Today's guest post comes from a rockstar friend of mine named Stephanie. We all wish we could travel back in time, sometimes, and slap ourselves in the face with the reality of how our lives and our dreams are going to pan out in just a few years. The advice that Stephanie writes about is perfect for someone 14 or 24. I hope you enjoy this!
I recently spoke on a panel to a group of high school freshman and one of the questions asked has kept me thinking…
What would you tell your 14 year old self?
1. Stay curious. You’ve always asked questions and been interested in learning. That hunger for knowledge will take you far in life and truly become a part of your identity – a #studentalways you will forever be.
2. I know how much you miss Grandma. You had her for 14 wonderful years and while the break in your heart following her death hurts now more than you thought possible, it will get easier to go through life without her. Take the lessons she taught you and live a bold life that she would be proud of. (You may not understand all her lessons, but give it a few years and you’ll know exactly when to take her advice. For example, when she tells your older cousins to put one foot on the ground when the room is spinning as you go to sleep. Grams owned a tavern near Midway Airport with an attached liquor store. If anybody knows what she’s talking about, it’s Grandma.)
3. While we’re talking about Grams, you are very lucky that she set some money aside, which you, Mom and Jennifer will use to visit Paris with Auntie Diane. You haven’t even opened your first French textbook yet and you’re getting to see the text, photos and culture come to life firsthand. Maintain that interest to see the world. Keep traveling and discovering.
4. Keep dancing. I know you set your dance shoes aside for a few years to focus on sports (not gonna lie – one of your worst ideas, it’s not like a WNBA career was ever in the cards, but hey – you can’t win ‘em all). You will find yourself coming alive as you dance in musicals throughout grammar school/high school and at college you’ll meet some of the greatest girls through the dance team you practically talk your way onto. I mean, who lets a girl on a dance team who can’t even do the splits? Subpar skills aside, you will thankfully see joining the team as a turning point in your college career where you finally start to feel like you belong and getting the opportunity to dance like no one’s watching will be a mantra you live out in the studio, on stage, out on the town and, believe me, even just on the street.
5. Your first kiss will come soon. I know you may feel like a late bloomer when it comes to boys, but you just have to wait one more year and I promise you – the setting will make it worth the wait. I hate to spill the surprise, but you’ll be backstage during intermission at one of the musicals you’re performing in. (As a girl who has been on the stage since age 5 it doesn’t get much better than that, does it?) While the boy will be a babe, I need to manage your expectations just a bit. The kiss will be terrible, but that’s okay. Give it some time because you’ll come to learn a few years later (and after kissing a few frogs) kissing is in fact better than breathing.
6. You will fall in love. And the really good kind of love, my friend. It may take some time to realize it’s love you’re falling into, but there will be a day when you’re doing something really important and you realize how much you wish he were there to experience it with you. You will have ups and downs and ultimately, while you will fall out of your first love, you will look back at the butterflies, the dates, the inside jokes and the kisses, and remind yourself that you can have it all again. It won’t happen right away and you may often feel like the odd woman out, but you have to trust that the right guy will come along for you at a time when you’re ready for him. Your parents will continue to be your guiding light of what it means to be in love. And your siblings will follow suit choosing the best partners for them on their journey of marriage.
7. That all-girl high school education you’ve just begun will be one of the best stepping stones of your life. The confidence you gain in the classroom and in that auditorium will transfer directly to the career path you choose and make you a smarter person overall. You will take that girl power mentality to a company one day that embraces and celebrates it daily.
8. There’s this thing that will come along called social media and it will change your life for the better. Through it you will meet some of your closest friends and you will network with leaders in your industry. You will use it to find jobs and to stay in touch with friends far away. You will find an avenue that allows you to share your writing and connect on such unique levels with people all over the world.
9. You will be a girls’ girl. Sure, you’ll make some guy friends here and there, but the quantity of amazing girls you will surround yourself with will be staggering. Your friendships will grow and change in the coming years, but you know those girls who mean so much to you now? I’ve got good news about those keepers. You will live with them in college. You will attend their weddings. You will be in their weddings. You may not keep in touch as often as you do now, but you will be able to pick right back up with them as if no time has elapsed at all. You will continue to find more “keepers” as the years go by with a special place for each of them in your life.
10. You may think your parents are invincible, but Daddy (and the family) will experience something you wouldn’t wish on an enemy. Be brave. Stay positive. You will all come out stronger than ever.
11. While you may be so full of questions now, people will eventually turn to you to ask questions. You will be invited to speak on your college campus about your job, how you got there and how others can do the same. You’ll talk of paying it forward and how grateful you are for mentors who guided your way. These students will take your advice and apply it to their lives. (How cool, right?) You will spend countless hours on the phone mentoring, which will benefit you greatly too. Even on the days when you’re tired or your To Do List appears to go on forever, take time for these students. You’ll be grateful you did.
12. There’s going to come a time when you’re in a serious funk. You will think a lot about how to extract yourself from said funk – turning to those closest to you and receiving very important advice. Ultimately you will decide to trash the decorations you’ve practically been putting on the walls of your comfort zone and break the @&%$ out. You will move to New York City and you will thrive. I know it sounds crazy, but you will see how some of the scariest challenges we put before us can bring out the best in us. You will face your fears head on – not taking no for an answer and proving that you have what it takes.
13. Your sister will become your best friend. Granted, you’ve always been close, but your relationship will grow exponentially. You will make some mistakes, but she will give you second chances because she is a loyal and forgiving person. You will realize how truly wonderful of a sister she is to you and how you need to step up your sister game. She will look after you and she will blaze a trail you can only strive, in your own way, to emulate.
14. That ambition you have? Keep it up, homegirl. You’ll eventually take on another mantra: “Ambition is enthusiasm with a purpose.” You’ll find a variety of outlets in which to pour your enthusiasm. Never lose that drive, but check in with yourself from time to time. Ensure you are making decisions for you and while you’ll want to do everything, recognize that it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Put simply, you’ve got a lot of life ahead of you girlfriend. Take a chance even if you think you might fail. You’ll land on your feet and worst case scenario? You’ll learn something. Keep those lessons with you and share them with the people around you. Speaking of, do your best to bring people together – make introductions, make people feel comfortable, make people get to know the real you and bring out the real them in the process.
Stephanie Florence is a 20-something who can talk to a brick wall and dance to a kazoo. She contributes to the 40:20 Vision and on every day that ends in “y” you can find Stephanie meeting people, telling exceedingly long stories and taking the approach of a student…always. Find her dancing around New York City in her personalized Chuck Taylors, complete with her Twitter handle: @StephanieFlo.