Sunday, March 8, 2015

Twice 16

Last week I turned 32.  The math teacher in me sees numbers in terms of patterns, factors and multiples and for that reason I keep thinking, “that’s twice 16.”  Half my life ago I turned 16.  I’m not sure 32 could possibly feel any farther from 16.  In reading class, we ask our students how a character changes throughout the novel.  In the novel of my life, how have I NOT changed since 16?  Just the thought of it leaves me shaking my head and thinking, “if only I had known then what I know now.”  There is so much I wish I could go back and tell my sixteen-year-old self, now that I’m twice as wise. 

There are so many things I would say…
  • Watch out- those morning Mountain Dews are addictive. 
  • Stop wasting your money on those bad highlights.  You look ridiculous. 
  • There’s no need to be ashamed that you’d rather listen to Reba than TLC. She’ll still be on your playlist when you’re thirty, along with Goo Goo Dolls.   But you can go ahead and nix TLC.
  • Don’t take for granted one second of living across the hall from your sister- you’ll miss it in ways you can’t yet imagine. 
  • It really does not matter whether or not you have a boyfriend- in a few years, you’ll find out God already has a man picked out for you and he certainly isn’t sitting across the room in English class. 
  • Trust your gut without exception or apology- it won’t steer you wrong.
  • Don’t worry so much (or at all for that matter) about what other people think. 
  • You know those few people you can truly be yourself around?  They’re the ones that matter.  Anyone who makes you feel like you have to be someone you’re not just isn’t worth your time. 

And last, but perhaps most importantly: “Don’t take yourself so seriously.” You know that perfect life plan you’ve got planned out in detail?  Ball it up and throw it away.  You are not in charge.  That’s the part where 16-year-old me would have stopped listening, because that wouldn’t have made any sense at all.  Turns out you need at least double the life experience of a teenager to even come close to realizing this truth. 

Oh, how I thought I was in control- of everything!  My classes, my friends, my parents, my plans, my future, my LIFE; I just knew that I was in the driver’s seat and as long as I kept a firm grip on that wheel, things would continue to go my way.  As it turns out, I’m not the driver and I’m not even sure I’m a front seat passenger; some days, it feels more like a dark ride in the trunk.  But you know what?  The ride is a lot more enjoyable now that I’ve realized I’m not fully in charge of the speed or even every turn.  I wish somehow I’d been able to learn to sit back and enjoy the ride a few years back. 

Of course, that’s not how life works.  You have to endure your teen years to get to your long-awaited twenties… then comes the pleasant surprise that your thirties are even better than your twenties.  I’m counting on the fact that this is a trend, and not just a fluke.  I saw the question posed on social media the other day, “Would you rather fast forward ten years or rewind ten years?” and I simply thought, “Neither.”  Right here is fine… and I’m thankful it hasn’t taken me twice this life experience to realize it. 

Half my life ago I was 16.  I was pretty, smart, and funny and on a good day, I MAY have believed one out of three.  Makes me wonder how I’ll look back on these days when I’m 64.  What kind of advice would that version of myself give for today?  I’m willing to bet the theme would be the same, “Don’t take yourself so seriously.” So for this year, I’m making a promise to my twice-as-old self: “I’ll surely try.”

1 comment:

  1. The wisdom of "if I had known then what I know now" runs through everyone's life as they reflect about life. The irony of life is that we live forward, not backwards. We would lose all that learned and gained wisdom if we lived backwards. Imagine being 62 and acting the way one acts as a teen ager. Now, one might ask, would I have the same 16-year old energy if I live backwards. Let's hope not.