I recently saw a young girl at the park. She looked defeated as she slowly ran past me and my Golden Retriever. She was sporting the same t-shirt as those in a larger group of girls that ran past us earlier indicating her “inferior” place in the pack. I wanted to yell out encouraging words to her but held back. Being a mom, I have learned that kids want to be unique as long as they’re just like everyone else.
I saw my once awkward, freakishly tall, shy, self in that struggling runner. I wish I could have told myself to lighten up, stop worrying and that everyone else is feeling clueless about pretty much everything too. Here are my words of wisdom to my former self. I hope they’ll be useful to anyone in that perplexing time of life and for those of us who deal with our inner 8th grader from time to time.
Don’t worry about being popular
Time is the great equalizer. Eccentric, height-challenged and ridiculed David Scheckman, who tested the homemade battery he made in science class by hooking it up to a classmate’s braces, will one day make valuable discoveries in the medical field. Remember how you felt when the “popular” cheerleader did not acknowledge your existence? Hold onto that. Treat others with kindness, always. Also, it might be a good idea to sit at the “geek” table, and down the road you will discover that the “rejects” are amazing, humble and creative human beings.
In the future, there will be a more humane way of picking teams in gym class than having the “jocks” of the class choose. For now, you are just going to have to endure.
Never give up
You have survived 100% of your scariest, embarrassing and challenging moments thus far. That is a pretty darn good track record. So what if the panties you wore the day before fell out of your pant leg onto the floor while writing on the chalkboard? Everything is temporary, even the feeling of humiliation. Unfortunately, this includes the good stuff too. Appreciate the moments when you feel invincible and know that you will survive the tough stuff.
Quit leaning on lockers to mask your height. For the rest of your life you will be asked if you played basketball. Embrace your stature for someday it will help hide a few extra pounds and easily reach the overhead compartment. Also, do not “dumb down” for anyone or anything, especially a boy. You will one day be grateful for a man who appreciates your intellect.
Take care of yourself
Exercise, lay off the chips, strengthen your core and practice good health habits. I hate to tell you this but your efforts of remaining a drug-free, alcohol-free, virgin will not prevent you from getting something, oh for example, breast cancer (not to freak you out). Stay on course. Being strong and healthy will help you get through the “journey.” Also, baby oil and iodine does not count as sunscreen, and it would help if you practiced a skin treatment regime. Would it kill you to use a little eye cream?
Leave a legacy
Continue to take photos of your loved ones for you will cherish these images one day. The teens of the future will take countless photos—of themselves—and one day end up with thousands of images of themselves doing something they call a “duckface.” Do not attempt this.
Your family can be tough, messy and wonderful. Send cards. Show up. They are worth the effort. I know it’s not easy, but try to love your awkward, insecure self a bit more. Forgive, even before you can forget and try to make a difference in this world on every day that ends in “Y.” Your big 80s hair, that should have its own zip code, will one day be a thing of the past (I wish I could say the same for the occasional acne flair-up). The one thing that remains is LOVE.
Enjoy this precious, fleeting gift called life.
Mary Helen Darah is an award-winning columnist who has appeared in numerous publications in the Toledo area and beyond. Her column, The Mother of Mayhem, publishes on ProMedica HealthConnect each month.