10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger

teen lessons, tween lessons, lessons learned, advice for youth, childhood memoriesCaitlin is a 16-year-old from Simsbury, CT. She likes to write, make things with clay, and really wants a dog. Her two favorite subjects are Art and English.


There are many things that I would have liked to know before I entered my teen years, like how chocolate ice cream stains never come out, or maybe that pearls aren’t the best thing to wear to a bowling parties. While these lessons are important, there are ten things that I wish I realized when I was younger.


10. Being smart is not a bad thing

Girls think that boys like dumb girls. I do not know where this idea originated, but since middle school I observed girls pretending to be ditzy and not caring about school simply to attract a cute boy. All of a sudden, being smart became a bad thing, something to hide. I was embarrassed that I liked learning, that I actually enjoyed doing well and studying for tests. What I wish I had known then was that being smart is one of the most attractive, important qualities a person can have. People that pursue knowledge go father in life than those that run away from it.

9. Do what you want

I was in the orchestra, and I dreaded having to carry my big, ugly violin case to school everyday. It seemed like there was this neon sign floating above it, flashing the words dork or loser. I enjoyed the violin and playing in the school orchestra, but I still wanted to quit. I hated being labeled one of the orchestra geeks. I wanted to be in chorus, wood shop, anywhere but in my orchestra class.

I cannot remember who played in the band during middle school, and I doubt that anyone with whom I wasn’t friends with remembers that I was the one who carried the violin case to school everyday. What I do remember is that I enjoyed that class and learned a lot. I learned that doing something that I enjoy doing is more important that doing something else that’s considered “cool”.

8. It’s quality, not quantity

I remember a friend of mine asked me if I could count off 20 of my closest friends. She claimed that every person should have at least 20 friends. I tried to count them, but I only ended up with 9. My friend, on the other hand, made it up to 30 or so before she decided that she should stop. Suddenly, I felt self-conscious. Did having fewer friends than she did make me a loser?

I then went over my list of 9 friends. Most of them I had known since first or second grade. We had told each other all of our embarrassing stories and first crushes. I knew their siblings well, their parents, and the layout of their houses. These 9 friends, I realized, would always be there for me. While the friend that I was talking to was able to list 30 friends, I knew that my nine friends were the best friends someone could ever have, and that was enough for me.

7. Live in the moment

I plan for the future. During class I think about studying for the upcoming test, at a friend’s house I think about what else I’m doing that weekend, on Fridays I think about what is happening in the coming week. Sometimes I forget that life is not made up of plans, but moments. Life is made up of the moment when I hug a friend, when I eat the last slice of cake. These are the moments that, 50 years from now, I want to look back on and smile. I do not want to remember being worried about the future. I want to remember enjoying the present.

6. Take a step back

It is easy to get caught up in the little things, such as bad test grades or an argument with a friend. I used to get stressed out if something, anything, did not go the way I planned. What I failed to realize is that many things, if I look back five years from now, will not matter. I think that perspective is important. It has allowed me to look past mistakes and see that, in the long run, they really aren’t all that important.

5. Reach for the stars

It is always important to have goals, something to work towards. My own goal happens to be to (someday) publish a novel. While I know that this is a lofty goal, I still write short stories and practice dialogue and character development everyday. I like thinking that, one day, this trial-and-error practice will pay off. I know that not all goals are attainable, but everyone should have something to excite them, to push them forward.

4. Smile

It actually takes more muscles to frown than it does to smile. I never knew this until someone told me this fact after claiming that I frowned too much. Apparently, it wasn’t healthy. What I have found is the just the act of smiling raises my mood considerably. Instead of dwelling on coulda-shoulda’s, I simply smile and try and move on.

3. Do your best

My best was something I felt like I never reached. I knew that “the best” was considered to be straight A’s, lots of friends, nice clothes, etc. To me, there was no difference between “the best” and what my best was. I got straight A’s, I obsessed over my clothes, and still I felt like I could do better.

The thing is, not everybody can be “the best”, especially not at everything. Instead of concentrating on being the best at things I liked and actually enjoyed, I was attempting to reach perfection at everything. I wish I had told my younger self that trying your hardest is the most satisfying thing, even if you don’t always win.

2. Don’t be somebody you’re not

It’s very tempting to put on an act in order to impress people. I have done it countless times, thinking that I should pretend to be braver, wilder, even dumber. The thing is, in the end, the person I’m pretending to be never measures up to the person I really am. It’s easy to make believe, but at the end of the day, it’s the real you that comes through.

1. You are beautiful

My parents have told me this many times, along with different relatives and friends over the years. It’s always said in an offhand way, like “good night beautiful” or “don’t you look beautiful today”. When I was little, I knew for a fact that I was beautiful. If my family and friends said it, then it had to be true. Over the years, this fact turned to doubt. The popular girls were called beautiful, and I didn’t look anything like them. Did that mean that I wasn’t truly beautiful?

It began not to matter who called me pretty, who told me I had nice clothes, because none of that meant anything to be anymore. I shrugged it all off, thinking inside that they were all lying to me. I wish I could have told myself that beauty doesn’t have an exact definition. I wish I could have told myself that my talents, characteristics, were what made me special.


I do not know if these lessons would have change the way I grew up and experienced life, but I do believe that every kid should hear these lessons and know that staying true to themselves and realizing what remarkable people they truly are are the best things anyone can hope for out of life.



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  1. 5/13/11: Articles for Parents this Week | Radical Parenting - May 13, 2011

    […] 10 Things I Wish I Knew When I Was Younger At 16, there is already a long list of advice for your pre-teen self, like living in the moment and taking a step back. […]

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