I realize the walk may be longer for some than for others, but let's take a trip down memory lane and talk about...
Things I Wish I Had Known When I Was Fifteen
I've been spending way too much time lately with fifteen year olds who know everything. Or think they know everything, which, all things considered, is actually worse. My life recently has reminded me of the catch phrase that was so popular a while ago -
Teenagers: If you're tired of being hassled by unreasonable parents, now is the time to take action. Leave home and pay your own way while you still know everything.
I fight the urge daily to tell my teenager that if he'd just be more like his mother he'd get along fine. Especially with me. He might fight with his father more, but that would be their problem. I watch, from varying distances, as he carries on with his life and I swing between amusement (at how unintentionally funny he can be, especially when he's on his high horse) and terror (because one day he really is going to have to fend for himself and I'm not at all sure he's capable). I am proud of his behavior and how he manages at times, but not enough. I truly am worried that he's going to starve to death wearing filthy clothes in an apartment with no heat, clutching an energy drink in one hand and a game controller in the other. What do you do with someone who can discuss US foreign policy far more intelligently than his maternal unit, yet still doesn't get the concept of flushing the toilet? Or loading a dishwasher? Or filling a water dish for the dogs?
The other day, after a particularly grueling "discussion", I was having a wonderful little fantasy in my head, imagining him conducting his life now the way that I carried on with mine at the same age. It was a pretty short fantasy, as I recall, because once I started really thinking about what I had done at fifteen I had to get up and breathe into a paper bag. (And the only reason I'm even posting this whole thing is because my mother is out of the country and has no internet access, so I'm relatively safe. All I need is her two cents on this).
After going over one memory after another that made me squirm, blush or bow my head in shame, I decided that if we were meant to know all there is at fifteen, we wouldn't have a life expectancy of 75+. And while I realize that life is all about the process, it sure would have been nice to have had a handle on some things earlier on.
I'm pretty sure someone tried to explain this whole concept to me when I was a teenager. And I'm pretty sure I thought I knew better. I wish I really had.
#1. Sometimes it just takes one fight. You really can lose someone you care about in one stupid, angry argument. Forever. Sometimes it's not even really a "fight" so much as a real divergence of outlooks. Sometimes "I'm sorry" doesn't change anything.
This can work both ways. It's possible to be so mad yourself that you don't want to give someone another chance. At fifteen you think that window of opportunity will always be open. As an adult you realize that it won't.
#2. Money matters. This may be as close to universal as it gets. As adults, money is the key to so many things. Our options, our experiences, our very lives all have quite a lot to do with finances. It's a rare fifteen year old who grasps this.
As a kid my dad used to practically throw hundred dollar bills at me. (Yes, you read that right and yes, there's a great blog story in there, I know). I would return from my summers in Michigan with more money than my California flower child mother had in her bank account.
And I'd love to say that I saved it or gave her part of it or did something more concrete with it than seeing every musical act that came through LA.
But I didn't.
#3. People in "Authority" are not always right. If someone tells you something and you don't think it's true, you owe it to yourself to look into it. And if you're right, you owe it to yourself to follow through on what you planned in the first place.
In a ten minute interview in eleventh grade, my High School guidance counselor closed the book on my medical school plans with one sentence, "Your math grades aren't good enough." We never discussed my Science grades (excellent), my GPA (ditto) or anything else related. For her, it was all about the math. I can do everyday math just fine. It's algebra and geometry that confuse me.
I've made a point of watching doctors pulling out their calculators and talking with them about this and it's a pretty clear cut opinion that it isn't all about the math. There's so much more involved in medicine. But she scared me and I caved. Without an argument. I wish I had fought back. But I didn't.
The funny thing is that even though this story makes me angry (still), I don't regret the way it turned out. Up until I had Sasquatch the medical school thing was still a possibility, and I decided not to go for it. I think I'm in a great place where I am. I get my fill of adrenaline junkie medicine with a lot less pressure, fewer hours and way lower malpractice premiums than the doctors. It's all good.
But I still think that counselor needs a slap in the head.