When I was in high school, I picked up the nickname “AmyCakes.” I think it was my art teacher, Mr. Meyers, who started calling me this, and I never did get up the courage (I was a timid thing) to ask him why he called me that. But the moniker caught on. I liked to think that he had noticed how sweet I was . . . but maybe it was because he thought me awfully cloying, or . . . crummy . . . or something entirely different. Now that I’m a grown-up I can look back at that girl who wasn’t brave enough to ask a simple question, and give her a little advice. I don’t know if the young Amy would have listened to these bits of advice. But at the risk of being accused of being a self-absorbed narcissist, here goes:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! You have a healthy curiosity and your brain is a sponge right now. You have unlimited potential, and nothing is holding you back but your own silly timid self. You are so afraid of looking like a fool . . . but now’s the time to ask, and ask, and ask! Don’t shut down that curiosity just to blend in. (And that brings me to the next point:)
2. For Pete’s sake, girl, don’t sweat over what people think of you! Don’t live your days in fear over looking silly, or dumb, or foolish, or unfashionable. Everybody has an opinion, it’s true, but those opinions should never dictate the course of a single hour of your day. Trust yourself! Trust your common sense and your own observations, rather than living in fear of the opinions of others. It honestly doesn’t matter what somebody else might think of you. You don’t believe me, but it’s true. Just be yourself and turn the other cheek to those who may not like it.
3. “Seek first His Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you as well. . . . do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33, 34) You’ll thank me for this advice someday, if you seek God first every single day. Trust me on this.
4. Amycakes, you don’t have to do everything. You can say no. You know that you are most interested in a few areas: art, music, writing, and theatre. Focus your youthful energy on learning about and developing in these areas, and cut out the rest. These are the things that you’ll spend the rest of your life working on, and longing for. It’s true that your favorite teachers and treasured friends will push and pull you to add lots of other things to your schedule: pep club, track club, basketball, yearbook committee, etc., but you must resist! Your time as a youngster is not unlimited. You don’t have to do it all.
5. Value your family more. They should not be at the periphery of your life, no matter what the pressures of life suggest. Friends are important, but you’ll be blessed by your family, if you have a good one (and you do!) for the rest of your life. Your friends, in general, will move off to their own lives and you’ll make new ones, but your family will always be there for you. Enjoy spending time with your little brother and little sisters, because they won’t be little forever. Play with them. Take the time to develop lasting relationships with them. Allow your parents to teach you those things that they know so well, and that they want to teach you so badly. (By the way, Amy, if you heed #4 above, you’ll have more time for this).
6. Enjoy being a kid! Everybody over the age of, oh, twenty-five will tell you this, and that’s because it’s good advice! The childhood years–while you are safe under your parents’ roof, with your brothers and sisters all together with you–are painfully brief. You think they’ll last forever, but they won’t. Enjoy this brief period, knowing that when it’s over and you’re a grown-up making your own grown-up plans and grown-up decisions (not to mention grown-up mistakes!) there will be a part of you that will long for your childhood again every day of your life. Savor your childhood. Don’t be in such a rush to grow up.
7. One last thing. Enjoy that long shiny golden hair. Appreciate the soft, unblemished skin and the firm neck and the strong muscles. I won’t tell you why, it might only depress you. Someday you’ll understand.
Do you have a list of things that you would tell your childhood self? I’d love to hear some of these things from you, if you care to make a comment in the box below.
- An afternoon with the U.S. Poet Laureate: Ted Kooser–my new BFF*
- Everything that was old is new again: Romertopf cooking