6 Things I Wish I Could Tell My 14-Year-Old Self
My teenage years were essentially a big mess of contradictory feelings and existential crises. Like many, I’m sure.
I went through periods of joy, depression, anxiety, and hope.
There are a lot of things I regret about this time of my life, mostly things that I didn’t do rather than things that I did.
I was the stereotypical shy kid who was pretty good at school and always listened to what teachers and adults told me. I was never really someone who had a lot of friends. I never took many risks. I liked my comfort bubble of surviving the school day and coming home to play video games the whole night.
Now I’m older, and starting my journey into the real world. I’m just as lost as I was back then, to be honest, but with a lot more responsibilities and a lot less free time on my hands. Now, I have to take my life a lot more seriously than I did back then.
I’m about to turn 22 (still very young I’m aware), and this got me thinking about what advice I might give myself 8 years ago, now that I have the wisdom of those years behind me. I’m sure that when I’m thirty I’ll write something similar about my 22-year-old self, but for now, teenage Owen, here are some little snippets of wisdom that you might want to consider as you start your journey into the most confusing years of your life.
Your passions are more important than your studies
As I look back in hindsight, I realise that most of what I learned at school, especially high school, was more or less useless information that I have never gone on to need in the slightest.
I realise that the education system is broken, and that everything we learn is just to pass a bunch of largely meaningless exams.
Often, as a teenager, I would reject spending time on my hobbies and passions in favour of doing my homework or studying for an exam. Now I understand how wrong I was to neglect my hobbies and other things that brought me joy, whilst I still had the chance to practice them regularly.
What you do with your time matters
During our adolescent years, we tend to think that what we do doesn’t matter, that we have all the time in the world. We believe that it’s okay to waste an entire day playing video games.
But even as a teenager, time is not unlimited.
If I were to back, I would dedicate so much more time to practicing hobbies, getting good at things, and just enjoying life a bit more rather than spending all my time staring at the idiot box or playing video games. I would have spent my days as if they mattered, because those years when you have little responsibility, are the ones you should make the most out of.
Try to master at least one thing
This is a follow-on from the last two points really. I think that while we have that luxury of time and lack of responsibility, it is the perfect time to master some skills.
While teachers and possibly parents tell you that good grades are what you need to achieve success later in life, what you really need these days are skills.
In terms of grades, all you really need is the bare minimum, and you’ll be fine. However, if you turn 18 and have already taken the time to master or just be competent at a couple of in-demand skills, you will find things a lot easier when you get older.
Try as many new things as you can
Our teenage years should be a constant search for meaning, a pursuit of the things we enjoy.
I can safely say that I still have no idea what I want to do with my life exactly. We tell ourselves that we have plenty of time to figure out what we want to do, but our calling doesn’t just drop from the sky, we have to find it ourselves.
All those years lazing around, scared of trying new things and jumping into new challenges, cost me a fair bit.
Try things while you have the time.
Find a few good friends and stick with them
Like most of us, I tried desperately to fit into the many different groups and social circles at high school. I never really succeeded. I was always the kid on the fringes who was kind of in a couple of groups but never really considered a part of the team.
These days, I have a couple of good friends, and it’s so much better than trying to juggle a bunch of complex social rules that were present back then.
So try not to give a damn what people think about you. Your adolescent years are perfect for forging long-lasting friendships, don’t waste them trying to work your way up the social ladder.
Be nicer to your parents
I think a lot of us can relate to this, and I do think it is pretty common. I was a little shit with my parents, probably because I didn’t realise how much they did for me.
They were always the super nice kind of parents who wouldn’t ask me to do any chores, and would spoil me a little. I guess my teenage brain saw that as a weakness.
I never helped around the house, all I wanted to do was play video games. I was often cold with them and declined many opportunities to go for a hike with my dad.
The pandemic has really made me think about how I treated my parents as a teenager, and what I could’ve done better. Now that I haven’t been able to see them for around 10 months, I have gained a better perspective on how important they really are to me.
Be nice to your parents while you can.
So, 14-year-old Owen, I hope you will listen to my advice and become a better person than I am today when you reach my age.
Take advantage of all that time you have, of all the possibilities you have, and go cook dinner for your parents, for once.