Sage Advice For My 16-Year-Old Self


This is where I slipped on the ice and went down hard -- all in front of my high school crush! Morgan Park High School - Chicago

This post is one of the winners of ChicagoNow's Best Posts May 2018.

We wrap up this month of May with a few words…

ChicagoNow’s Blogalooz-Hour was presented to us last night.  The topic: “What are three pieces of advice you would give to your 16 year old self?”

I mulled this question over and over in my head.  There were the usual ideas that came to mind, including improving study habits, reach out and volunteer to help others, and don’t worry about what others are thinking.

Initially I had hesitated writing since I remember my 16-year-old self. I wouldn’t really have listened to sage advice. Because, let’s face it, I was 16 years old.

I ignored the writing challenge and went to sleep.  And, as is usually the case, the answer came to me in the middle of the night.

I think the best advice I can give is now to my 54-year-old self.  And that is, don’t kick yourself over your 16-year-old choices.  You were a teenager.  Only 2 years into high school.  We made choices based on maturity, the options offered at the time, and the current zeitgeist.

Now I can look back with experience and see where I made some goof ups.  But did I really need to know – back in 1980 – that the football player I was crushing on would one day turn out to be a middle-age parent with missing teeth and slumped shoulders?  That’s how he looked when I ran into him at our respective daughters’ dance recital. Nah, why tell a 16-year-old that information?  It sure was fun dreaming about him way back when.

Would I have reacted differently when my mom told me my grandfather passed away in 1980?  I had no words – just gave her a hug.  Maybe that’s all we could manage at the time.  Plus, as we all know, actions speak louder than words.

That same year, I also didn’t have much to say to my best friend who lived across the street.  Her dad, a Chicago firefighter, was on strike that winter with his comrades over a contract dispute.  It was troublesome to know his livelihood was at stake.  My friend and I sat around her dining room table, biting our nails, and wondering how long the strike would last.

Was there anything more that we could have added to support her dad and his colleagues?  Perhaps.  Realistically, though, there wasn’t much we could do; after all, we were only 16 and 15 years old.  But her father certainly appreciated our emotional support.

I could also advise my teenage self that many friendships don’t last forever.  But it’s still good to appreciate them while they last.  Same problem happens even when you’re older.  Many friendships come and go, and that’s okay too.

So the recommendation I can give that teenager from long ago is to be yourself.  Dammit, you’re only 16.  You’ll be grown soon enough and life experience will assist you in future choices.

The best counseling is that which I tell myself now – and that is to forgive what you did or didn’t do way back in 1980.  Give yourself some slack and quit regretting each unproven decision.

Cuz you were only 16, dammit.

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