I recently had the experience of teaching a group of 50 teenagers at my old school. It was a bit of a blast from the past walking through all the familiar corridors, bumping into old teachers and reminiscing about my time when I was a brace faced, fake tanned 16 year old. It really was like stepping into a time machine but this time with the added benefit of all my experience since I was wearing a uniform. In some ways, so much has changed, but in others I’m really the exact same person.
So here are 6 things that I would say to my 16 year old self…
1. Being cool is super overrated. Oh my God, how much time did you waste at school worrying about this? Pointless hours were spent on thinking about what to say, how to dress, what to be interested in. It actually is so unimportant and in fact just takes you further from your full potential. Spend that time on things that you are genuinely interested in and makes you happy. In the long run, this is way cooler.
2. Try everything! School is an amazing place for having lots of interesting experiences. It’s not until you are older you realise what a privilege this is. As an adult classes cost money, take time and are often only available to people with prior experience. So with nothing to lose, learn the trumpet, join the fencing club, go on that camping trip, sing in the musical… Because you may not get that opportunity again!
3. Getting a A+ doesn’t make you set for life. Teachers put so much pressure on academic success yet when you get out in the real world, no one actually cares what you enter score is or if you are an algebra whiz. Being kind, courageous and creative takes you much further.
4. You probably won’t stay in touch with 99% of your year level. Even if you’ve sworn you’re BFFL chances are you’re more destined to be BFFN (best friends for now.) This is not to say that you should take your friends for granted, because high school friendships can be really important, but what it does mean is don’t get too invested in all the drama. If Jessica is bitching to you because she’s jealous of Rebecca who actually only pretends to like Emma but would rather be friends with Karen who is best friends with Rita…just let it be. Because the reality is these people will probably have no place in your future (except for the occasional Facebook stalk.)
5. Go easy on your parents. I hate to admit this, but as a teenager I was pretty sure I had it all figured out. Turns out, I didn’t The fails have led to better understanding and better choices now, but the problem is as a 16 year old I had no idea just how far off I was! As a result I often got frustrated at my folks for stopping me going to parties, telling me to clean my room or wear a different outfit. I cringe to think how much of a little sh*t I was then. So if you’re a teenager and you currently think your parents are ‘soooo lame’ or annoying, cut them some slack.
You’re probably not that easy to get along with yourself. They’re just doing their best to help you and hey, they might even know a thing or two.
6. You don’t become a different person when you’re an adult. I used to imagine myself as a ‘grown up’ being totally chill, sassy, cool, calm and collected, probably with a briefcase, sunnies and stepping out of some posh car like a boss. Turns out I’m still the same me. With the same insecurities, same flaws just more bills. So don’t waste your precious teenage years waiting for someone to cast the ‘grown up’ spell on you. It ain’t going to happen. The good news here is there’s nothing more to learn, you only need to get to know yourself better and figure out what makes you happy. The rest will fall into place if you make decisions based on what your inner truth.
I am really grateful to the experience to teach at my old school. In fact, the first time I ever tried Yoga was in a PE class and it was this experience that catalysed my Yoga journey, bringing me where I am today. So standing in front of these 50 students as their teacher was a very surreal and special experience. I remember so clearly being on the other side of that classroom. Definitely a lot has changed since those days, but I believe the 6 lessons I wrote about above are just as important for me to be aware of today. Even as adults we can stress about our popularity, how much money or career success we have, or what other people think about us. We can still be hard on our parents or fall into the trap of believing everything will be OK in a few years. So whether you’re 16 or 60, I hope that you can worry a little less about all the non important stuff and believe a little more in your self.
You’re not going to be a different person one day, but why would you want to? You’re amazing exactly as you are.