Middle school and high school are really confusing times. They are hard to navigate and it sometimes feels like there’s nothing else outside of those hallway walls. You are treated as a child and as an adult at the same. You want to fit in, but you also want to find yourself. You’re expected to do well in school, be involved in extracurricular activities, and have a great social life all at the same time. It’s overwhelming, and at times it really sucks. Overall, I was lucky. I had a good middle school experience (well, as good as middle school can get), and I enjoyed high school (I was ready to leave by the end, but I did have a great four years). But looking back, there’s so much I wish I could tell my 14-year-old self. There’s so much I wish she had known.
At 14, I was a freshman in high school. I had great friends, but I was not popular. I bought trendy clothes with my babysitting money but was extremely insecure about my appearance. I was mature but also easily sucked into the drama and pettiness of teenagers. I made some decisions I’m proud of and others I’m not. While I can’t go back in time and tell these things to myself, maybe some other young girl will read this and will know what I wish I had. Here’s what I would tell myself at 14:
1. Ignore the drama.
Ignore it! Ignore it! Ignore it! I was so easily sucked into drama. In middle school, I would get into petty fights with my friends that we would blow WAY out of proportion. Come high school, I was never directly involved with drama, but I was always the middle man. Naturally, I would choose sides. BIG MISTAKE! It led to hurt feelings and wasted time. Finally, sophomore year I learned the value of honest communication.
2. You don’t need a significant other.
At 14, all I wanted was a boyfriend. I saw people around me dating, saw celebrities posting their relationships online, saw movies and tv shows of high school students dating. I was insecure. And at 14, I thought a boyfriend would surely fix that. I liked a boy and convinced myself he liked me back. But I knew he was just using me. Fast forward 6 years and I’m 19 years old. I still haven’t had a boyfriend. But I’ve learned I can be confident without one. I have great people in my life, people I love and people who love me. That’s what matters.
3. You’ll find your people.
It may take time to find them, but you will. Throughout elementary school, middle school, and high school, I made some really, really great friends. Friends I know I’ll have for life. But, freshman year of high school I was determined to have that classic, set friend group that they show in the movies. People I knew I would always hang out with and people others would associate me with. And I did. At the time I loved it and I loved them. We hung out after school every Friday, we would go over to my house on half-days, we had what we thought were parties. Come sophomore year, I got really involved in my school’s community service club. I met a lot of new people. People I felt I truly connected with. People who cared about school, who wanted to help others, and who I could be myself around. We weren’t necessarily a friend group, but I made a lot of really great friends. I learned to value quality over quantity. And I learned that there are people out there who have similar values to me. I would have told myself that when you get to college, even though it seems so far away, you’ll meet people that will become family.
4. No one remembers.
No one remembers the acne scattered around your face. No one remembers if you wore the same shirt two weeks in a row. No one remembers when you didn’t get the answer right in math class. Some people may remember the time you got hit by a car, but that’s fine. It was kind of funny. No one remembers if your foundation line was blended or not. No one remembers if you didn’t hang out at Starbucks after school one Friday because you had to go to the orthodontist. There were so many things that my younger self thought were important, so many trivial moments she stressed out about. But that’s not what people remember. People remember if you were kind, if you were funny, if you were welcoming. And thank goodness for that.
5. Spend time with your family.
It’s okay to say no to a party or social event and hang out with your family. Eat dinner together. Watch a movie. Take a walk. No one cares if you weren’t at that one party that one time. I’m so happy I began doing this as I got older. I’m lucky that my parents are also my best friends. Of course, family can mean anything to anyone. There’s no definition of what a family is. Find the people who feel like home and spend time with them.
Like I said, being 14 years old is confusing and challenging and exciting. And of course, part of growing up is learning lessons for yourself. But I wish I had known these things when I was 14. And I hope someone else out there will read this. And then maybe this confusing time of life will become even just a tiny bit easier.