Ah. Sweet 16. This is actually me at 16 (summer of 2012), looking full of angst and contempt for the universe as many of us sometimes were. The days when a scornful attitude was a daily norm.
In one month, I will be celebrating my 21st birthday. This means that when I turn 21, it will have been FIVE years since I was 16. A lot happens in five years, and so much change occurs. Life is 100% different now. I thought it necessary to vocalize 16 tips I would give my 16-year-old self knowing what I know now about life. I hope you find many of these relatable, and I hope I inspire you to think about how far you have come as well.
1. Mom is right. (Dad is, too.) I know you don’t want to admit it out loud, and you don’t have to. But you need to trust that she’s probably right. Listen, don’t just hear. You’ll mess up a few more times and then it’ll finally hit you. Her experience and wisdom will astound you. She knows and can predict everything. But stay true to yourself while taking her advice into account. Do your thing, but please listen to her perspective first.
2. Don’t take your sister and brother for granted. They look up to you, admire you, and love you. Treat them with the love and respect that you feel for them deep down, even though they push your buttons sometimes. Don’t go to bed angry. When you fight, fix it. You are lucky to have siblings, especially ones as great as yours.
3. Find new friends when you need them. Move on. If they don’t respect you and if they find you to be not worth their time or effort, leave. It’s as simple as that, really. Stay with the friends who love you for who you are, who have your back unconditionally, and who don’t tear you down. Keep the friends who are there for you not just when things are easy. Keep the friends who you have those deep, tearful belly laughs with. Life’s too short to be spent with dreadful people. Stop wasting energy on them. Rise above.
4. You weren’t going to marry him. People and situations change. Break-ups are awful. Everyone’s been through it, and everyone knows it absolutely sucks. Take some time to cry, then get back to life. Wipe your tears, then stand up tall. Face the world with everything you offer it. There are so many other people out there, seriously. You’ll be in love again someday. Tip: Relationships will generally get better the older you are.
5. Face your driving anxiety. In a few years, a viral internet meme will come out featuring Shia LaBeouf yelling at you to, “just do it.” That’s the advice you need to take. You won’t get over it unless you keep practicing and making yourself get out there on the road. Driving can be scary sometimes and car accidents do happen, but anything could happen to anyone at any time. You’ll just have to be careful, be smart, be aware, and have faith. People drive every single day, multiple times a day. You’ll be fine.
6. Apply yourself in school. You’re so much smarter than the grades on your report card. Keep asking questions and keep up your curiosity about the world. You have a natural eagerness to learn. With just a little more push, your C’s could be B’s and your B’s could be A’s. Especially in the homework realm; please just do your damn homework. It’s the easiest part of the grade. You’re going to wish assignments were graded by completion when you get to college. (Yes, you’ll get into college!)
7. You can live with your illness. It’s completely manageable and not the end of the world. But you must take your medicine every time and listen to your body. It will tell you when things aren’t right or when you need something. Eat right, sleep well, and be mindful of choices you make that won’t sit well with your body. Yet always remember that the illness doesn’t own or define you; you own and define yourself.
8. Keep singing in the shower. Everyone sort of has a thing or two that keeps them sane. Music is one of those things for you. Since you were a very young one, music has moved you and has proven to be therapeutic. Music is a highly dependable friend. It is a healthy outlet. Use it to release, instead of keeping emotion pent up inside or taking it out on others. Sing, blast some music and dance around like a lunatic in your room, or go look up a song to teach yourself on the piano. When that voice in your head says, “I want to listen to music,” do it. There’s probably a reason you want to.
9. Looks only take you so far. It’s cliché, but true. Someday, the girls who are really pretty but are awful, nasty people are not going to be cool anymore. Once high school is over, pretty much everyone is tired of those girls. They will be left behind, and they won’t know what hit them. They'll have friends for sure, but they won't be your kind of crowd anyway. Be yourself all the time. Be kind, be honest, be funny, be smart, and look pretty. That’s the killer combination. Knock ‘em dead.
10. Follow your passions. Don’t do things just because people will think they're cool, or so you can get someone’s attention (i.e. the hot guy in class). That isn’t being true to yourself. Think about it this way: Once you get the attention you’re desiring, then what? Now you’re stuck participating in this activity, club, or endeavor without any genuine interest. That will feel depressing after a while. Worse: What if Hot Guy is impressed that you did that thing? Cool, you got something you initially wanted. But again, you’re now stuck in something you don’t truly like doing, and he’s not seeing the real you. It’s all kind of a lie. Don't be Sandy.
