10 Things I wish I had known when I was 15...
When I was a kid, I couldn’t wait to be older. To stay up later; to not go to school; to drive; to be a professional ballerina (despite no formal training), and to travel the world. Ask me on any given day how old I feel, and I’ll probably tell you something around seventeen. But there’s a fair number of things I know about the world and myself now, that may have saved me some trouble or classic awkward situations as a young person.
1. It is not necessary to have one amazing talent to be cool
We all do it. It’s like a new human classification system, grouped according to our perceived skills. When I was in high school, it seemed really important to be known for something. Whether you were the fastest runner, or the highest achiever in Chemistry, or the funniest in Drama, best at sport, or the class clown, it is always so easy to associate others with just one thing: ‘He’s the leader’… ‘She’s the singer’… ‘He’s the one who covered Mr Selby’s office in foil’. But here’s the thing: it’s not THINGS that define you. Or your friends. The sooner we realise that we are not defined by what we do but by who we were intended to be (for kicks, see Jeremiah 1:5 in the Bible), the way we see others and ourselves is completely altered.
2. Friendships change
Warning: this may shock and slightly offend. Friendships change. You meet new people. People move on and find their niche in life. It’s not that you don’t like each other anymore (I’m hoping), but as you grow more and more into the person you’re meant to be, friendships are formed and strengthened based on what’s important to you. Not because you sat next to them in every exam because both your last names start with H, not because they make the best fart noises with their armpit. It’s sometimes a hard lesson to learn, but I haven’t yet met a person who is still best buds with everyone they’ve ever made a secret handshake with.
3. Wearing your retainer after braces is VERY important
Take note, youth of the world. If you are one of the fortunate souls to currently have wire fixed to your teeth, in order that your gums may sometimes feel they are being shredded (or, as orthodontists call it, braces), WEAR YOUR RETAINER. The sighs of parents who apparently paid a gajillion dollars for your beautiful pearlers are not worth it. Nor is the pain of trying to shove your retainer back on after months. Trust me. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
4. What humility actually means
Contrary to popular opinion, humility does not actually mean to pay yourself out whenever someone tries to give you a compliment. Humility is to know the truth about yourself. To trust that you are good at some things, and not make a joke of your talents. Honestly, we’re made in the image and likeness of the Creator of the Universe, which surely gives us some bragging rights. It’s important to know our faults and weaknesses (because there is always room for improvement), but never forget that you are excellent, and you have a part to play on this earth, in this time, in this particular group of people, that no one else can. So next time someone pays you a compliment- smile and say thank you.
5. Exercise NOW
Don’t put exercise off until you’re a grown up, when you’ll have your life together and a gym membership and money for cool gym clothes. Because that’s ridiculous. Run and play, swim at the beach, relish the opportunity to slide tackle your friends in soccer, play OzTag till your lungs explode and take advantage of your God-given limbs and muscles to beat your Dad in a table tennis frenzy. In all seriousness, there is a lot to be said for taking care of yourself physically, as well as emotionally/socially/spiritually, and don’t leave it too late, or you may end up like a certain girl, who lay on the floor in tears of laughter with her housemate just days ago because their burpees were pathetic (It was definitely me).
6. Know a bit about politics
There will come a time in your life when you will need to vote. Or you will be asked your opinion on something. And it’s important to be able to make your own informed decisions. An interesting dichotomy now exists, and I’m sure you may have noticed it. Within our culture there is a massive push for freedom of thought, freedom of (a certain manner of) speech, and to allow each person to do almost anything they want, regardless of outcomes. But alongside this perceived freedom of thought and opinion is the fact that you’ll have a hard time if you don’t like or go along with what the loudest voices in society appear to be saying. My advice is to talk to trusted people now, read things that aren’t opinion pieces and maybe watch the news every once in a while.
7. How to say NO
This is a very important skill to have. If you’re like me- somewhat of a people-pleaser, your immediate reaction to favours and requests might always be a joyful yes. But this can often leave you in a bit of a pickle – stressed out, and stretched too far. ‘Let your no be no; and your yes be yes’, some of the best advice I was ever given. Despite our common fears that when we say no to things people won’t like us anymore, it is quite often the opposite. I have found that I honestly respect people for their ability to say ‘no sorry, I have too much on next Tuesday to help you sail to New Zealand’. Always remember that it is far better to say no first, and then be able to help out later, rather than to take everything on board only to crumble into a heap later and be unable to complete anything to your usual splendiferous standards. Save yourself the trouble and learn to say no every once in a while.
8. You still get pimples in your 20s
Maybe they will appear less frequently, but if you think that you will never see a blemish again once you hit adulthood, you are sorely mistaken.
9. Comparisons help no one
If you compare yourself to others, you’re going to have a bad time. Why is it that we often compare ourselves to our friends, or even people we don’t really know? It’s either bad for our self esteem because we feel we’re not on the same level, or bad for our pride because we hold ourselves up higher than others. Comparison entails competition, but life isn’t a competition to see who comes out on top in the end. To be constantly seeking to one-up your friends, or to feel there is no way you’ll ever be as funny as Jimmy Fallon, is exhausting. Do yourself and those around you a favour - remember that you are an incredible combination of personality and skillz that never existed before, so to compare yourself to others is fruitless. If you must compare yourself to another, let it be Jesus. To hold yourself to His standards of compassion, thoughtfulness, wisdom and sometimes righteous anger will get you a lot further in life than trying to be Tony Stark.
10. Mistakes don’t mean the end of life itself
Pick a moment in your life where you felt so embarrassed you thought you would never live it down. Or a time when you called your little bro a name that took it a step too far. Now have a think about your life right now. Does it really matter anymore that you tripped on the stairs in front of the whole school assembly? In the middle of what seems like a terrible moment, try and remember that life is bigger than the little cringe-worthy events. Sometimes fear or humiliation can be crippling, but use those feelings to aim for a different outcome later. Clarification: I’m not calling for a ‘no regrets’ kind of lifestyle, because that often doesn’t leave much room for considering others. But go easy on yourself. I promise you, it’s not the end of the world.
Growing up doesn’t mean becoming more serious. To be silly, to run a muck, to be sassy, to know when to be responsible, to pretend deadlines don’t exist and to see the best in people are all choices you will always be able to make. Knowing these things came with an extra bunch of years of listening and learning and making some mistakes. There will never be a time when we stop learning little lessons, but there’s always room for a bit of encouragement and a heads up along the way.