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6 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Teenage Self

6 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Teenage Self

Dear 14-year-old Laura,

A decade from now you will have graduated from college and high school will seem like a distant dream. Over the years you’ll have experienced your first kiss (spoiler alert: it wasn’t great), visited multiple countries and married an incredibly cute and funny guy.

Right now, though, you’re in a tough spot. You’re about to go from a class of 25 to nearly four hundred. You’ve been a sheltered private school student for ten years now, and soon you’ll enter the scary world of (drum roll) public school. Don’t worry—you will make it through high school relatively unscathed. But, there are things you’ll wish you could go back and do differently. If you could know what I know now, you would:

Listen to your mother. (And/or father, or other trustworthy adults.) I know adults can seem dreadfully embarrassing and clueless, but the truth is you are the one that’s clueless. Adults have walked the journey you’re about to embark on, and they survived it. Your mom remembers what it’s like to crush on boys, be intimidated by other girls and feel like a mess now and then. Value her advice. And for heaven’s sake, speak in a kind and respectful way toward her.

Embrace knowledge. Everyone has subjects they excel in and subjects that they find harder to grasp. Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help. Oh, and pay attention! Those times in math class that you flirted with boys will come back to bite you. The times you do pay attention will pay off — you’ll be introduced to life-changing books, learn facts about history that will ignite new passions and most importantly, you’ll learn that you can do most anything if you put your mind to it. That one project you will spend hours agonizing over? You’ll get the highest grade in the class, and it will feel amazing.

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Choose nice people for friends. Notice peers who care about their schoolwork, respect adults and are kind to their peers. Notice peers who accept you just the way you are. These are the people you want to surround yourself with. These are the girls you will create fun traditions with, like last-minute Christmas shopping and diner breakfasts on delayed-start school days. These are the boys who will laugh at your corny jokes and speak politely to your parents. While we’re on the topic of boys… Honey, you’ve got a lot to learn. You will be tempted to flirt and tease, because you think it will make you seem cute and Natalie Portman-esque. (Maybe take it down a notch.) You will think there’s no way that your guy friends could possibly have a crush on you. (Most of them do.) Let me just say this: be gentle with the hearts and egos of boys.

Be a friend. In fact, put being a friend before most everything — before being teacher’s pet, before being the best girlfriend possible, before being Editor in Chief of the school paper — before whatever it is that seems important but really isn’t. Your mind is about to be blown by the burdens that some of your peers carry. Some are cutting themselves. Some are taking drugs. Some have abusive parents. Some are poor. Everyone is dealing with insecurity. You will have opportunities to love on these people. Don’t pass those opportunities up. Encourage your friends. Tell them their outfit is bangin’, that their presentation was fascinating, that they make you laugh. Tell them they can share their secrets with you, and GIRL, KEEP THOSE SECRETS LOCKED AWAY. You can’t take words back once they’ve left your mouth. Gossiping might give you a thrill for a second or two, but it will send lumps of regret down from your throat to your stomach.

Be a go-getter. So you’re not the most coordinated person. So you’re scared of being hit by a ball. So you can’t sing very well. Guess what? Even if you’re not the star, you can still be a part of something amazing. Try new things. Go outside your comfort zone. You might just surprise yourself by how much fun you have. The more confidence you can instill in yourself the better, because otherwise your insecurities will carry over into your college years.

Know there’s still a lot of life to live. There will be days ahead of you when you want to give up. When it seems as though the world will end if you don’t get the part you wanted, or the grade you wanted, or the boy you wanted. Know this: life goes on. You will fail at some things, but you will pick yourself up and you will be okay.

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Laura Rennie lives in Maryland with her hilarious husband and constantly shedding dog. She loves reading, writing and playing word games. Her greatest desire is to share Jesus through her words and actions as she learns how to be a better wife, daughter, sister and friend.