“To paraphrase Oedipus, Hamlet, Lear, and all those guys, ‘I wish I had known this some time ago.'” – Roger Zelazny
The blog prompt in my inbox this morning was as such: “You’re 12 years old. It’s your birthday. Write for ten minutes on that memory. GO.” I rarely roll with these prompts, but every once in a while, one strikes a chord.
To be honest, I can’t remember anything about my 12th birthday, and I have no desire to write about it. I’m sure there was a cake with oodles of icing. I’m sure I was hoping Taylor Hanson would show up on my doorstep to sing “Happy Birthday” (yep, I was one of those). There may have been a couple of friends around. But I know this much: it wasn’t the best time in my life. I don’t pine for those lost days of my youth.
Rather than write about that memory, I’d rather get in touch with 12-year-old Rachel, enlighten her with some of my oldness and wiseness. I know, I know. I’m sensing all the eye rolling right now. I get it. I’ve got a long road ahead, to be certain.
But I’m leaps and bounds ahead of me, age 12.
And I think this girl could use a hug. Maybe you could too. So here are four:
1. When people laugh at your expense, laugh with them. Or smirk and walk away. They’re really just looking to get a rise out of you. Don’t give them the satisfaction. Believe it or not, some of these people will be friends of yours in the years to come. Hint: this strategy works with adult meanies too.
2. As cheesy as it sounds, when you look in the mirror, smile and acknowledge everything that’s beautiful about you, especially the inner stuff. When you tell yourself you look ugly, your brain gets ugly. And it starts making you believe it. And it can be a hard thing to get over. When you get older, every single woman you talk to will tell you that she hated how she looked at your age. She’ll probably tell you that she hates how she looks now. Don’t be that person. Compliment other people, compliment yourself. Life’s too short to get hung up on bad hair days and pimples.
3. Embrace what you love to do, even if it makes you a nerd. Embrace your nerdiness. Spending Friday nights at home with a book (and a glass of wine when you’re old enough!) instead of at a party is pretty cool. And it might just lead you to a career you don’t even know exists right now. No, you’re not going to be a famous rock star or an MTV personality. That’s OK. That would have gotten old for you really quickly.
4. Understand that your life is not going to be “white picket fence.” There is no formula, though it’s hard for you to see past that ideal right now. Hell, it’s hard to see past that ideal when you get older too. Start changing your mindset now. There is no right way — there’s only your way, so start dreaming big, kiddo. What do you want your life to look like?
What would you tell your twelve-year-old self? Are you living the life he or she hoped you’d be living?