Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Thursday Three

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.


Woody's Mom said...

Three things I wish I had known at 15:

1. Stay in school.

I should have looked into funding for college myself and not assumed parents would do so.

2. Live your life for you.

One doesn't need a clique or a boyfriend to get through life.

3. Moisturize.

Nuff said.

Willowtree said...

At fifteen I believed I knew it all, and it's taken me nearly forty years to realise I was right.

My mother also thought that I wouldn't be able to survive in the outside world, just over a year later I proved her wrong.

Woody's Mom said...

I just wanted to add that the Nixon Poll is now up on and I welcome all feedback.

Trust me, it is for a meaningful cause.

Altaglow said...

What makes you think there's no internet in Bulgaria? Anyway I'll put in my two kopeks worth at a later day. Love, Mom

JaniceNW said...

Things I wish I had known at 15:


2. A man will never make you happy unless you love yourself first. Live byself for at least a year. I regret I never lived by myself. From parents to dorms to awful evil bf to dh.

3. College that is more important than some moronic male who is manipulative and emotionally abusive(tho that's a lesson in itself).

4. Be careful what you wish for.

RC~I caught your comment on Eileen's blog and I'm in prenursing and will be applying to several BSN programs this fall. I am consider psychiatric nursing. Maybe we can "talk" some day? :)

Flowerpot said...

i was told i was hopeless at maths also - I am - but I can remember phone numbers. odd that.

Mid-lifer said...

Great post RC. My daughter is 13 and I'm having terrible flashbacks. When I was 15 I was a punk rocker, in a band, mixing with undesirables, surrounded by drug-takers (but didn't indulge!), walking home alone after midnight through London. Then later I got into motorbikes. And yes, I thought I knew it all and thought I was completely invulnerable.

On this basis I'm terrified for what my kids will soon be getting up to. Right now I wish I could just go to sleep for a while and wake up to find them mature and sensible adults!!

la bellina mammina said...

the things I wish I'd known at 15....too long, perhaps one day..*sigh*. Great post RC.

Stacie said...

Great topic. I even asked dh (#2 is his)

I wish I had known at 15:

1. My mom is actually a "good guy" and not a person always out to get me. She is now a really good friend! Who would have ever have thought that when I was sending her evil glares across the dinner table as a teen?

2. I am (you are) not the center of the universe! That one was hard to learn, but makes life so much easier!

3. A tan is not the most important thing for a person to have! I wish I had thought more about that one when I lathered up in baby oil before going out to sun myself. I had more than my fair share of sunburns...

Jen said...

Three things...hmm.

1. A broken heart will mend, if you let it.

2. You're not as fat as you think you are.

3. Even if you think no one does, someone, somewhere, cares about you.

Flowerpot said...

pls come and pick up an award, correspondent!

wakeupandsmellthecoffee said...

OK, I agree with you on points one and three and most of two, but really if you hadn't squandered the money on concerts, you wouldn't have great memories of great bands. My daughter, at almost 13, is so much younger and naive than I was at her age and I'm so glad. Here's my advice:
1. Don't have sex at 15. It's way too young.
2. Stay out of the sun as much as possible or use sunscreen as much as possible.
3. Your parents aren't the enemy. When you are down and out, it will be your parents who bail you out.

laurie said...

at 15? oh boy. you're forcing me to go to this dark place i don't much want to go to.....

ok.... (it's dank in here) (and frizzy) (and nerve-racking)

1) time is more important than money and will only get more so the older you get;

2) snobbery will make you lonely, not admired;

3) dogs will not just as soon kill you as look at you (a legacy from my dad).

ok, i gotta turn around and crawl out of here. clearly it's not a pleasant place.... cobwebs... spiders.... those two rich girls who i admired so much--oh, look, they're turnng their backs on me again....

air... i need air...

Anonymous said...

LOVING this post, as I look/argue at/with my 15 year old daughter every single day and am truly scared about the idea of her living on her own. She thinks she has it all figured out, she can't put her clothes away, put a dirty dish in the sink, remember when she gets home from school the dog (who is jumping all over her) has to go out, etc can possible live on her own. In NYC no less, where she is insisting she is headed, because afterall, Broadway is her destiny......
Things I wish I had know at 15:
1. Be yourself, stop trying to be a people pleaser, just to fit in.

2. Speak up, don't be afraid of your own voice.

3. I am with you on authority, your counselor should be slapped, write her a letter now, I totally bought into everything people in authority had to say. Except my parents, who were both alcohlics, but that is another story.

4. Never lay on your roof, in the hot Tennessee sun, with no sunscreen, for hours, just for that tan.

5. Use Clinique religiously

6. You do not need a boyfriend to be complete or fix your self esteem. Only you can do that.

7. Worry so much less about peer groups and the Queen Bees. I would have Held my head up high, a lot more. Something I am trying to do each and every day now....No matter what.

