I remember when 30 was old. I still occasionally catch myself thinking it until I remember that's how old I am. The other day, I had to bubble in my age for a survey, and I instinctively moved my pen to the lowest age bracket. Then I was shocked to have to move it up not one, not two, but three spaces to the [30-35 years old] bubble.
But (of course) 30 doesn't seem so old to me now that I'm in that category. In fact, neither does 40, 50, 60, or 70 because I know I may eventually be all of those too, so I think I'll just go ahead and adopt that whole life motto of aging people that "You're only as old as you feel." (Although that might mean I was 80 by the age of 27).
Anyway, now that I am a seasoned 30-year-old (of two whole months), I started reflecting on some of the differences in the way I see life now and the way I saw it as a 15-year-old. In all honesty, these reflections started as I was staring at my own literal reflection in the mirror one day and noticed the little hole above my belly button that once belonged to a piercing. My parents let me get my belly button pierced for my 15th birthday, and as I stood there looking at that slightly stretched and empty hole on a stomach that has since carried two children, I thought, "That's not nearly quite as cute and attractive now as you once imagined." Then I thought, "If I wrote a letter to my 15-year-old self, what would I tell me?" And this is what I came up with:
I know the Internet is really only just starting to take off (thanks to Al Gore), and Google probably has not yet become a verb in your vocabulary, but take a break from IM-ing your friends for a second and go search in your AOL browser for images of "belly button piercings post-pregnancy." Your body is going to change (and that's okay), but just be aware of this before you put that permanent hole in your stomach. Also, you're going to become a follower of Christ in about 2 years and will develop a different view of modesty and your body, so no one is even going to see your cute little piercing anymore. Do your 30-year-old self a favor and save your forty bucks for college expenses (because those student loans are going to be a pain to payback)!
I know you constantly think you are overweight and worry about whether you look fat in every outfit you put on. First of all, that is a ridiculous waste of energy (even if you were actually fat), and second of all, you will one day look back at pictures of yourself and think, "I thought that was fat???"
In the grand scheme of things (well, and even in the small scheme), your weight just isn't that important, no matter what your culture is telling you. So just take that off your list of things you obsess over.
Speaking of obsessing... you are one day going to look back at the way you viewed and pursued boys and be a little embarrassed. I know you daydream about someone like Freddie Prinze Jr turning you into the most wanted, most popular girl in school, and I know you envision finding a guy like Heath Ledger who will sing songs like "You're just too good to be true" in front of the entire school because he's so in love with you. The problem is, you watch too many movies. That's just not real life. In real life, the Freddie Prinze Jrs and Heath Ledgers are just guys. And the future you would like you to know three things about real-life guys:
A. They're pretty gross.
B. They're generally not hopeless romantics
C. They will get you pregnant (which can leave you feeling pretty gross and unromantic yourself)
So just devote a little less brain space to thinking about boys, relationships with boys, and finding the right boy. (Spoiler alert: All that falls into place nicely before you even graduate high school, and you aren't even the one who orchestrates any of it!)
While we're on the subject of you wanting to be so loved, please know that 15 years from now, no one will really care how popular you were in high school. This new thing called Facebook is going to come out (and replace the short-lived MySpace) where everyone will create their own public personas and filtered realities anyway, so don't spend so much time focusing on trying to be accepted and cool. Just be kind to people... especially the people who will not add to (and might even subtract) your popularity points. They may be the ones who need your kindness most. Fifteen years from now, no one will remember how popular you were, but they may remember how you made them feel. Take time to positively impact the people around you, and don't worry so much about being welcomed into the clubs of the Most Beautifuls and Most Influentials and Most Loved.
5. You Are Your Own Worst Critic
One day you will learn that no one is thinking of you as much or as often as you are thinking of yourself. So here's a helpful tip that will save you some worry wrinkles: Quit worrying so much about what people think. You may find that if you spend less time trying to be a people-pleaser and less effort trying to mold yourself into what you think other people will like, you will have a lot more time and energy to devote to things that really matter. Like showing kindness, helping people, taking care of others, etc. Don't think less of yourself; just think of yourself less. (That little mantra wasn't created by your own wit, unfortunately... You'll read it in a book later on.)
6. Be Assertive, Not Passive-Aggressive
This, sadly, is something you won't learn until you're almost 30 years old, and then mostly only because you're married to a man who despises passive-aggressive, manipulative communication. But if you could somehow realize it earlier, you will be a much happier person surrounded by much healthier relationships. I know you have an irrational fear of the word 'No' and don't like to hear it, but there is something very valuable about being direct in the way you talk to others. If you want something, ask for it. If you don't like something, speak up about it (with gentleness and humility; I'm not telling you to be a jerk). If you have a problem with someone, go to that person and talk to them (alone, not with an audience) and find ways to work it out. Don't talk about people behind their backs. People will respect you more, and you will ultimately respect yourself more. Also note, those people who are talking with you about others are probably also talking with others about you. Save yourself the paranoia and self-consciousness and just be direct with people.
7. Some Final Encouragements
- It was worth it to save sex for marriage! You'll never regret that decision.
- It's worth it to love Jesus. You won't ever regret that one either.
- It's okay to get married when you're only 22. It's not for everyone, but it will be a good decision for you (despite the warnings you may receive from others).
- Stop feeling so anxious to be another year older. Once you hit 26 you'll start wishing for the reverse. Just be content at whatever age you are.
- Colleges don't really care so much about all those extracurricular activities (or, at least, the colleges you will attend don't); don't get so burnt out with all the busy-ness of that stuff. (And if we're being honest, you should probably take up a sport because your 4.0 GPA isn't going to get you as much scholarship money as you're hoping for.)
- You have a good life. Be thankful, be happy with it, love God, and love the people around you.
- Enjoy high school!