In 2000, I started high school. A young, scared little 14-year-old entering the halls of a big, new world. I acclimated, just like every other person does at that stage in life – I mean really, what other options do you have? It seems like such a big deal when you’re a teenager…facing the pressures of fitting in while also discovering yourself and coming into your own. As time went on, I did just that. However, I was again, a teenager. I spent hours contemplating what I was going to wear to school the next day so I could “impress” my crush (gag). I would sit on the phone gossiping for hours with my girl friends (back in the day when we had land lines – now a thing of the past). My main concerns involved planning the most epic Spring Break ever, saving my allowance so I could get my acrylic nails filled in and arranging a time to gather at the local Taco Bell to then follow an entourage of peers to the biggest party that weekend. The days of of playing Something Corporate songs on repeat in my car, cutting class and curfews.
It’s hard to believe that I graduated high school almost 12 years ago when it seems like it was just yesterday. During those adolescent years, I was invincible. I never wanted to grow up and I thought 30 was old. Now, here I am… this is 30. Did that just happen? With all of that being said, there are times that I so badly wish I had known then what I know now. But that is the progression of life. You make mistakes and learn from them. All of these little moments throughout your life are stepping stones that ultimately mold you into the human you are today. So what would I tell my adolescent self? To put it lightly, a lot. But these would be the critical points:
1. Knowledge is power. In other words, take your education seriously. When I say it is everything, I mean, it is everything. It’s something that will not only allow you to grow as an individual, but it’s yours and only yours. No one can take it away from you. Read more. Take one-off classes. Further your education. Open your mind. You never stop learning.
2. Stop caring about what other people think. It was hard to break this. Sure, I could tell you that my confidence transcended from a young age to my adulthood…but I would be lying. I really cared what other people thought. I am naturally a people pleaser and even more, I wanted everyone to like me. But that’s not real life. Not everyone will be your biggest fan…and that’s okay. At the end of it all, you can only be true to yourself. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve stopped using up my energy on the people who do not support me and started focusing on the ones that do.
3. Love yourself. This is a big one. How can you possibly give your love to anyone or expect them to love you in return when you do not love yourself first? You are your own worst enemy. Self loathing is not a good look. It’s okay to have insecurities, in fact, it’s perfectly normal. But do not let it consume you. Be proud of yourself and embrace who you are. From the wise words of Sex & The City: “The most exciting, challenging and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself.”
4. Put your dreams into motion and make them a reality. Call it cliche’. However, anyone can sit back and dream (and of course, do not lose sight of that vision), but turn that passion into drive. Make goals – both short term and long term. If you want to achieve something, you are the only one that can make it happen. Just do it. It’s really that simple. Stop making excuses and go after that dream. Make it yours. Make it real.
5. Love with everything you have. We’ve all experienced heartbreak at least once in our lives. But do not let it hinder you. Do not allow the bad experiences you may have encountered in your past to negatively impact your future. There were many times I thought I would never love again, particularly when I was young. People are going to hurt and disappoint you – that’s just life. However, that excess baggage cannot be strapped on to your back through your lifelong journey. Leave it all behind and allow yourself to be vulnerable. You will be amazed at what magically presents itself when you least expect it. There is no need to fear rejection. Do not be afraid to express your emotions. Say I love you…life is way too short. More importantly, be in the moment and concentrate on those you care about the most (family, significant others, friends, fur babies, peers, etc.).
On a much more serious note – I’m so glad I decided to lay off the blonde highlights. Hey – teenage Jess: that was not a good look!