A Conversation With My 16 Year Old Self
This summer, one of my cousins had this great idea for her daughter's 16th birthday. She asked her family and friends to write her daughter a letter. The letter had to address two things. The first thing was what you wished someone had told you at 16 and the second, was advice to a brand new 16 year old. When I first saw the request, my mind went bonkers. What would be the most important thing I could share? After all, it had been decades and lot of life experiences since I was 16.
Of course, I waited until the day before her birthday to actually sit down and write something. I tried to keep it short. But, what do you say to a 16 year old without raining on her parade? Or, without sounding like 'life is a box of chocolates' sappy about the future? We all know there will be trials. I know I had so many I couldn't even bear to start counting. But, the good thing is, I got through them. Most of us get through them. And, the other thing, would I have listened if anyone had given me the play by play book to succeed in life? Ah, probably not.
Well, I could tell you what I wrote her, but my imagination kicked in, and I decided to play act the whole thing instead. So here's my version of my conversation with my 16 year old me!
OLD ME: Dilsa, Dilsa, Dilsa. You are a very talented young woman. And what's so great is that you have so many talents. But, the problem is, you have so many talents you are scattered. Have you given any thought to what you would like to do with your life?
16 YR OLD ME: I want to dance.
OLD ME: Okay, you are good at that.
16 YR OLD ME: No, I want to be an artist.
OLD ME: Yes, you are a very talented artist.
16 YR OLD ME: No, wait. I like to tell stories. I want to write. I want to become a writer. No, no. Maybe a singer.
OLD ME: I have heard you sing. You can carry a good tune.
16 YR OLD ME: No, an actress. I'm creative. I have a creative soul.
OLD ME: Hmmm. Sounds to me like you a scattered soul. See what I mean. Out of all those things, what is it that stops time for you? What is it that you really, really love to do, can't live without?
16 YR OLD ME: I don't know.
OLD ME: Think about it. How do you feel when you do each of these things? What makes you the happiest?
16 YR OLD ME: When I dance I create stories in mind. The same thing when I paint and draw. I see a story setting that I’m painting for. And, when I sing, I see the song’s story really clear and I can actually feel the emotions of the song.
OLD ME: Sounds like a trend or pattern going on. Don’t you think? Storytelling. Why don’t you focus on storytelling?
16 YR OLD ME: Not a lot of storytellers make a lot of money. I mean not all writers are like Stephen King and Barbara Taylor Bradford. Most writers are like most artists, poor, broke and hungry.
OLD ME: Where did you get that idea?
16 YR OLD ME: My parents mostly. They think of the artistic type as loose, druggies, poor, broke, and well just not something not to aspire to.
OLD ME: And what do they want you to be?
16 YR OLD ME: An accountant or a teacher. Something like that.
OLD ME: I know you don’t want to disappoint your family, but what do you want to do?
16 YR OLD ME: I know I don’t want to be stuck in a room filled with kids all day, that’s for sure. I would go insane. And even though I’m good with numbers and stuff, accounting is BORING.
OLD ME: Can I give you some advice?
16 YR OLD ME: Sure.
OLD ME: Listen carefully. This may make the difference between being happy and successful, or broke and poor-spirited, okay?
16 YR OLD ME: Okay.
OLD ME: Number One. Follow your dreams. If writing or anything else you choose stops time, or eliminates time from your perspective, HOLD onto it. Now when I say stops time, I mean when you get so caught up in what you are doing in that moment, that time becomes irrelevant, you have found something that sparks your soul. You have found something that you love.
Number Two. It’s real important that you remember this. You can’t make other people happy by not following your dream. You are afraid you are going to disappoint your family. I get that. But, their disappointment won’t begin to cause the emptiness inside you that your own disappointment will. You have to ask yourself, which would you rather live with?
Number Three. Beware of empty spaces. Yes, there will be an emptiness created, a void, that life will do its best to fill with something if you don’t follow your dream. Just like a weed fills the empty crack in the sidewalk, life will try to replace your joy with something else. That something else can pose a real danger to you. It could be something really bad or something that is just as bad for you. Some people fill voids with alcohol, drugs, or the wrong, negative people. Others fill those voids hiding behind their work becoming workaholics. So AVOID the VOID. Follow your dream.
Number Four. Stay focused on your dream and prepare for it. A wise man and many after him said in so many ways, you become what you think about. So you should stay focused, think about writing, learning as much as can about writing, and then write, write, write. The world will unfold a writing career just for you. Be careful though, you will have to make a decision on the kind of writing you want to do, or the universe will decide for you.
For instance, I have said so many times I can’t count, that I want to write for a living from home. So guess what I do, I write policies, operations manuals, and twenty million emails a day from home, that is when I am not on the road to do the same. It occurred to me a couple of years ago, my dream of becoming a writer was actually fulfilled. Just not exactly how I imagined it when I was your age, because I really had no focus on what kind of writer I wanted to be. So whether you want to write stories, become a journalist, or a blogger, stay focused in that direction; and never stop being prepared for the opportunity to write.
Number Five. Last but not least, and probably the most important tip I can give you. Always listen to that still small voice inside you. For it is your guide to great things. Hang in there kid.
Happy Belated 16th Birthday to My 16 Year Old Self!!!