I love reading YA for many reasons. If you love YA too, then you probably share some of those reasons with me. But I'll let you in on a secret. One of the reasons I love YA so much is because I'd like a do-over. You know how people are always saying that they would "never go back"to high school? Yeah, well I would. In a heartbeat. Because I was a mess as a teenager. I know we all feel that way, but in my case, I think there's more fact than fiction. Even if my memories are coloured by my adult experience, when I look back, I shudder at the way I treated some people, my lack of loyalty, and my intense need to fit in that was in direct contrast to my "I don't care" attitude.
The grown-up part of me has compassion for the whirling vortex of emotions and insecurity that likely contributed to my poor choices. And I had some demons in the closet that I was fighting hard to keep hidden, but I'm not trying to make excuses. What's done is done and I'm proud of the way I changed and developed as an adult. But would I go back and do it all again? Hell yes. But only knowing what I know now. Which is the problem, right? Hindsight is 20/20 and the mistakes I made were the ones that led me to be the person I am today, regardless of how much I wish things were different. Which is probably why I enjoy reading the stories of other teenagers who are struggling to get it right the first time because, well, misery loves company. There's a story idea I've been kicking around for awhile with this theme. I'm still working out the kinks, but I wanted to share my list of things I'd do differently if I could do it all again.
1. Friends: I'm pretty sure I was a mean girl. But not the most popular, prettiest girl in school version of the mean girl (i.e., Regina George). More like the girl who was just trying to stay close to the inner circle and who feared rejection so much that she climbed the ladder, occasionally stepping on the heads of those she left behind (i.e., Gretchen Wieners). If I had a second chance, I'd spend more time thinking about being a good friend and spending time with friends I trusted.
2. School: I was smart. I didn't try. I skipped a lot. In the end I figured out that school was something I really liked, but it took me a long time to get there. I wish I'd appreciated learning for learning's sake and cultivated some study habits. It took me years to stop cramming and procrastinating (actually, I still do that).
3. Self-Esteem: Recently, I heard a friend describe a young person as self-possessed. I was the opposite of that. My neuroses had neuroses. And I spent a lot of time trying to be someone other people would like instead of trying to figure out who I wanted to be. That came later. In my second time around, I'd experiment more with my identity, take more risks, try more things. I would care less about what was cool and care more about what interested me.
4. Sports: I was a very active kid and then a very inactive, unfit teenager. I rediscovered my love of exercise as an adult, but sometimes I yearn to know what my young, strong body might have been capable of if I hadn't stuffed it full of Wendy's burgers, cigarettes, and alcohol in my teenage years. I wonder what would have happened if I had kept dancing or stayed on the swim team.
5. Boys: I'm sure I'm not alone here. I wish I had known more about what I wanted from boys. I wish I hadn't been so ashamed of my sexuality that I shamed others for theirs. I wish I had paid attention to the boys I liked, but thought were "too nice" to find out what that really meant. And I wish I hadn't spent the formative part of my adolescence in love with a boy who didn't deserve my affection or adoration.
Your turn. Would you go back? What would you do differently the second time around?