Last month, I turned 33 and just a few days ago, my oldest child turned 16. With each passing birthday comes growing pains, even for adults. I am trying to find a healthy balance between cool, yet firm parent. I never want my boys to think that they can’t come to me with issues. However, I also want them have that healthy fear of knowing that I am not so far removed from pop culture that I am clueless about what’s going on in their worlds.
As my teen and I continue to figure out this song and dance, I realize that a lot of my conversations with my him have hovered around this simple truth:
“I’ve been your age before. I know better. Trust me.”
There are so many things I wish I had known at 16. I wish the truths that I try to impart into my boys had been imparted to me when I was their ages, especially 16-year-old me. My mom did the best she could with my four siblings and myself but may things I learned were the result of good old ignorance and insecurity. I’ve learned a lot since I was 16 and decided to reflect on some of the highlights in a letter to my 16-year-old self.
Here goes. Brace yourself.
Right now you are 16 and think that you have this whole life thing figured out. You have some awesome friends, freedom to do as you please, and the admiration of quite a few boys. Life is good.
But you don’t know everything. Actually, the amount of things you know about life are pretty small in comparison to how big this world is. When you are 33, you are going to look back at you life and realize that many of the things you thought you knew, you really don’t.
The friends you have now are just that. Friends for now. Unfortunately, by the time you graduate high school and go off college, that will signify the end of many friendships you thought would last forever. There is nothing wrong with that. As you grow, your attitude and perspective on life will change and you will have to adjust your circle of influence accordingly. You will end up meeting some of the most amazing people ever. They will love you, dirty secrets, flaws and all. They will laugh and cry with you. They will let you have your pity parties when you need to but will call you out when you have been there too long. Those friends will be lifers.
The boys that you will meet will say everything you want and need to hear. Because your father was never there to affirm your beauty and your worth as a child, you may feel the natural desire to seek out that affirmation in other men. Learn and understand just how beautiful, smart, funny, and valuable you are right now so that you don’t have to crave that same validation from a young man who is looking for his own method of validation. You are worth more than sex and butterflies feelings. You really are. One day, you will look up and realize you actually want to get married and you will. It may take a while in your mind but someone will tell you that you wont be single a day longer than God intends for you to be (thanks Charity). And you wont so don’t rush it.
Before you graduate high school, apply for every scholarship under the sun so that you don’t have to take out loans in when in college. It’s not worth it to spend the next 30 years paying off loans for a degree you probably wont use. When it comes to picking a major, be brave and go after what you think is scary and not just what is safe. You really like science and want to work for the CDC. Go for it and don’t look back. Psychology sounds interesting and it is but unless you plan to go get your masters degree and get licensed to practice, a psych degree is pretty worthless. Oh and when you get to Ole Miss, stay out of Kincannon Hall. Sneaking out of the boys dorm is never sexy.
Never take your siblings for granted. Right now, they get on your last nerve, but eventually you will all leave home and it will take years to get you all back in the same place at the same time again. You will need each other more than you realize as you get older.
Never stop writing. Writing for you just seems like something that comes kinda easy and nothing to take too seriously. Just know that your writing really is a gift. Everyone can put one word in front of another, but not everyone can create sentences and paragraphs that will pierce hearts. You can. Write everyday, even when you don’t want to. That discipline will come in handy in the future.
Develop a relationship with God. A real one. Not just the one you are used to which is confined to a couple of hours on Sunday. Read your bible (there are other versions easier to read that your King James version). Learn about prayer, God’s heart, and ask for signs and wonders. God is real. Realer than your mind can understand right now but He is. He will always chase after you, even when you don’t want Him to. You will get yourself into some sticky situations but He will be there to get you out because you mean that much to Him. There will come a day where you will ask God to show you that He is real and He will. Get ready because it will take your breath away.
Lastly, life won’t always go as you have it planned out but it will work out as it should. Right now, you are 16 with dreams of escaping the projects to conquer the world. Yet, by the time you are 17, you will be a mom of the most awesome little boy ever. You will feel a mix of emotions and want to give up sometimes, but you wont. You will still graduate high school (with honors), you will still graduate from college. Your have a desire to succeed despite what happens along with God’s grace will carry through many dark days. That little boy will teach you about love, sacrifice and the truth that every mom will feel like a failure at some point. But you aren’t. You will makes LOTS of mistakes but you will be okay.
33 year old you.
If you could write a letter to your 16-year-old self, what would you tell yourself?