This fortnight's topic for Via Scribendi is "A Letter to my Teenaged Self"--which is great, truly. I'm very much looking forward to seeing what the women I write with have to say if they could "turn back time." Many of them work with teens and pre-teens every day, and, I'm sure, have often reflected on what they would have done differently and what they'd like to tell today's teens from the long-term perspective.
I, however, have little to say to teenage me. She was academic, a late bloomer, and sometimes painfully annoying, but no more so than most teenagers. There was typical teenage angst, most centering around a cross-state move right before my senior year. More than anything, I wish I had handled that move with more maturity and grace, but you can't develop maturity and grace without painful moments like that year provided.
I'd tell myself to be more outgoing, but I'd rather appreciate the introvert that dug deeply into the topics which interested her--personality theory, neurology, biology. I remember and appreciate the friends I had through high school, and I don't especially miss the friendship opportunities I passed over.
I'd tell myself to take French I my freshman year, but it's just so I could discover my love of learning languages a year earlier. My college didn't offer French, and I'm awfully glad I went there so I didn't miss out on much. Hebrew, Greek, Akkadian, and Ugaritic didn't suffer from a lack of French grammar and vocabulary. (Actually, fluency might be helpful for the last two because the earliest grammars are written in French, but I'm still pretty sure one more year of high school French wouldn't have helped.)
I might tell myself to try out for cheerleading freshman year. I'm still not sure I would have been athletic enough to do all four years, but I would have had a better shot. And it sounds much cooler to have cheered in high school than to have cheered in grade school. But I wouldn't have played Field Hockey and that sounds pretty cool too. (I was horrible, but...)
I'm glad I didn't date. I have regrets from my first two boyfriends (which did occur in my teenage years--the college part of it), but I didn't screw myself up too badly, and I deeply adore my husband--a relationship product of my 20s. I wish I had been a little bit less concerned about dating, more interested in figuring out teenage boys as people. But that too is a maturity thing that I just can't ask my teenaged self to achieve.
I'd tell myself to whine less. But then my teenaged self would say "Pot, meet kettle!" And I'd say, "Oh, snap!"
The overall impression I get from my teenage years is anticipation--the gathering of experiences and growing up that would find fruition in college. I choose to remember my high school years as those of a late bloomer. The work that was being done under the surface--foundations for lifelong friendships, learning about my parents as people, life skills that I never seem to acquire enough of--all happened quietly with little intervention on my part whether of high school age or retrospective.
And while I can't claim that high school was the best time of my life, I can tell my (future) children that the teenage years happen and whether they are great or not, they're worthwhile.