I still know most of the words from Taylor Swift’s ‘Fifteen’ by heart; seven years after I turned 15 and listened to it on the bus heading to school my sophomore year. There’s something really powerful about looking back on life and being able to share a thing or two that you’ve learned with people coming after you.
In her tune, T-Sizzle tells us that when you’re fifteen you might get your heart broken, or you might not like a lot of your peers…which are fair points. I always wished I had an older sister, someone to give me advice about boys and if you can wear white after Labor Day (which I’m still not sure about..). Unfortunately I didn’t have that privilege, but I was lucky enough to learn from other women who have come into my life and who have been kind enough to share some wisdom both through words and example.
Whether you have a big sis or not, these are some things I would tell my younger self…and often remind myself of today. They may or may not be helpful, but hopefully they will at least get you thinking of the many (many) things you’ve learned since you were fifteen.
Find things you love
Whether it’s something athletic (for those of you who are coordinated), or something domestic, or something technological (Netflix doesn’t count) or something else, having things you love to do and doing them is an essential part of who you are. For me, baking, crafting (poorly, but still) and especially recently, swimming are things that I really enjoy and do my best to make time for them. These things are integral to our person and are great and easy ways to de-stress and bring joy into our lives.
Sensitivity is not a weakness
Sometimes us girls (and maybe some guys too) can get flack for being emotional or ‘sensitive…’ even from other girls. As the epitome of a ‘Sensitive Sally,’ I can attest to the frustration that comes from being labeled that way and perceiving that as a disadvantage. I’ll be the first to admit that I am sensitive; but as frustrating as it can be, I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Vulnerability and sensitivity are beautiful and necessary things this world desperately needs. Empathy, compassion, sympathy, acts of kindness…these are often brought about by sensitivity to what is going on around us. If we bluntly go through life trying to be the tough guy, we miss out on a lot of opportunities to love and grow.
Your desires are important
We may dismiss what we want as daydreams and try to focus on what is ‘realistic’; but there are few things as real as our authentic desires. Whether it’s in relation to career, state of life or just a goal, our desires exist for a reason…to be fulfilled. Obviously this doesn’t apply to trivial things like the desire for more ice cream (although that’d be nice too), but the real, important dreams like managing your own company or starting a family. Those desires didn’t come from nowhere, and they certainly aren’t there to be ignored.
Goodness is attractive
I’m not saying green eyes aren’t dreamy…but they aren’t the most important thing to look for. Undeniably, striving to be a good person trumps all other qualities we might think matter. This means we not only look for goodness in others, but others look for goodness in us too; and we can’t expect something from others we ourselves don’t have or at least strive for.
Appreciate the good things, like really
It can be easy to take the good things in life for granted. The people we love, our work, time off…we often don’t express the gratitude we should have. Being grateful is possibly one of the best remedies for any sort of sadness or frustration we may be experiencing.
Relationships don’t solve your problems
As Romeo and Juliet so vividly demonstrated, relationships don’t always fix our struggles. In fact, relationships often have the opposite effect where our problems surface. Insecurities we’ve had, fears we’ve suppressed, bad habits we’ve developed…they all come up in the process of growing close to someone. It can be highly unpleasant…but also incredibly important for our personal growth.
People have different body types
For years I wanted Julie Bowen’s figure (she’s like 5’10 and weighs 120 lbs). It took a lot of discussion and reflection to come to the realization that no matter how hard I tried, I would never look like that; I’m just not built that way. Being healthy is essential; part of that is understanding that people have different genetics which affect our body types…the sooner you embrace yours the better off you’ll be.
Boys are kind of dumb
I mean this way in the most endearing way possible. Men have so many strengths and wonderful qualities…but often they aren’t relational. Especially when they’re younger (and maybe a little immature), they can be oblivious when it comes to girls. If we understand this, we can give them the benefit of the doubt when it feels like they’re doing something to hurt us. Sometimes they really are just clueless. This doesn’t excuse being treated poorly, but it does allow us to help the good guys out and forgive the occasional relationship misstep.
Community is a must have…even if you’re an introvert
This is definitely one I wished I had learned earlier. We need people, we need friends and we need meaningful relationships. Becoming close to people in high school, college and after is vital to our well being. If you’re like me and don’t love meeting new people, I know this can be challenging. But the initial discomfort is well worth it when later on you have the love and support from the people you’ve invested in.
Thrift shopping is fun and practical
For a while I turned my nose up at secondhand shops. Today, most of my clothes come from Goodwill or other thrift stores. I enjoy so much the hunt for a quality buy and appreciate it so much more because of the effort I put into the search (as opposed to $$$). It’s a fun thing to do with friends and a lot more practical financially. Every now and then a full priced, new item isn’t a bad thing; but taking advantage of secondhand buys is really fun and smart.
Despite the suffering, hurt, bad days, frustrations, challenges…good is still real. Living a virtuous (patient, humble, loving, hopeful, joyful, prudent) life is possible and the best way to find happiness. Having faith in these things is not only helpful; it’s also the most appropriate response because the good is so tangible.
Don’t let the muggles get you down.