I remember growing up and playing games with my family. Specifically, I remember playing tennis or having batting practice and saying, “Do over!” when I didn’t do as well as I had hoped to do. Ah…if life only worked that way all the time. The other night Josh and I were playing cribbage. He has a deck of cards with conversation starters on them. “I hesitate to even ask” he said, “But, if you could do high school over, what would you do differently?” I laughed when he asked that question because we both know that there are so many things that I think we would all do differently.
1. For starters, I would avoid drama at all costs. Oh how much energy I wasted either being mad at someone or worrying about someone being mad at me. If I could have just lived my life in peace that would have really made things a lot easier. Naturally I would like to say, “but she said…” or “but he did…” but if there is anything that I have learned from Dr. Phil, it is that I can only control my own actions. I can only control my attitudes and responses to other people. I cannot control how others act. This doesn’t give me the free ticket to incite anger or frustration and then say, “Well…you chose your reaction.” It means that as much as it is up to me, I should be living at peace with everyone. Of course, conflict would inevitably arise, but I would try to think of it more in the bigger picture—In the grand scheme of things, how important is this argument going to be???
2. I would do my homework. I know that sounds stupid. Especially from someone who did pretty well in school. But there were a lot of times that I chose the social aspect of high school over the homework aspect of high school. I totally don’t regret having a social life, but I stressed out a lot during those tests when I didn’t read my textbook or do my best on my homework. You can really be at peace when you know you tried your best and did the best you could.
3. I would think less about what others thought about me and more about how I made those around me feel. I know that it sounds like the same exact thing, but it isn’t. I really had a hard time with guys breaking up with me for either not kissing them…or much more than that. It frustrated me so that after 3 years of this I started to question if I was just being ridiculous, or if my standards were appropriate. Looking back, my boundaries were appropriate. There is no real reason for me to be kissing some guy that I have no intention of marrying. I also worried about how other people thought of me in other ways…if I was smart, funny, pretty…etc. I wanted people to think well of me. Looking back, that is less important what they think of me and more important how others around me feel. If I help others to be comfortable around me, am a good listener, trustworthy and honest, then they will likely think well of me. It shifts the focus off of me and what others think about me to others and how I make them feel.
4. I would date less. I remember believing that I needed to date guys in order to figure out what type of person I would want to marry. In a way this is true, but it doesn’t mean I need exclusive relationships with guys and to be their girlfriend. I think getting to know guys as friends and allowing myself to build on my values would have eventually surrounded me with the types of guys that I would be compatible with. For example, as I entered into college I would have a much wider selection of friends and activities. I would no longer be hanging out with people because they were in my class or played the same sports. I would be making friends based on activities I chose to be involved in and would probably find like-minded people there. When I entered college I found that it was easy to disassociate with certain groups of people for the most part. I wouldn’t likely unload all of my secrets to some drunk guy or girl and become the best of friends. It just wasn’t my scene and it was easy to just avoid that if I wanted to. So, after a while, all the guys that would be interested in the same things I am interested in would come out of the woodwork and a friendship might blossom into something more…no broken hearts necessary.
Dating a guy also made me feel more desirable somehow…more valuable or worthy of love. It is a lie that I believed and think so many others believed as well. Dating really detracted from the time that I could have been spending with my friends and family without so much pressure to compromise my morals and values. I really enjoyed the activities I was involved in with my friends and would have loved to have spent more time doing that. I think about all the evenings I spent with guys at the movies or what not that I could have been practicing pitching or tennis or some other activity…or gone out for coffee or stayed in for a movie with my friends. There were times that I’m sure I skipped out on important events because of a boyfriend and I could have shown more support towards my friends and family.
5. I would have saved my money. Holy cow I cannot even imagine how much more money I would have had if I had just kept a wider perspective. I wanted a car because I wanted freedom. And I do believe that freedom is so important to teenagers…and important for parents to give to their teenagers as well. But I ended up driving people around all the time. Part of this, I liked. Part of this was annoying. Teenagers generally don’t think about chipping in for gas. Especially if they are teenagers without jobs. I think of all the money I spent for a car, repairs, gas, regular maintenance, insurance…It sure would have been nice to have had the opportunity to save at least a portion of that for college. I also spent a lot of money on meals with my friends. We either went out to lunch or dinner…coffee…etc and I am sure I spent my fair share of money on food. I wish I had really known more about active budgeting with a percentage going to savings, a percentage going to fun, and a percentage to give away. I think that would have been very valuable for me as I entered the real world. It would be really nice right now to not be paying student loans.
6. Lastly, I would listen to good advice and ignore the bad advice. I can think of youth leaders from church, teachers, parents, friends…etc that all gave me great advice from their own personal experience. I, however, felt that I was above their mistakes somehow. Somehow I was just a little less human than they were at my age. We are all human, though. We all are capable of making mistakes. It was the moment I said, “I would never…” that I began to take small steps towards doing the very things I said I wouldn’t. Pride comes before the fall. When we are more aware of our shortcomings and our capabilities as humans, we can take the proper precautions against them. There are some mistakes that I can look back on and laugh and say, “Wow…that was really stupid” and I really, now, think it was funny. Still, I wish I hadn’t done it, but it really made no lasting impact on my life other than reminding me that I don’t want to make that same mistake twice. Then there are the mistakes that follow you for the rest of your life. The mistakes that effect others who should never have had to deal with the pain of a mistake you made. I would have chosen to be overly cautious rather than overly prideful…but a nice balance would have done me some good. I realize that most of us never listen to the advice of those who are older than we are…and I’m sure I continue to ignore great advice from people and will realize that in ten years. I just wish I had taken the advice of others more seriously than I did…and appreciated the wisdom of those who had more experience than I did.
Looking back on high school really makes me smile, all in all. I can definitely see how I took some wrong steps that led to even bigger falls beyond high school. But I also really enjoyed my friends, activities, teachers…etc. I feel like I, for the most part, had a great high school experience compared to what might have been. Sure, I would choose to do many things differently. Would I want to go back to high school??? Eh…probably not. But am I grateful for the people whose paths crossed mine and helped to shape me into the woman I am today? Absolutely.