I think out of all the awkward teenage years, fourteen is one of the most awkward. It’s just the worst. It’s right in the transition stage between childhood and adulthood; you’re still feeling like a kid in many ways, but your mind and body (not to mention your family, friends, and culture) tell you you’re not one anymore. So you shift hesitantly into “adulting mode,” but the minute you do, you start skidding out of control and bumping into anything and everything with the klutzy grace only a teenager can manage.
Yeah. You need some serious help. You probably have parents waiting to impart a wealth of wisdom and advice, but sometimes there are things about life that just can’t or won’t be learned from parents. Sometimes a true grasp of these things will only come through many years of trial and error in the classroom of life.
At any rate, don’t you wish 14-year-old you could have reached into the future and had a nice chat with your mature, responsible grown-up self? You’d probably have a better chance than anyone else of actually jolting some sense of seriousness into yourself.
Unfortunately, time travel is still in the unknown future (see what I did there?), so a blast into the past is not currently feasible. But I decided to write down my list of sage advice anyway and just maybe it will do someone some good somewhere in time.
1. High school work is really not that bad.
Seriously. Enjoy this walk in the park while you can. (And honestly, sometimes you’re the one who makes it a lot worse than it really is.)
2. Spend time with your family whenever you can.
Develop your relationship with each one of them, and value the simpler, carefree life you have now; because someday everything will change, and you’ll really miss those times when everyone was together. Start to love them with all your heart now, no matter how difficult they may make it at times; you’ll be glad you did. They are irreplaceable and the time with them is a treasure. No one ever regretted loving their loved ones too much.
3. Conflicts with your friends over who has the prettiest clothes or the most trendy haircut or the coolest stuff are not worth getting worked up over.
Not at all. On the scale of issues worth fighting over, those things rank…oh, maybe in the negative 10,300s?
4. Math assignments are fun.
Yeah, they really are. If you have a hard time believing that, just take my word for it. Make them fun and enjoy them while you can. I promise you will understand in about six years when you are in the middle of writing a college research paper on literary criticism.
5. Curly hair and freckles are not that bad.
In fact, they are awesome. If you can get that into your head right now, you’ll save yourself years of frustration and tears.
6. There is always light at the end of the tunnel.
Hold on tight to that hope and never give up on God and life. You’re going to hit some tough times when you’ll really feel like it, but your Father will never leave your side throughout them all. Believe that He has a deeper purpose and design in every single thing that happens to you than you could ever imagine. Rest on His unfailing promises.
7. Don’t ever develop too lofty of an opinion of yourself.
I know that you feel pretty smart and clever right now, and while you are an intelligent cookie, you still have a ton to learn, girl, and you’ll never grow too wise to learn something new. And don’t get a big head because I just called you intelligent.
8. Treasure the time you have with your Grammy now.
She won’t be here forever. She’s one of the last of that greatest generation. Be patient with her, even when she’s upset and confused. Deep inside, she loves you, and she just wishes she could go back to the time before her life turned fuzzy and disoriented. She desperately needs your love and support because that’s all she has left in this world.
9. People aren’t always going to understand you.
They just aren’t. Sometimes you’re going to feel like no one else in the world truly understands you. But that’s okay. It’s more important that you endeavor to understand others than to make them understand you. Rather than resenting all the people in your life because they won’t take time to listen to you, you can be that valuable person in your community who is a healer of hurts and uplifter of sunken spirits. Our society desperately needs more genuine listeners free of prejudice and criticism. Learn to forgive and let things go. Be ready to do it over and over and over. You can never be too forgiving and compassionate. Be the best representative for Jesus that you can be. And in the midst of all the misunderstandings, remember that there is One who will always understand you perfectly.
10. Embrace your unique personality.
You are amazing, just the way you are. The world needs people like you, so don’t try to be like everyone else. The world needs you—and the special presence and talents that only you can bring to the table. You’re one-of-a-kind, limited edition. There will never again be someone exactly like you in the world. Considering the billions of people who have ever lived, that makes you pretty valuable. Treasure those friends who love you for who you are.
11. Following God is more important than following your dreams.
Don’t get me wrong. Doing what you love and dream of, and doing it with passion and enthusiasm and creativity, is vital and more important than simply finding a well-paying job and making money. But following your dreams at the cost of following God’s higher purpose for you is fatal. God gives us dreams and desires, but we have to line up with Him in everything else first. As you’re following after Him, He will infuse His divine purpose into every other part of you. Let God be your greatest dream, and He will give meaning to all of life.
12. Don’t get so caught up in theology and religious standards that you miss out on a relationship with the Author of your faith.
Those doctrines and rules don’t mean anything unless you adhere to them out of a heart-connection with the living God. He would rather you love Him with all your heart, soul, spirit, and make mistakes, than to woodenly follow a set of rules and doctrines perfectly. Engage in the spiritual disciplines as a means to getting to know the Person behind them; He is the end goal to all of it. Then let that relationship be the source of all the decisions and actions you make for your spiritual life. If you truly love and honor someone, you won’t need a set of rules to demand compliance out of you; you’ll do what’s right out of a simple desire to please the one you love.
13. Don’t take good health for granted.
It’s a precious gift from God. Yes, He wants to bring wholeness to our lives ultimately, but sometimes getting there is a bit of a journey with many, often difficult, personal and spiritual lessons to gain throughout the process. During that journey, never lose sight of the significance of taking care of yourself, physically, spiritually, and mentally, in every way you can.
14. Don’t waste your time overanalyzing your life, your mistakes, and what could have been.
You can’t change anything about the past. Certainly not by worrying. The only time you have is the present. You can only just keep on faithfully, giving yourself grace and learning from your mistakes while pushing on to become the best possible version of yourself. And don’t make one blunder an excuse to give up on trying to be your best. Let your past be a valuable guide for your life now and in the future.
Likewise, don’t fritter your time away worrying about the future. Fear doesn’t change your future, and it only erodes the quality of your present. Focus on the grace evident in yourself and others and use the small steps that you’ve taken as your jumping-off points toward greater and greater steps.
Some of these are a little silly and more trivial in comparison to the rest, but for the more serious points, I guess you could kinda say they are a summary of many of the things I’ve been learning over the past few years. It’s sad that it’s taken me so long to grasp these concepts. Maybe if I’d been more receptive and humble toward my parents and God and any other advice-givers in my life when I was younger, I’d have understood these things a lot sooner, and perhaps have had fewer regrets. But like I just said in #14, it’s not worth it to look back and wish things had been different.
Everything in my life, both the good things and the bad things, have been working out and molding me into the person I am today, the person that is loved and valued by her Father; the person He has meticulously designed and planned out a purpose for long before I consisted of even a single cell. So who am I to agonize over the “what if’s” and disparage and torment myself because I could have and should have been a better person, done things differently, made wiser choices. I mean, even if that’s true and I should have been wiser in my past, that’s nothing to God anymore, because He has cleaned my slate and given me a fresh start. Every day He does that. And I should give myself that same freedom and forgiveness, now and in the future.
So even if, like me, you’re just now learning and putting into practice some of these life concepts, rest assured that the earlier days of your life were not a waste or a reason for regret in any way!
Because of who God is, I can forgive myself. I can live a new life every morning. Let that be the new tune of your life as well.