Things I wish I had known when I was a teenager…
In the unlikely event of time travel becoming a reality, I really would not want to be a teenager again. Yes, I know this has become a bit of a cliché, for middle-aged folks to claim that we have never been happier and more content now that our younger days are behind us. But behind every cliché lurks an eternal truth. And in this case, it is that youth is wasted on the young (oh dear, there I go with the clichés again!)
It was certainly wasted on me. When I wasn’t fretting about the numbers on my report cards, I was moaning about the ones on the weighing scales. I was constantly worried about fitting in rather than focused on standing out. And then, I went effortlessly from worrying about how I would fare at a job interview to obsessing about how I would interview all those larger-than-life celebrities once I had landed a job with the most popular news magazine of the day.
Only now that my youth is oh-so-definitely behind me, do I realise that I really did not have very much to worry about at all – if only I had the sense, and the perspective, to see that at the time.
So here, for the benefit of my younger readers (and maybe the odd older one), are some notes that I scribbled down for my younger self. Read on… they may stand you in good stead for the next 20 years.
Don’t envy the cool kids in school/college. They may seem very with it now, with their designer clothes, their dewy complexions, their overweening confidence on the sports field, their talent on the stage. But fast forward 25 years and you won’t be envying them at all. Believe me, I’ve seen the pictures. And suffice it to say, they’re not pretty.
Don’t obsess over your grades. The difference between a first-class and a second-class degree seems insurmountable now. And it seems that your life will end if you don’t score that magic 60 per cent (what would now be a magic 98 per cent). Trust me, it won’t. In fact, in another five years or so, when you’re finally excelling in the job of your dreams nobody will even ask you what you scored in your graduation papers. In fact, most people won’t even care if you graduated at all.
Don’t knock the way you look. Yes, I know, when you stand in front of the mirror now, you feel as if a) you could stand to lose a few pounds b) zap those inflamed pimples on your chin that no amount of concealer could camouflage c) gain a few more inches in height and d) get a brand-new wardrobe. But when you gaze at pictures of your younger self 20 years down the line, you will be astounded by just how amazing you looked. And you will wonder why that never occurred to you at the time.
Don’t be too focused on putting money aside for a rainy day. A bit of cash stashed away is always useful. But don’t shy away from spending money on experiences that will give you a lifetime of memories. Backpack through Asia. Take a rail trip through Europe. Climb a mountain. Go deep-sea diving. The memories will be priceless; the money, if saved, will only be a fraction of what it was worth when you earned it.
Don’t ignore your emotional life because you are too busy focusing on your professional one. Reach out and make friends. Make time for family. Spend time nurturing your bonds with those whom you love and cherish. Stay in touch with your feelings. It is relationships that will sustain you in the long run; not that bright, glittering career you are so proud of.
From HT Brunch, June 23
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