‘Right’ I say to my 17 year old self. ‘You are on the cusp of adulthood and things are going to get a bit hairy’. I think I see the start of an eye roll and I look at myself, well, looking at myself, and I wonder if I really did have all the teen attitudes people hark on about. ‘You are going to turn into a beautiful woman, but you are going to make some major mistakes. You will be hurt, used, talked about. You will hurt in turn and regret every bad thing you ever said or did. In fact, some days it will haunt you like a nightmare that doesn’t quite leave you when you open your eyes. You will also experience so much joy that it makes the light from the sun pale in comparison to the light of joy that will shine forth from you’. I see my younger self look at me with an expression of mild interest but also a bit of derision as if to challenge me on this. ‘Okay my girl, lets get right down to it shall we? And I lean forward.
1. Choose your friends carefully
While the saying ‘keep your friends close, but your enemies closer’ cannot ring more true, it is also a sad fact that most friends is what gets us into a mess. Many people will disguise friendship and support just to get close to you. You don’t see it coming. It normally hits you from behind when you aren’t looking. So yes, it will be hard to spot. But you know that little voice that you hear inside your head sometimes? That little heart whimper? Listen to them. If that is what you get when you meet someone, pay attention.
2. Monumental decision making
You will arrive at multiple crossroads in life. You will face having to make decisions that you are neither experienced enough or mature enough to make. Here is when you need to speak to someone that can tell you the ins and outs with truth. Oh, and this will be another one of those listen to the voices moments. Not all mentors are mentors. Some have inflated egos and simply find it stimulating and confidence boosting to give advice that they have no first-hand knowledge in. Choose wisely who you confide in. Take the advice given. Weigh it up in your conscience and heart and then make a choice. Stay true to yourself.
3. Share how you feel
You will get to a point where you would rather just fade into the background than step into the light where you belong. You will try and hide the pain, hurt and disappointments. This will close you up tighter than an oyster shell! People will not understand your outbursts or emotions because they do not know what precipitated them. If you have that one friend you can talk to, then do so and do so honestly. Don’t shy away. And I see that look you are giving me. The one that clearly says I just told you to choose your friends and mentors wisely. Well, if you followed my advice then you would have surrounded yourself by at least a handful of trusted individuals. These trusted individuals should know you inside and out. They will be your sounding boards, greatest defenders and biggest supporters. Allow them to get to know you. The good and bad. You have to talk and share how you feel. It truly is a balm to the soul.
4. Own your mistakes
And this is a hard one. You will make mistakes. (And I think I see a smirk of ‘yeah right’ sort of thing going on, but I take a deep breath and continue.) Nobody on this beautiful planet of ours is perfect. Sad but true. You will make mistakes and you will have regret. If it was not of your making, then that is fine. But if you had a hand in it or had a choice to avoid it, then you have to take the share of the blame. Once you do so, you can learn and move forward. Be honest with yourself. And apologize!
5. Forgive and Forget
Yes I know. Easier said than done. However, when you lie awake ten years from now still haunted by what people did to you; a good night’s sleep is as good as impossible. You will carry that anger with you and it will show. Maybe not every minute of every day, but trust me that it will be there. In the background shimmering, and you will let that furnace loose every now and again and more often than not it will hit someone you truly care about. Forgiving someone does not necessarily mean you need to allow them back into your life so that they can continue to bring you down. No my girl, it means you have to let go of what happened and make a conscious choice and effort to move forward. Forgive.
6. Be Grateful
You won’t have a lot most of the time. You will look at the glossies and other people and want what they have. It’s natural. Everyone does it even if they don’t admit it. However, don’t let it rule your daily thoughts and long term goals. You have what you have. Be grateful for it all. If you look a bit deeper you will find that there are millions with way less. You can literally lose everything you have in a second. And this is no joke. Work for what you want, but be grateful for what you have.
7. Keep Dreaming
You have dreams. I know. I am you remember? You will let some dreams go and others will take their place. But my girl, don’t stop dreaming! Dreams do come true. And remember, Rome was not built in a day! You can still fulfil your dreams. Just keep going, one step at a time. Dreams only fade once we stop believing.
8. Ask for help
I know you want to stand on your own two feet. You want to show the world how grown up you already are. You don’t need help right? Wrong! You do. There will be times when you need help so badly, but to ask for help will make you vulnerable. Yes it will. Everyone needs help at some point or other and you are no exception. If you don’t ask for it, people will not be lining up to assist. Trust me on this. Asking for help does not make you a failure. It shows maturity of character. Just remember to be humble and thankful when you asked and help is offered.
9. Love your family
I can’t stress this point enough. Depending on the choices you make, success and failures, friends will come and go like I already said. Eventually you will have a few that you can count on. But your family will always be there. Love them. With all your heart and soul. Don’t take them for granted. It is a painful lesson to learn when one passes on and you realize what an empty space they left behind. And that empty space could have been filled with lovely memories. Just love them my girl.
10. Love yourself
Love yourself first and foremost. No, this is not selfish. You will at times lose your own self-worth. You will feel lost, unloved, of no importance and insignificant. You most definitely are not a single one of those things. You are beautiful! You are strong! Your heart will go on beating even if you cry till it feels like it is being ripped out your chest. Love yourself my girl. You are unique and deserving of it. Don’t ever stand second best to anyone.
At this point I feel like I am preaching although there is still so many things I would like to add and speak about. But we all know the attention span of a teenager. I sit back and watch her. She has a look that gives me comfort. One that shows in her eyes that there are things I said that struck a chord. And I pray that it will give her comfort in the years to come. Lord knows she will need it.
I smile at her and she smiles back. That shy little smile that I see in the old photographs I still have tucked away in tiny boxes, stacked inside a chest that I hardly ever open. I stand up and lean towards her lovingly touching her cheek. Those beautiful brown eyes still so very innocent. I kiss her forehead gently, turn around and walk away. No use in looking back. Her life is waiting to be lived. I hope she does it well; with gusto and meaning. Time will tell.