I wrote this a long while ago with the anticipation of giving it to a child of my own one day when the time was right. Right now, I’m a stepmom of two teens and foster mom to a newborn, so they’re at very different stages of their lives and I would love to also share it with them. When you’re not the biological mother it seems to deflate your voice a bit, but sharing some wisdom seems like the responsible thing to do. They get to gain perspective from their biological parent(s) so I’m just a bonus mom, right?
The thing is, I can never just talk about anything without it being laced with profanity. Not matters that are close to the heart, anyway. It would never be directed at them but would punctuate my points with a rough flair that shakes the intended audience up a little. After all, while we’re trying to mold small humans into adults that are a positive contribution to society, sometimes you come across people who aren’t. Kids need to know how to handle those situations, too. Kids need a reality check sometimes.
Anyway, this is all purely hypothetical. I know kids aren’t naïve from pretty early on but I’m particular about timing. However, I wanted to tell them some things I wish I knew before I became an adult:
- Be honest
There is no value in being anything but 100% honest about things. It is better to be brutally honest than just making shit up as you go along. Honesty takes less effort to remember the details of, so when we hear you start slipping up and saying you forgot you told us something, we know. We may not say it, but we’re on to you. We were once your age. We aren’t stupid. It’s on you to earn our trust now because while you’re under our roof or in our finances you will need to understand that there are rules and things that you have to earn by being honest. When you are ready to get a job and get your own place, you can live whatever way you like. Just remember who has been on this planet longer and remember that we adults have done it before. We know ALL the tricks.
- Be loyal to yourself
YOU should be your #1 fan. I don’t mean someone arrogant. You should be the one rooting for YOU, and if other people root for you too (and they DO), that’s great. But your happiness, your drive, and your outcome should NEVER be dependent on someone else. Go get your degree or pursue the career path that you feel in your heart the most and don’t be afraid of the “what if”. You are lucky to have parents that are completely supportive of your every dream. Believe it or not, we all think you can do anything and that you’re pretty amazing. You need to believe it too. When you are loyal to yourself, you win.
- Be aware
Not everyone is going to be on your side, kid. Sometimes your closest friends will become your enemies and you need to know how to handle that with grace. Nothing is ever really worth an altercation. But if you messed up, go back to the first bullet point and own it. If you are in the right (and you know the truth, so that’s on you to decide), then stand up for yourself. If people aren’t reasonable and can’t have a mature discussion about a disagreement, those aren’t your people. If you ever tell someone something in confidence and they use it against you for their own social gain, those aren’t your people. If they encourage you to do things that you are not old enough to do or otherwise shouldn’t be doing at this stage of life, those aren’t your people. If they are encouraging you to do anything that you would not openly discuss with your parents, those aren’t your people.
- Be the person you want to attract
Now, I need to start this off by saying that you are not ready to go out and start dating because I’m pretty sure that you’re not 17 yet. I know a lot of kids like to date when they’re young and that’s great, but I’m rooting for keeping it old school and focusing on…well….school. See, you have to figure out so much in life as far as what you want to do and who you want to be. That process usually happens before you select a partner with long-term potential if any. You are not going to find it at this age unless you’re a couple of old souls with parents that raised you like I would love to. Teenagers and young adults tend to still be figuring themselves out. So, it’s great if someone caught your eye, but make sure you are the same caliber of person you’d like to attract. And when the time comes, keep those standards high. Find someone that matches your ambition as much as your emotional needs.
Sometimes people forget to make sure that they’re looking for a partner that has similar goals in mind. You have to decide a lot of things eventually. Do you want kids? How are you going to feed them? How are you going to raise them? If you want to travel, it’s harder after you have kids. So, are you going to focus on exploring the world before you have them? How are you going to finance everything? What if your partner’s career interferes with yours? How are you going to buy your first car (cause we ain’t buying one for you)? Where are you going to live? Where are you going to go to school? How are you going to get there? Do you know how to change a tire?
I could go on. There is a LOT you need to make sure you know before you hit the real world, and you need to start talking to your parents and asking them to teach you what they know. Everything from how to use different appliances to how to plant your own garden. How to fish and how to protect yourself. And you have to be comfortable asking the uncomfortable questions. Especially about relationships and sex.
You also need to make sure to create a backstory for your life that is worth telling. I don’t mean make shit up, but what is going to make you stand out? What are you going to get by on without leveraging looks? What increases your value as a person? You want to make sure to spend some time figuring yourself out before you can truly be a decent partner to someone else. Believe me when I say that things look so much clearer when you’ve taken the time to grow up properly and figure yourself out. You will thank me for it later.
You might say “I’m just a kid, this is stuff I don’t have to worry about right now” and I guarantee I’ve heard that line a few times already. This is exactly why I’m writing this because if you can get your stubborn ass in gear, you can get back on track. Stop worrying about social media, stop worrying about what other people think about you, stop worrying about social status and some person you have your eye on. Focus on yourself, smash those goals, realize that most of your school friends will scatter once they graduate and you will only keep up with a few of them. Which brings me to my next point:
- Be the friend you want to attract
You also want to attract the right kind of friends. It’s not always about dating and whatnot. You need to hold yourself to a high standard and demand the same high standard from your friends. Be that person they can call when they’re sad at 3 am and they will be the same for you. Be the type of person that actually proactively talks to people and don’t make them come to you- because they won’t. Eventually, your friendships will start dwindling because it takes a lot of work to keep them going. Once people start going to university and having kids and traveling, you lose touch with a lot of people. Can you really see yourself hanging out with these same people until you’re elderly?
No? Make sure you hang onto those you can see the longevity in. Nurture those more genuine friendships. They will be incredibly important one day. Call them just to check on them once in a while. Let them know that they matter. Make an effort. You’ll see so much returned to you because of that.
- Beware of social media
We are in this ugly digital age where every move becomes archived in the sea of the interwebz. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t be embarrassed for a potential employer to see. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandparents to see. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your future kids to see. Just don’t.
Social media is the new peer pressure and the way kids digitally connect is really toxic and mind-numbing. It also opens doors for behavior most folks my age would balk at and unfortunately goes unchecked by many of my peers. It’s not pretty when that escalates.
It’s not always worth it for the views and the likes. Just relax a little. It’s not always a wise goal to focus on being seen.
- Be humble
This is probably the most important point I can make.
Never assume you are better than anyone else.
Never look down on someone that has less than you.
Always be willing to help lift others up.
Always know when to ask to be lifted.
Always remember that you don’t know what people struggle with behind the scenes.
Always be courteous, even when people are testing you.
Always aim to leave the world a better place.
Always remember your journey so you appreciate where you’ve been.
Always practice gratitude.
Always seek ways to encourage your growth. Pick up a book. I don’t care if it’s boring. Read it. Take that extra class you always found interesting. Learn something new. Pick your parents’ brains. They are a warehouse of experience that you can learn from. Meditate. Drink lots of water. Breathe. Be honest about your flaws and work on them a little at a time.
Always be generous with your time when it comes to family/loved ones. We don’t get to hold onto everyone forever. Sometimes people are around very late into years. Sometimes people are taken away with no warning or reason. Love everyone in the now, not when it’s too late.
In the end, we all want what’s best for you. We want you to grow, to thrive and to conquer any obstacles in your way. You are absolutely capable of changing the world. We believe in you.
We love you.