will end up doing what your friends are doing and that goes both ways. If you don’t surround yourself with friends who want to live the same way you do, you’ll find yourself becoming someone you might not recognize. 

Just don’t go to the party. Don’t hang out with those people. Don’t let yourself search for happiness in places that others seem to have it. Don’t fall into that trap. Just stay home. Read a book, develop a hobby that you love. Have a few good friends that you don’t feel the need to impress.  

Nobody knows that you’re staying at home on a Saturday night and even if they did, they wouldn’t care. All the people you think are judging you are more likely worried about how others view them. People your age, as a whole are mainly concerned about themselves. I should know. 

In a few years, those people you needed to impress won’t matter. I know it seems so important right now, like the world depends on how other people view you, but in soon you won’t have any connection with them and it won’t matter what they thought of you back in high school. In the big scheme, it just doesn’t make a difference. It’s a teeny blip on a huge radar. 

Make your high school experience about what you enjoy, not about trying to look cool and happy on the outside. There is no right way to have a teenage experience, but there are a lot of wrong choices you could make in trying to figure it out.  

And one of the most important things to remember is that if you’re already headed down the path to becoming someone you don’t recognize, understand that it is never, NEVER too late to change your course and refocus. There is absolutely no mistake you could make that you can’t come back from. Don’t write yourself off as a lost cause. Just realize you made a wrong turn and recalculate. 

Being a teenager is not easy and it involves a lot of self discovery. Let yourself start to become the person you want to be, not the person you feel like you have to be to fit in. 

Sincerely,

A very recent teenage human.