Written by BWi Kickstarter, Mia Wilkinson
At 15, you are suspended between childhood and adulthood. Your mid-teens are a liminal space, your body and mind are changing, yet the world remains the same. You see it all now with new eyes, and you look back on your young self. Do you pity or treasure the child that came before you? What you do not seem to realise at 15, is that in a couple of years, you will feel the very same about the 15-year-old self that you did about your childhood self. You will continue to grow and change, and you will know more than you ever did.
Such is the nature of linear time. You can neither return to visit your previous states of being. But if you could, for instance, hop in a time machine or send out a letter in a bottle on the waves of the ocean of time, what would you like your 15-year-old self to know? What wisdom would you impart?
Don’t sweat the small stuff
The first piece of advice I’d give my 15-year-old self is to not sweat the small stuff. By this I mean I’ve always been a worrier, and at this age where everything felt important, I spent a lot of time concerned with every little thing. I believed the adults around me, especially at my school, were as professional and serious as could be, and that they expected the same of me. Only as I have become an adult myself have I realised this is not the case. Adults and teens are much the same in the fact they are both people, with complexities and flaws, who’re just trying to find their way. You are not doomed to a future of vagabonding through alleyways, in and out of prison, and unsettling every upstanding member of society you meet if you forget to bring a pen to class one day. Trying your best is enough, and your bad grade on your English Literature essay in year 10 will not matter in the slightest 5 years later.
Organisation is key
Never underestimate the importance of organisation. From schoolwork to household tasks, planning how to manage your time makes all the difference. When you don’t, you get stuck in a state of inaction, only carrying out tasks when prompted, either externally or by a sudden remembering of the tasks’ necessity. This is, to say the least, an inefficient method of getting things done.
Though I am proud of most of my GCSE grades achieved, I might have done a little better if I had revised more. I’m fully willing to admit I wasn’t quite sure of how to revise in years 10 and 11 in a way that I could effectively learn and process the content of my studies as well as methods of exam questions, such as essay writing. People learn in different ways, and this can be harder to figure out when people, such as me, have slow processing speed, concentration problems, dyslexia, and many other mental conditions that affect one’s ability to learn and retain information. My advice to my past self would be to experiment; there are many revision and organisational methods at our disposal these days, such as written word, images, audio, and colour coding, and I could’ve found out what works for me much sooner.
People are abundant
As a child, your world is only as big as your town and your school. This begins to expand as you become a teenager and you meet a flood of new people from different towns at secondary school. It can be hard to imagine there are a lot more people left to meet in the future. When you lose a friend at 15, it can feel like you’ve lost all chances of finding a friend again. But someone new always turns up. Whether it be during hobbies or work, online or in-person, there are hundreds of people to meet.
My advice to my younger self would be to not get caught up in who you already know and to always be open to meeting new people. There are many benefits to meeting new people, such as befriending people who share your interests. You can meet people from all kinds of backgrounds, including different ethnicities, nationalities, sexualities, gender, classes, abilities, neurotypes, and so on. I consider expanding your worldview to be extremely important, and understanding, embracing, and accepting other people’s perspectives is essential to understanding people. I also would’ve told my 15-year-old self to start learning languages sooner, as I’m still attempting to learn Spanish at 20.
I’m sure most of us are familiar with the concept of ‘finding yourself. It’s a prominent feature of coming-of-age films and books. This gives teenagers the impression that there is a time limit to figuring out who they are and their place in the world. At 15 I, along with many others, attempted to fit into many archetypes and subcultures as a way of fitting in. It can feel comfortable to slip into groups and use them to define your identity. What I would have told myself back then is to not bother. People are complex, unable to be defined under only one label. Don’t get me wrong, labels do have a significant role in many people’s identities, but it’s best to always leave yourself open to every trait and interest you develop in your lifetime. Don’t be afraid to expand, grow and change. Don’t force your identity, let it play out naturally.
I would also tell myself to figure out and embrace what I’m good at. When you ask someone what they’re good at, many people pause and panic and don’t know how to answer. Your skills are very helpful in finding new hobbies and jobs, and it gives you a better chance at enjoying what you do. This way you won’t be as insecure and low on self-esteem. Everyone’s good at something and finding out what that is, helps you to understand yourself better. At 15 I doubted myself and my abilities, which discouraged me from trying out different things. If I’d given myself a chance back then, I would’ve found much sooner my talents for writing fiction and drawing faces.
In the end, we can’t change the past, and everything that has happened is done with. I don’t blame my 15-year-old self for anything, I know they did the best they could. All we can do is use what we know now to keep moving forward and picking up more knowledge along the way.