11. Not everyone needs to know your life story. You talk a lot, and it’s good to be a talker. I know you have no problem opening up to people, but sometimes it’s good to hold back. Hold certain things close to your chest until you’re sure that this person should know and deserves to know. You also don’t want sensitive information ending up in the wrong person’s hands. Leave some mystery. Leave some room for a trusting friendship/relationship to develop and grow. Don't wear your heart on your sleeve in the first conversation.
12. Stop obsessing over your body. Accept those tiny imperfections you cannot change. Always remember that some girls would kill for your figure, for your little feet, or for your blue eyes. Love yourself, but don’t be egotistical. Know where that fine line between the two lies. And again, how your body or appearance is means absolutely nothing when compared with who you really are. Just be a good person, and people won’t even notice the insignificant faults (that only you see, by the way, because everyone is their own harshest critic). And anyway, those who matter don’t mind while those who mind don’t matter.
13. Thank people when they do something for you. Especially if they go out of their way to do it and even if it’s the smallest of favors. I know you care and appreciate when people do things for you, but it’s courteous and kind to take an extra step and personally thank them. It’s a very mature, adult skill and you will impress people when you take time to thank them. Write a note or an email, or pull them aside right in person.
14. Leave your comfort zone every now and then. Don’t push it, but don’t skip out on every opportunity that comes your way. It’s rare that you will regret taking a chance on something new. The worst thing that could happen is you’d say at the end of it, “It wasn’t that great. I probably won’t do it again.” It’s so much better to know that you don’t like something, rather than sit and wonder your whole life. Regret....That’s a horrible, pesky feeling.
15. Have patience and faith. Many of the most incredible things in life happen when you just sit back, relax, and wait. Sometimes, things work out on their own time without much human intervention. Whether the other force is God, another higher power, fate, or actually another person, you’ll find yourself in situations where you made the last move, the ball is in another’s court, and you just need to be patient. I know “patience” isn’t in your vocabulary, but you need to practice it. Good things come when you do this, I swear.
16. Soak up every second of 16. You’ll realize one day that age 16 was not the best time, but it was a time when you had fewer responsibilities and a carefree spirit that knew no bounds. Life was less complicated. At 16, you aren’t yet hardened by the world and you're filled with more wonder than ever. Enjoy being 16, because it goes fast. Really fast.
Cheers to 16.
HC XOXO, Annie
Claire Graham is a sophomore majoring in Biology here at USFSP. She chose to come to USFSP because of the small class sizes and to be near the beach and the water. She used to want to be a physician, but now she realizes that she is much more interested in “working with communities to find solutions to public health issues such as hunger.” She changed her mind when she started a chapter of the Food Recovery Network on campus. She is not only the founder, but also the president of the Food Recovery Club.
(Claire Graham, Founder and President)
When asked what inspired her to start a chapter/club here on campus, she replied, “I learned about our parent organization, Food Recovery Network, from a sustainability conference called AASHE and knew right away I wanted to start a chapter at our school. With the help of Keairra Trimble, our VP, and Byron Baugh, our Secretary, the process of starting a new club has been pretty smooth and enjoyable. Our club adviser, Brian Pullen, was a huge help throughout the process too.”
(Vice President Keairra Trimble and Volunteer Mick Meilus)
The Food Recovery Club is a great organization to be involved in, and they meet every Tuesday and Thursday at 8:45 P.M. to collect leftover, unserved food from the Reef.
“With the help of our volunteers, we package the food and take it to ALPHA House, a women and children’s center about a mile [and] a half away from school. The whole process takes less than forty-five minutes! Since we started collecting food last January, we have donated over 500 pounds of food. All of this food was diverted from being thrown away! Each recovery [meeting], we get anywhere from 30 to 50 pounds of food,” Graham said.
Claire plans to add more days to meet to gather even more food to donate. The club continues to grow, but they still need as many volunteers as they can get. One of their goals is to collect all unserved food from the Reef. Eventually they hope to have enough food to donate to even more locations and shelters.
(Secratary Byron Baugh)
Claire continued to talk about what the club has done for her and how it feels to know she is making a difference.
“It’s been so rewarding to see how much food we could collect for donation,” she continued, “It has a great and simple way to give back to our community! I love that together, we are finding sustainable solutions to issues in our local community. Food recovery is a simple and easy way to help fight hunger while also reducing food waste on campus.”
If anyone is interested in joining or helping out, Claire said that, “If anyone is interested in volunteering for a food recovery can email me at [email protected] or Keairra Trimble at [email protected]. We are also having a meeting this Wednesday, March 29th, at 2:00 P.M. in the Butterfly Garden, right across from the USC to discuss our semester goals and projects. Anyone is welcome!”