My 10-year high school reunion is coming up in just a few weeks…eeeek! How am I so old? It honestly doesn’t feel that long ago. I can still remember walking down the hall to my locker, shoving 20 pound books in my backpack and racing down the hall to make it to my class before the bell would ring. Ahhh…the worries of a teenager…
When I look back at that time in my life, it’s not hard to think about all the things I wish I could have done differently. I believe regret is part of everyone’s life, and even those who say they have no regrets have something, even a little thing, they would change about their past if they could. I have struggled with regret most of my life, and even though I’m getting much better at letting stuff go (now I have Frozen stuck in my head) I still can’t help but wonder what certain aspects of my life would have been like if I had done a few things differently.
Don’t misunderstand me – I had a great childhood and a pretty decent time in high school, but like all teenagers I struggled with self-image, direction, morals, drama, and loads of other crap which I’m glad is done. Sometimes when I look back I wish I could send a letter through time to my past self to make getting through the hard times a little easier, knowing that the life ahead of me is, in fact, pretty great.
So this is kind of my letter to my high school self. I hope that maybe you can relate to some of the things on here, or that it at least sparks some memories from that time in your life. Regardless, I hope you get something meaningful out of this, and maybe allow youself to keep some things in mind to tell your kids (as I hope to do someday).
1. IT’S OK TO BE SINGLE
Boyfriends are overrated in high school. Seriously. The majority of relationships that are started that young do NOT make it (not that some don’t…but the odds are not in your favor). High school is the perfect time in your life to not be worried about drama like that (you will have enough of it in other aspects of your life – trust me). Embrace being single! Hang out with your friends. Make time for you and only you. Learn to love YOU, exactly the way you are. Be happy with yourself, by yourself. If you can’t learn that now, you will have a much harder time learning that at an older age, when more and more people will put the pressure on to find someone and “settle down.” Besides, when you are happy being yourself, guys find that confidence attractive. Now that really is a win-win 🙂
I’m not saying don’t date guys, if the chance presents itself and you like them. But be picky. Start out as friends. Learn about their heart and intentions. Don’t rush anything. Stand up for yourself. High school boys are immature (it’s just a fact), and a lot of drama is bound to happen. Be patient – a good thing takes time. And no, the first boy will probably not be “the One.” Be OK with that. Learn from it, take some time to get over it, and move forward.
Being the only one of your friends without a boyfriend will suck sometimes, and you will feel lonely, and ugly, and unwanted. Use that time to go out and better yourself for your future boyfriends/husband. It really will be worth it – God’s timing is always perfect.
2. BE MORE INVOLVED IN HIGH SCHOOL ACTIVITIES
Good grades are not everything. There. I said it. Spending most of your time studying and doing nothing else is not good for your soul (or your sanity for that matter). Find something in the school you think you might enjoy and try it. Maybe a sport, like field hockey or track. Work as part of the stage crew for the school plays. Join a club and become the president, or treasurer if you prefer.
Your grades may suffer – but more than likely only a little bit. Maybe you will be 7th or 8th in the class instead of 2nd. I’m telling you, that’s OK! Not only do colleges care about your grades, but your involvement in other aspects of your school is very important as well. Diversity in interests and activities is what will make you a more well-rounded person. You will learn more about yourself this way. You will also meet a lot more people than just the kids in your honors classes. Again, grades are not everything. Try a few things other than just academics. You’ll be much happier and a lot less stressed.
3. DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE DIFFERENT
Standing out in high school is pretty terrifying, really. It can lead to teasing, mocking, and even bullying. Don’t let that stop you from being you. You are only hurting yourself by trying to be someone you’re not. So maybe you love country music and everyone else thinks you’re lame. Maybe you love your oversized t-shirts and jeans with the chains and cheap sneakers. Rock it. Trust me when I say you will spend way too much time trying to squeeze into a mold that just doesn’t feel right.
Don’t worry about fitting in so much. You will be a lot happier and will probably get along with everyone just the same, only you’ll like yourself a lot more. High school is only four years, and you won’t see most of those people again. Love everyone, be honest and kind, and the people who are worth anything will like you because of who you are. And those that are cruel have their own issues that have nothing to do with you.
4. LEARN TO PLAY PIANO
Guitar lessons didn’t pan out because you just didn’t want to practice. You weren’t seeing the results you expected and it felt like a waste of time. But don’t give up on music. Try piano instead. You will be horrible in the beginning. Guess what? Everyone is! Stick it out. You will realize that while you are not gifted with singing, music is still a part of you. You may never be very good at it, but it will be good for your soul.
5. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY
Having a fast metabolism in high school is the bomb! You can eat anything and everything you want and you won’t gain a pound. But everyone was right when they told you it won’t last forever. Maybe you will never struggle with being overweight, but just because you aren’t fat doesn’t mean you are healthy. That mile you used to run in 9 minutes (which is still a sucky time) – guess what – you eventually won’t even be able to run a mile without dying if you don’t start taking care of your body now.
I’m not saying you have a be an athlete, or a gym fanatic. But make sure you keep up an exercise routine. Go for a jog every once in a while. Build up your arm strength so you can go rock climbing and not feel like a weakling. Work on those abs, because even though you may never have a rock-hard mid-section, you will still want to feel confident in a bathing suit. The older you get, the harder it will be to make this a habit.
You should also eat a little healthier. You may not have to watch your weight per se, but those stomach problems you get a lot? They will continue into college. The verdict? Poor eating. Start eating smarter now, and you won’t have to worry about gaining weight when you are older, because eating half of a shoefly pie isn’t something you will do on a regular basis (did I just admit that?). Make getting a strong, healthy body a priority now, and you will feel better in the long run, mentally and physically.
