As my own 13 year old enters the 8th grade, I think about how important EVERYTHING seemed at that age, and how trivial that is to me now.
It doesn’t seem like too long ago that I was in his shoes. Although, I think his feet are bigger than mine were at that age. At 13, I thought I knew it all, and I thought I had seen it all. Looking back on it now, of course, that is very much not true.
1. Enjoy it.
Life is short. And the shortest part of it all, is childhood. Before you know it, it’s gone. So please, don’t take it for granted. You’re going to be on this earth for a long time, but you’ll only be doing what you’re doing right now….right now. Enjoy it. Love it. Live it.
2. Life is bigger than this.
I know as a teenager, there are troubles, concerns, worries, and difficulties. Please understand me, I realize that. I know that every issue you go through right now is HUGE in your mind. It consumes you. It’s all you can think about. I get it. But I also know that things get better. I’m not saying you won’t feel any pain or worry. I’m just saying it gets better. I know you are going through issues. I can honestly say, today, I have no idea what they were. I got over it. I moved past it. And when you do get past it, and you have your own children, make sure they know there is nothing in this world more important to you than their happiness. If things are bad, if things have them down, they can always come to you. There is no subject off limits, there is no issue too strong. It’s your job. They’re not alone. EVER.
3. You start to notice girls, and that’s OK.
Who am I kidding? You’re probably way past this point already, but I thought I’d bring it up anyway. For a long time, girls were icky. And that’s OK. As you get older, that changes. Just as a warning though, at 13, the first girl you’ll notice is a year older, and she’ll be assigned to you as a tour guide of the Junior High. You’ll be smitten. In your infinite wisdom, you’ll never say a word to her. EVER. Not that day, not for the next 2 years. 25 years later, that girl is one of the most bizarre housewives on The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I’m not saying it’s because of you, but it is a remarkable coincidence. In other words, don’t stake your future on girls you meet now. They may not grow into what you think they will. Remember, you’re spending the rest of your life with the woman she’ll become, not the girl she is today. This is heretofore known as, the Miley Cyrus clause.
4. Make good friends.
I know it’s shocking to hear, but they say you make your lifelong friends in college or later. In other words, chances are, the people you call friends now may not be the people you are hanging out with in 20 years. Seriously, most of the people you see every day for the next 5 years will be out of your life forever after that, unless you are intentional about holding on to them. So, choose your friends wisely. Who are the ones you’ll still talk to at 23? Who are the ones that are positive influences in your life? More than likely, you haven’t met them yet.
5. Define your goals.
A great man once said, “A man whose course is set to nowhere, is bound to get there,” or something like that. In other words, if you don’t have a plan on how to obtain everything you want to achieve, then how are you supposed to achieve them? Fast forward 5 years. What do you want your next step to be after high school? What do you need to do to get there? Start setting short term goals now, it will make your long term goals more attainable. Once you set your goals, follow through. They say if you want it bad enough, you can achieve anything. That’s only true, if you do the things it takes to achieve it. Wanting and dreaming and wishing will only go as far as hard work. How bad DO you want it?
6. Enjoy your family, even your brother.
Family is the first thing you are given in life, it’s the only thing that can never be taken away from you, and it’s never going away, so you might as well embrace it. Believe it or not, 20 years from now, you’ll look back on your childhood, and your home life, and wish you could be there again, even for just a day. Mom and Dad aren’t going to live forever, neither are grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc. Don’t set yourself up to look back and wish you did more with those closest to you, do it now.
7. School is Not So Bad
Life is a funny thing. We spend our entire childhood looking forward to growing up and taking on more responsibility. Guess what? Responsibility sucks sometimes. Right now, you’ve got it good: free rent, free food, all the video games and television you want. Your biggest concern is that you’re forced to go sit in a building for 7 hours and learn. That’s a pretty sweet gig. Enjoy it. Play all the sports. Do all the extracurricular activities. Get involved. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a niche that will lead to whatever it is you end up doing with the rest of your life. At this age, you’re just as close to Kindergarten as you are to college graduation. You’re halfway there. Bottom line though, don’t blow off school. The average starting salary for a person with a college degree is almost double of someone without one.
Make it a habit now. Life isn’t fair. It will throw you curve balls when you least expect it. Get into the habit of praying now when things aren’t chaotic. Pray and be thankful in the good times, that way, when times are hard, you’re already well practiced.
Lastly, you are now a person who will be held accountable for all their decisions. So please understand this, if you ever dress like Justin Bieber is dressed in that picture at the top of this page, you’re grounded.
What about you, dear readers? What do you wish you would have known at 13? Share in the comments below.