as a married mother of 3.5 children in my
mid early 30s, say to myself at 17, if I ever was given that opportunity? I think it would look something like this:
- Um, for God's sake, please eat something. Eat LOTS of somethings. I know you are (deathly, irrationally) afraid of being fat, but the irony that is lost on you is that your metabolism will never again be what it is RIGHT NOW.
- I know you are vegetarian, and I respect that, but I feel it might be my civic duty to let you know that bacon cheeseburgers, cooked medium rare, are simply orgasmic.
- Please stop looking in the mirror so much.
- Wear less makeup and more sunscreen.
- Be nicer to your Mom.
- Be nicer to EVERYONE. Karma is a bitch, but so are you a lot of the time, and while I promise you you will forget the people who were nasty to you, you won't forget being nasty to other people. Many years from now you will hear yourself repeating ad naseum to your children the importance of being kind, even to people who may not deserve it (shit, ESPECIALLY to people who don't deserve it,) and you will remember how you treated some people in high school and cringe in your hypocrisy. I don't regret many of my choices in life, but I regret every moment I didn't choose kindness.
- Spend time with your friends. Spend some of that time doing ridiculous, sense-less things, because in a few short years you are not going to have the time or the luxury to lay on a bed, listening to emo music and debating the various plot twists of Melrose Place. Before your life is consumed with the daily minutiae of laundry, groceries, and baby poop: eat with your friends. Drink with them (not so much that you puke, and PLEASE don't drive.) Laugh hard and often while you still have the bladder control. Because here's the thing- these people will not always be your circle. I know it's hard to believe right now, and I still think it's kind of sad. But it is also natural, and just the way of life. People make life choices that take them far away, either literally or figuratively, and when you don't have the connection of seeing each other day in and day out in high school, it becomes very hard to maintain those relationships with the same degree of closeness. A few very special people will remain close to you, and the fact that you grew up together through what may arguably be the most awkward years of your lives will bond you in a way that is hard to ever replicate. A few others will make choices that take them far away, but you will occasionally reunite, and when you do, it will be like seamlessly picking up the last line of a conversation you last had years ago. These friendships are gifts, and should be treated as such. But others will need to be let go, and this is okay. It's okay, and here is why: as you get older, and become more comfortable in your own skin, you will meet new people. And a blessed, beautiful few of them will just fit perfectly into a them-shaped hole you didn't even know you had, and you will wonder how you ever lived your life before without them there in your cheering squad.
- Along the same lines, please learn to let go of the old romances. Spoiler alert- you are not going to marry any of the exes you are pining over right now. And while this may be hard to see right now, it is a very, very good thing. You are going to marry a man you actually know right now, who one day you are going to bump into and unexpectedly see in a whole new light while choirs of angels sing. And then you are going to make a life, and then you are going to make babies (lots of them) and it will all be (mostly) okay. In fact, it will all be (mostly) fabulous.
- While we are on the topic of poor relationships, I should alert you that no matter how mature you become, as long as you choose to remain in your hometown, you are going to run into people from high school at the grocery store (and EVERYWHERE ELSE.) who may not have been president of your fan club. And you, in your constant need to mend fences, will inevitably smile awkwardly at them in a way that you hope doesn't look pathetic while still clearly conveying the message: "um, sorry about those four years, but that was like two decades ago, and our kids just ran off towards the bulk foods together, so lets be friends?" And they will almost always either stare right through you as if you don't exist or, worse, look at you as if you are covered in feces (which, while possible, doesn't mean you're necessarily a bad person.) The silver lining here is that you really won't be able to afford too much mental energy caring either way because you will be too busy staring blankly into your overflowing grocery cart trying to remember what the ONE thing you actually came into the grocery store in the first place for even was. Like the cart, your life has a way of growing and filling up so much that all the caring about who said what or feels what or wore what or smell like what just doesn't really fit comfortably in it anymore.
- And here's the reason it doesn't matter that much, and this is the big one: ALL THE THINGS THAT SEEM SO IMPORTANT NOW ARE NOT. They really are not. I know I will say this, and you will seem to hear it, but it won't matter because you think I don't understand. My Mom said it to me, and I hear myself saying it to my own kids as they start the long painful journey of figuring out where they fit in what is often an ugly social whirlwind. The people who made you cry become inconsequential so, so quickly. Like, the very second you walk out of that building for the last time. There are so many other things that matter more, things that will shape you as a human being and a woman and a mother and make you turn kind and empathetic and trustful. They will happen and they will MATTER and then you will know that I was right.
Would any of it change how I felt a lot of the time back then? Probably not. Some of it probably was just the nature of adolescence and hormones and some of it probably was actual undiagnosed depression. What I come back to and think of often these days is how I went from being that smart little girl on the swingset who actually BELIEVED people when they told me I could be anything I wanted to be into a teenager who felt too large and a little lost and always so frigging terrified. And I think of this often for the very simple and monumentally important reason that I want my own kids to actually BECOME whatever they want to be. So I tell them to be kind. I tell them to play and eat and have fun and I also tell them that while some people will always be unkind, it just doesn't matter as much as it feels like it should.
And then I tell them the truth: that growing up can actually end up being kind of amazing.
|Can you tell I thought I was gonna be the first female president?|