Great Post, took my mind to good places, many thanks. XOXO

In response to your question about psych. nurses in our area, would love to tell you about it. Huge problem here. I am sure every where. You can e-mail me at and I can give you the scoop about child psych. stuff, if you are interested. I can tell you from a professional and personal experience. I think the shortage is really a crisis (for children) and something has to be done. I don't think it is just NY.

Sweet Irene said...

I'd be more than happy to slap her in her silly face and there were a lot of silly grown ups around like her. I could have used some real good guidance at that age and there was very little of it, leaving me on my own without a clear concept of what to do and with parents who didn't have a clue. So, what do you do? You get a job, get married, have babies and don't live happily ever after, because that's not what you should have done. I know that now with my 53 year old wisdom, but it is a little late for that. People all over the world, give your children guidance and if you don't know how, find someone who can, you dummies!

laurie said...

my high school counselor urged me not to do what he did. he went to college with no particular major in mind, studied whatever the hell he wanted, and it took him something like seven years to graduate.

and i thought, hmm, that sounds like a good plan! so that's what i did, too.

you just never know what's going to influence a kid.

ciara said...

i think in a lot of ways i was very naive @ 15...but i think that's what happens when you're raised conservatively. if anything, i guess i wished i wasn't raised getting everything i wanted or things my way by my parents...because that does NOT happen in the REAL world. not that i was spoiled mind you.

i also absolutely hate that money rules in some people's lives, and that's not always a good thing. i always say that money is the root of all evil lol there's something else i wanted to comment on, but since i only got up a bit ago...i can't remember right now lol

miss yerem said...

1) 37 is not really that old and you will quite possibly not be senile at that age.

2)you will survive your crush on david bowie,dustin hoffmann,limahl and countless other male " stars"

3)you will be happier than you are now,you will be loved.

ped crossing said...

I feel bad for those people that refer to high school as the best years of your life. You couldn't pay me to go back.

Try not to burst my bubble any more. First the superwoman thing and now this. I want to stay in denial about the coming years. :)

Jo Beaufoix said...

Sorry I'm late RC.

Love this post.

Wow Jen, we have two the same.

1. You're not as fat as you think you are.

2. People do really ove you.

3. Trust your feelings and instincts more.

At 32 I'm finally getting these things, but it's taken so long.

I'm quite scared of Misses E and M being teenagers, but kind of excited too. I can't wait to see who they become.

Kaycie said...

Three things I wish I'd known at 15:

1. Adults are basically as clueless as teenagers, they just have much more experience.

2. Do what you love, not what you think will make the best living.

3. Take chances. The worst thing that will happen: you'll learn something about yourself.

Diana said...

I think that counsellor needs a kick in the butt along with that slap in the head. How dare she. For some reason you need to pass a term of college calculus. You don't need to know the actual calculus, you just need to pass it.

You'd have made a fabulous doctor. You ARE a fabulous nurse. You can, should you desire do the med school thing in the future (though why you'd want to, I have no idea...) A good friend of mine did after 20 years of nursing and raising her family. She has her own practice and was voted Oregon's rural physician of the year a few years ago. She blows me away. Becoming a nurse practitioner is another option if you suddenly develop a case of insanity and a desire to write some prescriptions.

Happy in the Abyss said...

Well, I am going to go there...but just for you.

#1- Even wehn you think you are ready for SEX you are never ready for SEX! Although I can now look back and laugh about my first time, I think I was too young, too stupid, too caught up in all the whatdoyoumeanyouhaventdoneit crap!
When you think you are ready, wait a year....after a year, wait 2 more months...that's what I say!!!

#2-Money does not make you happy! A few years ago when I told my son that I was making him pancakes for dinner because we used to do that when we were kids he thought it was cool. come to find out, we did that because we were broke and it was the only thing in the house to have. I still love Spam and Macaroni and Cheese.


PixelPi said...

Terrific but scary post, RC, because not for a million dollars would I ever venture back to those days. I'm with Laurie here and starting to hyperventilate just thinking about being there again. That said:

1. Don't worry so much about whether you're attractive, skinny, fat, have acne, can't dance, and your parents buy you geeky black plastic glasses frames. None of this stuff matters in the long run.

2. Don't try to be something you're not, even if what you are is not the most popular kid in school. Be proud you have bruised shins from hurdles. Be yourself and read Lenny Bruce in 8th grade if you want to and you get in trouble. Dare to be you.

3. Don't do things on dares, like sex, drugs, cigarettes, sex, and drugs, tagging, or throwing stuff off overpasses onto cars. In other words, respect your body and other people's bodies too. You only have one.

4. Moisturize.

Now crawling right behind Laurie through the dark scary tunnel of cobwebs.....really, really fast.

Motheratlarge said...

You've really got me thinking with this list - and I agree with all your thoughts. Like you, it took me a few years of getting it wrong, until I learned those lessons.

laurie said...

pixelpi: my geeky glasses mattered! oh my god .....

[hyperventilates] [grabs paper sack] [huff huff huff]