Dear 16-year old Sharlyn;
You are about to make the first of many bold moves in your life – leaving high school. Not because you hate school. Quite the contrary – you’re bored out of your (much) younger mind and want to learn more. Mom and Dad are a bit concerned that missing homecoming, prom, and graduation could scar you for life. Trust me, you’ll be fine.
But going to college at 16 will have some challenges. Take it from an older you, here are four things I wish I knew back then that might have made the transition, and life in general, a bit easier.
- Everyone has an agenda. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Agendas can be viewed as life plans and we all need a life plan, right?! The hard part is understanding there are good agendas and not-so-good agendas. There are also open agendas as well as hidden ones. Remembering that everyone has an agenda is the start. Always ask yourself, “What’s their agenda?” Again, it doesn’t have to be bad…but try to understand what it is.
- Money changes everything. You’re 16 years old and have no money. But someday you will be married, with a mortgage, and bills. Oh, and there’s this thing called retirement you will need to save for. At some time in your life, you must think about accumulating wealth. The way we make money defines us. And we will be judged on how we spend our money. People will change their behavior relative to the amount of money involved. Make no mistake, money is important. Everyone knows it even though it’s hard to admit.
- Each person’s moral compass is calibrated differently. Remember how I just said we all have an agenda and money is important? Well, these two factors impact decision making. There will be times when you’re asked to do things that go against everything you’ve learned is right. That doesn’t mean other people won’t have an issue with doing them anyway (see #2). And the reverse is true – there could be times you’re willing to do something others wouldn’t do. Understanding your own ethics will help you realize how others perceive ethical and moral situations.
- Sensationalism sells. (Remember this when MTV introduces a show called “Jersey Shore.”) Even to this day, I have to admit I bang my head against the wall on this one. There are people in this world who will drop the F-bomb just to get noticed. Or talk about drugs, sex and politics not because it’s their belief but also just to get attention. It’s easy to get sucked into drama and sensationalism. Try to always remember there’s flash and there’s substance. Some people use a lot of flash because they have very little substance.
This letter to my younger self might sound like a bit of a downer but it’s certainly not intended that way. None of these things are evil. They are what they are; and life becomes a bit easier when we’re keenly aware that not everyone is like us. They don’t think like us, make the same decisions, or want the same things out of life. In fact, it’s what makes life interesting.
You’ll also be pleased to know in the future, you are married to a terrific guy, are blessed with good health, live in a cozy little house, and own your own business. You also still dislike mayonnaise. But you have acquired a taste for good tea and tequila.
The future is a terrific, fascinating place. Enjoy the journey.
From a (much) not younger you.
Oh and P.S. When Mom and Dad tell you it’s okay to quit piano lessons, don’t do it. You’ll regret it later.