6. APPRECIATE YOUR PARENTS
You may not be the stereotypical rebellious teen who sneaks out at night and screams at your parents that you hate them, but you will disrespect them and you will hurt them. Every child does, whether they mean to or not. Be mindful of this. You may not agree with all their rules, they may embarrass you, and they WILL fail you sometimes – but that’s because no one is perfect. They are doing the best they can. Honor them, obey them, and listen to their advice, even when your teenage hormones tell you otherwise.
One day you will wake up and realize the sacrifices your parents made for you, and everything will suddenly start to make sense. Make an effort now to show them how much you appreciate them. Help out more around the house, even when they don’t ask. Buy them gifts for their birthdays and Mother’s/Father’s Day, even if you don’t think they’ll use it. Don’t take them for granted. I know everyone says this, but one day they won’t be here, and you’ll wish you told them “I love you” more.
7. BE FRIENDS WITH YOUR BROTHER
OK, this is a hard one. You and your brother have never really gotten along. You were horrible to him when all he wanted to do was play with you, and you ignored him and let him be lonely. He was a very different child than you, and you couldn’t understand his need for companionship all the time when you were content being by yourself. You attributed it to being pesty and annoying and treated him like crap – that’s a harsh thing to admit, but it’s true.
Now that you are older, you may not fight as much as you used to, and he might not need a playmate anymore, but the barrier is still there. Right now you might not care about your relationship with him, but trust me when I say you will when you are older. He is the only sibling you have, and no matter how rough of a childhood you two had together, he has the potential to be one of your good friends and you WILL want that.
As you grow up, you will both go off and do your own things. You’ll stop having so much in common. You’ll become adults with different life goals and experiences. You may not be able to understand a lot of what he’s going through, but you can be an ear to listen, a confidant. And when he tells you something, keep the secret. He will tell you less and less if you don’t.
Most importantly, apologize for all the garbage you did to him when you were younger and ask for forgiveness. The older you get, the less likely he will listen to you, and the farther apart you will grow. Make the effort now to make amends, and even if he doesn’t forgive you, you’ll be well on your way to forgiving yourself.
8. STAND UP FOR YOURSELF
You are a quieter, keep your opinions to yourself kind of person, and that’s perfectly fine! But there are going to be times when someone is going to push your buttons and you need to say something. You don’t like people getting mad at you, and you want everyone to like you, but you know that’s just not reality. Some people will dislike you for reasons you cannot or should not change, and instead of trying to win them over, accept the fact and move on with confidence.
Some of these people will taunt you for being a Christian, or for being too quiet, or for dressing weird. It will hurt, and unfortunately there isn’t much you can do about that, but don’t just roll over and take it. Stay confident. I’m not saying fight back with words or actions. That will only make you one of them. I’m saying don’t give them the pleasure of your pain. Let them know they can’t bring you down – only you can do that to yourself.
9. PUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD FIRST
Public high school is a rough place to be a Christian, especially if you are quiet and reserved. Being outspoken about it is never easy, no matter your personality, but that doesn’t mean you should push it into a corner and only bring it out on Sundays and Tuesdays nights at youth group. Your relationship with God should be the single most important thing in your life.
You will certainly fail at this, a million times over. You will “forget” to do your devotions for weeks on end. You will gossip about the girl who got pregnant. You won’t say anything when the kid sitting next to you says that Christians are hypocrites. You will fail God over and over and over. That doesn’t mean you stop trying. It means you learn where you need to work and try again.
Any good relationship takes time and a lot of work. If you forget about that, it will fade away. You will never be perfect, and you will be working on your relationship with Christ your entire life. Make it a priority now. Being a Christian doesn’t get easier as you get older – I’d almost say it gets harder. Life throws more crap at you as you go along, and it will make you doubt everything you believe. Be ready for that now, and make your faith stronger so you are prepared. And don’t forget to PRAY. Every day, all the time. It is the building block for a solid relationship with your Savior.
10. BUY A CAR INSTEAD OF MODELING CLASSES
Ohh, there is so much I could say about this, but I’ll keep it short and to the point – modeling classes will not make you feel prettier or more confident. It will not be a career or a hobby. It will cost you money and it will take more than it gives. Modeling is not evil, but it will not be good for you.
Use that money instead to buy a car. It will be crappy. Deal with it. It will teach you a lot. You will probably sink a lot of money into it. Again, deal with it. When you are in college, you will want that car so that you aren’t restricted to other people’s schedules. It will be very freeing and you will get so much more out of your time there. You may have to work more in order to afford it, but it will be worth it – I promise. Oh, and while you are at it, learn how to drive manual. You will love it 🙂
11. TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS
Owning up when you do something wrong is never fun. However, it is the right thing to do. Sure, you might get away with a lot of crap, but you don’t build a good foundation for your future that way. Stepping up when you’ve screwed up is what will set you apart from everyone else, even though it hurts your pride. Trust me, your pride can handle it – and it needs to be knocked down a few pegs anyway. You will be much more respected if you own up and take the fall, and you will have a lot more respect in yourself too.
12. LIFE GETS BETTER AFTER HIGH SCHOOL
No one knows the future, and sometimes it’s hard to imagine how life can get better when you have it pretty good already. I’m telling you, high school is not the highlight of your life. You will drift apart from most of your friends. The stuff that seems so important now won’t mean much down the line. The career you think you want? You will change your mind at least a dozen times. But all of this is OK. It’s part of being a teenager and figuring out this thing called life. Enjoy high school, make the most of it – but don’t look back and wish you could go back in time and live it all over again. The future holds way better things for you. Enjoy the ride.
What things from this list were you able to relate to? What things would you add to your own letter to your high school self? Leave some love in the comments!