Advice from my teenage self

I know I should be writing about Thanksgiving today, and I will, but something else is on my mind today.

We were on our way to dinner last night when my daughter ran into a group of her friends from school. They were all coming from the beach (and earlier at the mall). You could see the look of hurt on her face.  

I remember that feeling so well. I remember junior high school cliques. I remember not being included too.  

We all do.

I’ve been thinking today about my own experiences back then.

I had a “best friend” from the 3rd to 9th grade was one of the “cool girls.” She was the one who taught me to smoke cigarettes. She was the one who dared me to kiss a boy at a party. She was the first girl I knew who shaved her legs. She was the first girl I knew who wore a bra. She was the first girl I knew who did not wear a bra (when “tube tops” became popular in the 70s). She was the one who dragged me to my first rock ‘n’ roll concert. She was the first one who got me to smoke pot (which I always hated and still do). She was popular with the girls… and the boys all thought she was “hot.” I was drawn to her like a moth to a flame. She was my “bad girl” influence. 

But she was also super judge-y and often made me feel very insecure. She was a mean girl and she was mean to me even though we were “best friends.”

After junior high, we ended up going to different high schools and eventually, we lost touch for almost twenty years. In our late 30s, she found me through early social media and reached out. After hours and hours of getting reacquainted via email and telephone, we ended up rekindling our friendship. She has been a dear and close (albeit long distance) friend ever since. We email regularly… almost as an homage to years of passing notes to each other in class.

When we first got reacquainted, she apologized for being so mean to me when we were kids. I didn’t expect an apology. Nor did I need one. But I was curious to know why she was so mean to me back then. She told me that she acted that way out of jealousy.

Really?! Didn’t see that coming. That would have been awesome information to know a couple of decades ago.

I was someone’s BFF at the expense of my own confidence, self-esteem, and point-of-view. I took a backseat to their whims, their preferences, their ideas and their opinions because they were jealous of me? Fascinating. How many times have I done this in other aspects of my life? Who else did I not stand up to, or express myself honestly to, because I felt less important, less popular, less attractive, less valuable? Did I allow other people in my life to treat me poorly for the same reason?  

But my friend said she was jealous of me because “I always had my sh*t together.” That’s not exactly the way I remember it. My mother had died and my father was absent... a lot. I often felt lonely, and like most pre-teens, I felt awkward and unsure of myself. I felt like my frizzy hair and my shapeless body were the essence of my very existence. The only thing I had was the “gift of gab” and I was driven to do well in school. I just didn’t know how the rest of my life was going to turn out.  When you’re that age, you often feel kind of hopeless and not in control of your own destiny.

In spite of that, I found my path. Not a linear path… and certainly not an easy one. But, in some ways, it turned out even better than I imagined. I survived my disappointments, my rejections and my heartbreaks. As for my childhood best friend, she has become my pen pal, my confidant and, in many ways, my most reliable and trusted friend over the last 15 years. I am so grateful to have her back in my life every day.

If only I could have known back then, what I know now?

So today, as I find myself questioning my future in a very similar way to the way I did when I was younger, I’m going to give myself the advice that I didn’t have back then.

Do NOT be worried because you feel uncertain of your future.

Do NOT be worried because you are uncertain of how you will make a living next year.

Do NOT be worried because you are unsure if your blog is reaching enough people.

Do NOT be worried because people you love are hurting.

Do NOT be worried because you feel helpless to help them.

Do NOT be worried because you are doubting your ability as a producer.

Do NOT be worried because you are doubting yourself as a writer.

Do NOT be worried because this work is hard.

Do NOT be worried because you are uncertain of what to write next.

Do NOT be worried because your neck is stiff and your shoulder is achy.

Do NOT be worried because you feel blue today.  

Be Patient.

Be Positive.

Be Confident.

Be Open.

Be Available.

Be Happy.

Be Yourself.

Be Honest.

Behold.  Something great is coming.

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