Advice for my 15-year-old self.

Yes, I’m only 23 (24 in 2 weeks!).  No, I’m not in any position to be giving crazy life advice — except maybe to myself.  Betsy and I came across a hilarious chat conversation on AOL Instant Messenger (we were both addicted in high school) between her and a mutual friend, and while we were reading it realized a) how ridiculous the entire conversation was, b) what babies we (and the boy) were, and c) how glad we are that we’re still friends.  Aww.

So here it is: a short, very likely cliche-sounding but very true list of advice I would give my 15-year-old self.  Surely my parents will read this and say, “But we said all those things to you!”  That’s not the point.  I’m not writing this because I would have listened; rather, rest assured that I have learned.

[Betsy and me dorking it up at Universal Studios LA in 2002.]

1. It’s hilarious how much popularity really doesn’t matter in the long run.

First of all, it turns out I have hung out with exactly ONE high school friend in the last year (Betsy excluded, because we lived in different cities and didn’t meet through school), and only two or so the year before that.  And they aren’t who you think they are based on who your friends are now.  All of my high school friendships except with that one person are pretty awkward, because everyone has changed so much.  The funny thing?  The people you’re friends with now are going to stay how they are, and you are not.  Why is that?  Because you weren’t really that much like them to begin with.  This isn’t a better/worse comparison or regrets about who I was friends with — just a little lesson in choosing friends wisely based on who YOU really are.

We use a little thing called Facebook now that’s like AIM on steroids.  It will allow you to stalk almost everyone you could ever want to stalk, including those darn popular kids from high school.  I’m talking pictures, relationships, what they say to their friends…. Guess what?  They aren’t as glamorous as you thought they were. Turns out lots of girls with the “ideal” 15-year-old body (*that sounds creepy) struggle with their weight now.  The fancy rich girls with great clothes?  They would probably trade the things their parents bought them for better relationships with their parents.  The crazy party girls?  Sadly, several people you know or know of will be in rehab in a few years, and a couple will even die from overdoses and drunk driving car accidents.  And even the stories that don’t end tragically still don’t end the way you want your life to look.  Which brings me to….

2. Save close friendships for people who share your values.

This doesn’t necessarily mean faith, although that’s a huge plus because those bonds aren’t easily broken.  What I mean, mostly, is that you should choose to invest most of your energy in friends who have similar goals in the bigger picture of life.  Think about it. If you want to go to college and eventually get married and have kids and your friend thinks she will never go to school and doesn’t really want kids, then in five to ten years you will have virtually nothing in common.  Your friendship won’t have a base to stand on except silly high school stories, and most great relationships just can’t rely on tales that being with “that one time in Mr. Ferney’s ninth grade science class.”  There are people you know right now who you could invest in with a few sacrifices — and when you’re 23, you’ll wish these were the people you could call up when you visit home.

[Slightly more mature in Seattle, 2007.]

3. Don’t date that guy.

First, a disclaimer:  If you are an actual legitimate ex-boyfriend and you are reading this, I don’t regret dating you and you’re a great guy.  However, when I look back on high school under the umbrella term of “dating,” I count a lot of really unfortunate flings in that mix.  Pardon the less-than-flattering, kind of down right mean description, but man I dated a lot of tools.  Here’s some practical, obvious advice: if a guy is unwilling to call you his girlfriend he is not worth your time.  Same goes for if he doesn’t call you when he says he will.  When you are 16 you will meet a guy who buys a long-distance calling card and then kicks people out of his dorm room just to talk to you.  When you are 21, your future husband will stand outside in below-freezing weather trying to get cell service from his parents’ house in the middle of nowhere.  It can be done.  So if anyone you’re hanging out with now can’t find the time to pick up his local cell phone and dial your number, let it go. Just for kicks, here’s some even more obvious practical advice:  if a guy tells you he would rather smoke pot than hang out with you, he’s probably not worth your time.  You laugh (and I laugh!) but really, 15-year-old Brynna (and other girls out there), you will a) not stay friends with this person and b) wish you hadn’t been such an idiot.  Final advice on this topic comes from some hard-hitting, loving words from my dad: “When a guy wants something, he will move mountains to get it.”  This isn’t permission to be a diva (that’s another topic), but ask yourself — what mountains (even small ones) is this guy moving?

4. Do what you love.

You’ve always wanted to be a writer.  You think you aren’t good enough or that you can’t do it.  Pursue it with all your strength.  Find mentors, write all the time, and set goals.  This goes for anything you think you’re good at and enjoy.  Guess why lots of people “don’t make it” in writing, music, and art?  They give up because somewhere along the line they believed that it was too hard, or that they weren’t good enough. You’re going to go to college in a few years and start a major in philosophy pre-law.  Eventually you will change this to English (duh), because that’s what you’ve always been good at.  Don’t try to get fancy, or worry about looking smart, or anything else. Chances are if you’ve been saying you want to be a writer since you were seven, you want to be a writer.  Don’t try to make it more complicated.  And by all means, don’t do something you’re not sure about if it you have to take out a crap load of loans for it (oops).

[Looking wise and supa-fly in 2009.]

In summary, I know you’re finding out who you are right now and if you knew without a doubt who you were you wouldn’t need this advice.  But you do have a good idea of who you are — you know what you’re good at, and you know that you rest in the hands that hold the whole world.  When you’re 23, you’ll be so sure of this that you’ll build your whole life on it according to his grace.  Again, don’t make it so complicated.  Be yourself, find out what’s important to you and do that.

P.S. You’ll meet your husband when you’re 20.  His name is Eric and he’s a stud. It’s probably ok to give up on guys entirely before then.

  • jill

    Love this post Brynna! You just keep getting cooler.

  • Lydia

    Love this

  • ingrid

    i LOVE this :) i think i have written the exact same thing in my journal about friends–wish i would’ve invested my time & friendships differently in hs & parts of college. such is life! now i know :)

    plus, you are a great writer & i really love reading your posts!

  • bets

    it turned out perfectly!
    now please send this to 15 year old betsy as well. love you bruno <3

  • Stephanie

    Great post, Brynna! What wise advise.

  • Jenny

    Provoked lots of thoughts. I’ve sent you a message on facebook…