What would you tell your teenaged self? Five things I wish I’d known in 1988

This is me giving one of the commencement speeches at Arthur Hill High School in 1988. I was very proud of that perm, as I was of the corny speech I wrote. Photo courtesy of Kristi McGarrity Robins

This is me giving one of the commencement speeches at Arthur Hill High School in 1988. I was very proud of that perm, as I was of the corny speech I wrote. Photo courtesy of Kristi McGarrity Robins

My high school graduating class had its 25-year reunion this summer.

It’s a little hard to accept that kids born the year we graduated have been legal to buy alcohol long enough that it’s no longer even novel for them.

Even though I didn’t go to our reunion, the anniversary got me thinking about my 17-year-old self.

A few weeks ago, I laughed with a friend about how dangerous the teen mindset can be — you’re so sure you have it all figured out that you can’t even comprehend how much you don’t know yet.

If I could give myself some life advice as I was finishing high school, even though there’s a good chance I wouldn’t listen:

1. All the “who’s prettiest?” and “who’s most popular?” games don’t really matter. Yes, some people will continue to play them when we’re middle aged, but adult success and happiness is not determined by who was on homecoming court.

2. You will find your tribe later. In high school, I often felt like an oddball misfit. I simultaneously craved acceptance by the cool crowd and found the whole popularity thing mystifying and silly. I heard about drinking parties out on Crane Road and didn’t know where that was or how to join in. Then I arrived at college and immediately felt I belonged with the journalism nerds who spent hours working on our newspaper. They didn’t judge me by whether I’d made the cheerleading squad but by the story I turned in on deadline. Being an adult gives you the ability to choose friends based on their interests, their passion, whether they make you laugh, without regard for age or geography.

This was our newspaper staff at Central Michigan LIFE. They were like family to me.

This was our newspaper staff at Central Michigan LIFE. They were like family to me.

3. Treasure your friends. My biggest high school regret is that I let a really wonderful group of friends slip away. I invested too much energy in a boy who wasn’t worth it and learned the hard way that friends will get tired of your drama and move on. If I could have a do over, I’d value their friendship so much more.

4. You’re learning more than what shows up on your report card. I skipped a grade in elementary school, took advanced placement classes and got good grades. I sweated my GPA, though not enough to really get organized about homework and studying. Being a smart kid was part of my identity. Turns out I was also learning prioritization and time management. I was experimenting with what excited me in extracurriculars like school plays. I was trying on different social crowds, hanging out with musicians and athletes and newspaper staff. All that matters, too.

I booked bands for teen night at a bar called Jasper's. It didn't show up on my high school transcript, but what a learning experience that was.

I booked bands for teen night at a bar called Jasper’s. It didn’t show up on my high school transcript, but what a learning experience that was. Sadly, this is what it looks like now.

5. It’s OK not to know. It’s laughable that at 15, we’re supposed to choose a college major that helps inform which schools to apply to, all in the service of putting us on a career path. What if you’re not supposed to go to college? What if you pick wrong? Thankfully, Central Michigan ended up suiting me well and I’ve enjoyed a couple of decades in and around journalism. But maybe I’d have been just as happy if I’d gone with my original plan of studying dentistry at University of Michigan. Or if I’d done something totally different, something I’d never heard of as a kid in Saginaw or that didn’t even exist then. Don’t worry about making a perfect decision. You can change your mind later.

(P.S. When you hear about the Internet, learn to code — you’ll be in on the ground floor and nobody else knows what they’re doing, either.)

What advice would you like to give your teenaged self?

Advertisements


Categories: lifestyle

Tags: , , , , ,

5 replies

  1. 1.Follow your passion and do whatever makes you happiest even if it seems wierd to everyone else. It’s your life not theirs. I graduated from HS an immature 16 year old and went to Pratt to study architecture.After a year I realized I was Frank Lloyd Wrong and transferred to Brooklyn College and majored in Geology.

    2. Choose smart friends that make you laugh and who challange you. I still haave friends from HS who have become my family. Do the same when you choose a mate.

    3. Since change is the only constant, don’t be afraid of it; embrace it, and move on to whatever it is that rings your bell. I have been a full-time artist for 17 years (I’m 76). It took years to get up the courage to do something I could have done 50 years ago.

    4. Being a teenager is not always easy for most of us. It’s a child-adult transition zone. When you look back, with some perspective, at the things that concern you now they will probably seem laughable.

    5. Floss

  2. Love it. I would tell myself to not worry so much about every little thing and have more fun. Having your identity be “The Smart Kid” can be incredibly anxiety-inducing. I briefly ended up in therapy my senior year because I was so stressed out by my course load and GPA and self-induced pressure to get into a good college. I skipped the day-after-prom trip to Lake Michigan so I could fine-tune my Advanced Biology project. And that’s nothing compared to the pressure kids today face. A B+ isn’t going to kill you. Really. It’ll all be okay.

  3. What a great post! If I could go back, I’d tell myself to work harder in school. I got through high school and university doing the bare minimum, but I would have gotten so much more out of the experience if I’d put a bit more effort into my studies. I would also try to convince myself to be more self confident. I happily spoke to people at my recent reunion that I never would have had the nerve to approach back in school, and they were all nice! I didn’t need to be afraid to approach them. Nanette (thesailorswoman.wordpress.com)

Trackbacks

  1. Booking bands when I was a teenager taught me about business and the value of a good partner | Newvine Growing
  2. Career advice from my college newspaper adviser: Everyone’s first job is hard – Newvine Growing

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s