What would I tell my 16-year-old self?

I have been watching the 60th anniversary celebration of TODAY all morning while heating my shoulder, drinking coffee and trying to feel like exercising. I was about to head for my workout bike when the question was asked of three regular contributors, "If you could go back in time, knowing what you know today, what would you tell your 16-year-old self?" And my mind was instantly flooded with things I would tell MY 16-year-old self.

I am almost 16 years old in this photograph. I remember being so happy with this picture when the proof came. And one of the things I liked about it was that I thought I looked older than my age. Funny how I now love any picture that makes me look younger than I am. One of the things I would tell myself at this age is that it's not BAD to be a kid. Don't be in such a hurry to grow up! There is so much to enjoy at this age and you are missing out on all of it because your head is so wound up in wanting to be viewed as a grown-up!

There's actually a long list of things I would tell Young Me right on the tip of my tongue.
So here goes...


~ Jesus died in your place, to atone for your sins. All of your sins. The cross is as important in your life as it is in the life of someone saved out of the gutter. Your perfection comes from being clothed in Christ's righteousness; not your own good deeds and law keeping, and not because you were born into a special group of people who had some unique truths. You cannot measure up to the holiness of God within yourself and that is why you need a Savior. Obedience is about loving and honoring God, not earning something for yourself. Do not believe anyone who tells you any other gospel.

~ What empowers us to forgive others is knowing we are forgiven, accepted and loved. If our faith is in Jesus as the Son of God, we will never be rejected by God. Nothing can separate us from His love.

~ Do not let other people define you -- who you are and/or who you will become. Especially people who do not attempt to know your heart and who categorize you by your most surface traits.

~ Reject the limits others place on you. You have choices that you don't realize you have.

~ You can do things you don't believe you can do. I wish you could discover this at 16 instead of at 40.

~ Go to college and realize at a young age that one of your natural abilities is writing.You have no idea how many options are there for you. You can do so much more with your life than type and be a secretary "if your husband doesn't earn enough money to pay the bills." (I was always told that I was smart and should get straight A's. What I wasn't told was that I could do anything more than get A's and be a secretary.)

~ You are lovable, likable and acceptable with the personality God gave you!

~ Being quiet and compliant are not the most important attributes in life.

~ You do not have to disguise your extroverted personality to be feminine and "ladylike." Being passive is not a requirement of being a lady.

~ Showing emotion is not a weakness. On the flip side, being a good actress does not make you strong.

~ Willingly enduring abuse is not a virtue. It is actually enabling ungodly behavior.

~ Doing the wrong thing because you are being obedient to someone in authority will not become that person's responsibility and wrong before God. You will suffer the consequences of following wrong counsel and giving too much honor to a man.

~ Discover books early. No matter how long you live, there will always be more information to learn than you will have time to discover. You are never done learning.

~ Start exercising faithfully now and don't ever stop. Avoid junk food as much as possible. You will have cholesterol issues later in life. And 52 will be here before you know it.

I have a feeling I could go on and on because more "advice" just keeps popping into my 52-year-old head. But I'll let this one be the last because it's one that just hit my mind and triggered a lot of emotion.

~ Accept your mother as she is, the same way you are so wanting her to accept you as you are. She loves you more than you think she does. Just because she doesn't love you the way you want her to doesn't mean she doesn't love you the best she knows how. And just because your different temperament frustrates her at times, this does not mean she does not like you, that she isn't proud of you, or even that she would change you if she could. It just means she's as flawed as you are. And she doesn't always know how to relate to you. But as you get older, you are going to realize how many of your strengths came from her and you are going to see many more similarities to her than you are able to see today. Focus on the sacrifices she's made for you rather than focusing on resisting her control of you. Spend more time with her, trying to get to know her instead of wanting her to know you. Don't wait until she is diagnosed with cancer to devote yourself to demonstrating the true magnitude of your love for her. Tell her you appreciate her often. Force more hugs on her (even though she isn't that comfortable with phsyical affection). Don't laugh when she is crying for no reason (due to hormonal fluctuations). Don't make fun of her for telling you something she's excited about again and again. You are going to be just like her one day. You're missing all the things you have in common because you're so focused on how you are different. She needs you as much as you need her. I wish I could go back in time and help you see that before a cancer diagnosis made it clear. And obviously we can't go back in time. But it's okay. Because you had seven months of closeness before you lost her. She knew how important she was to you and how much you loved her. And you finally saw that she really didn't want some other daughter, like you always believed. She wanted you. And when she really needed you, you were there. And you were exactly what she wanted in a daughter.

Maybe the only person more surprised than her was you.

And finally, you will surprise yourself many times again throughout your life. Because you only realize how strong you are when you have to be.


Shari said…
P.S. For those who don't know, this June 14 will be the 25th anniversary of my mother's death. She was 49. I was 28.
DeeDee said…
Wow, this conjures up all kind of emotions and thoughts in me. If I were to do the same as you here, there's plenty I would say too. The kind of wisdom you impart now comes with age and experience. Somehow, I doubt if our 16 year old selfs would have listened or comprehended. You have nieces about that age now. Would they listen and comprehend? I wonder.

There are SO many things I wish I had said to my mother. I would have given her permission to be totally honest with me about her feelings. Women from that era didn't seem to know how to let their hair down (so to speak), especially with their daughters. My mom did with my brother, Danny, but not with me. To this day I don't know why. This is my biggest regret. She and I didn't "know" one another like I wish we had. It didn't matter so much to me then, but it sure does now. Oh, to have her back for a few days. :-(

Love you Shari. This is SO good!
Shari said…
Thanks, Dee Dee. The "talk" I would have with my 16-year-old self would be to give her insight beyond her years. I'm sure she would not have been capable of taking it all in and putting it into practice. But I wrote this to correct my own self in some of the thoughts that I struggled with earlier in life. I would want to help her more understand things she did not understand -- not so much prevent her from making mistakes. Because we all have to make mistakes.

As far as my teenage nieces, well, they have far, far, far more insight at their age than I did. They are smart girls. And I value my relationships with them so much. But their childhoods have been far different from mine. And you know that first thing I would tell my 16-year-old self about Jesus and the cross? They know that and that understanding makes all the difference in their young lives and relationships. That makes me really happy as their aunt! I love you, Dee Dee!
DeeDee said…
And---thank God your nieces had the advantage of being raised differently than we were. Kellie says all the time to her sibs, "I was raised in a different world than you so I don't have the same baggage (about the cross). Maybe that's why I was not so much effected?" She was as advantaged then as your beautiful nieces now. Their history has been kind. I'm glad we were/are here to share our insight at such a crucial age as theirs rather than them being constantly bombarded with unquestionable dogma as we were (unquestionable = not allowed to question.)

Your insight into your relationship with your mother is SO invaluable to anyone who has the wisdom to listen. My niece, Deb is in that struggle right now with her mom, Elaine. She's an adult and has maturity on her side. They have a similar relationship as you and your mom did growing up. It's a battle for her but she's in the fight. I think I'll copy your post and email it to her. She needs to hear it.

Love you too, Shari. DeeDee