Have you ever thought, “If I only knew then what I know now …”? (Surely you have.) How much simpler life would be if we could have an ample supply of “do overs” at our disposal for all those times we’ve said and done things we shouldn’t have (and probably knew we shouldn’t have but did them anyway).
I’m not asking for the opportunity to change the course of fate; I think, for the most part, my life has turned out pretty darn good. I just think if my 50-year-old self could go back and offer some wisdom through hindsight to my teenaged self (and somehow make my teenaged self actually listen), then I probably could avoid a few headaches, embarrassments, and sorrows along the way.
So, a few pieces of advice to my teenaged self:
- Quit sobbing into your pillow over that gorgeous boy who professes his undying love and then repeatedly forgets to call or show up for your dates. You will get over him, and soon you will find someone else who will treat you so much better.
- Slathering yourself in baby oil and then “lying out” on the roof all summer is really not a good idea. Trust me on this one; your skin will thank you later.
- Don’t drive on the sidewalk in front of PBHS on Friday night. The police officer sitting at the bottom of the hill will not be amused, and even though he won’t give you a ticket this time, he will now have you and your little 442 convertible on his radar. Not good.
- Quit wasting your time trying to perfect your disco dance moves. Your attempts at channeling Travolta’s Saturday Night Fever finesse will be painfully inadequate, and besides, disco is going to die a very quick (and some will argue much-needed) death long before you can “do the hustle.”
- Quit being embarrassed by everything your mom says and does. It is the nature of moms (in fact, it is their God-given right) to embarrass their children, and someday you will be quite good at this yourself. When your new “rich boy” boyfriend comes to pick you up for the first time and Dear Mom intentionally answers the door without her false teeth in place, she is just trying to put you in YOUR place. Get over it.
- Don’t write all your deepest secrets in shorthand in your English journal. At the end of the year, your teacher will reveal to you that she knows how to read shorthand.
- Don’t drive to town on that Saturday night in June right after graduation. The drunk driver who rear-ends you, giving you a concussion and totaling your beautiful 442, will have neither insurance nor a job, so you will have neither a vehicle nor the money to buy a new one. (And when your mom lets you putter off to college in her old Chevy Nova, be grateful.)
- During your senior year, when your boss and his wife offer to take you with them to Florida for a week in January–all expenses paid in exchange for babysitting their little girl at night–don’t turn them down. You’ll be tempted to say no because you don’t want to miss a week of school and you have so many responsibilities (blah, blah, blah), but what you don’t realize is that Poplar Bluff is about to become a frozen tundra, and school will be out the ENTIRE MONTH OF JANUARY (and I do mean every single day). While you are snowed in at home, you will be tormented by beach visions of what could have been.
- Appreciate that carhop job at A & W. Yes, you will hear, “Hey sweetie, can I have some fries with that shake?” and “Shake it, don’t break it” at least 23 million times, and yes, you will desperately want to slam a frosty mug into the face of every drunken college boy who thinks he’s so original and funny, but in a few years when you are struggling through Econ II and Psych of the Exceptional Child, you will remember those 23 million times and you will understand the importance of getting an education.
- And speaking of education, tell your teachers thank you. Some of them will impact your life tremendously, and someday you will want to acknowledge this but won’t be able to locate them. Someday you will also understand how much it means to a teacher to know that his or her efforts mattered.
- Forgive your dad. Yes, he is much harder on you than necessary, but in the not-so-distant future you will realize that his anger is fueled by alcoholism, and you will come to pity him. You will also realize that his harsh treatment of you made you strong-willed and determined, and because of this no one else will ever treat you so unjustly.
- Tell your mom you love her and appreciate her. Too soon you will be standing at her deathbed, regretting all the kind words left unspoken.
And finally, don’t be so hard on yourself. You turn out okay, and you have a beautiful future ahead of you.