NYT Prompt 014: Lessons Learned

Prompt: What have you learned in your teens?

The most important thing I learned as a teenager was actually quite humbling: I should have listened to my parents. Yes, I’m aware of how cliché that sounds, but really it is the truth. Throughout high school and even thus far in college, my father has stressed time and time again that I should be focusing on my grades, rather than my hobbies and video games – and he’s right. While I was worried about the latest Pokémon, he was thinking about scholarships. Now that I’ve met the same fate of many American college students (that is, student debt), I find myself wishing that I’d taken his words to heart. Seriously, student loans are no fun but I’ve gotta pay the school and my bills (and yes, I do work).

Believe it or not, I also learned that, contrary to popular belief, teen-aged me did not know everything. That was a real shocker to absorb. Like every angsty teenager, I wanted to think I was brilliant and that I knew what was best for me, so I spent my time buried in World of Warcraft instead of working on my future. Rather than work on writing novels, I role-played via MUDs (talk about nostalgia, right?). While this helped me hone my craft, there is little to show for it. I even pushed aside my love of reading because I thought that this was the time to chase boys – talk about making mistakes!

Another startling fact I learned was that hindsight is, as they say, always 20/20. I cannot go back in time and change my poor decisions, and as a result I must live with them. Burned bridges, badly made choices, those are the scars I must bear for the remainder of my life. There’s hardly a day that goes by where I don’t wish I could simply travel back in time and correct something I did wrong: do something differently.

In stark contrast to that lesson, I also learned that it is these choices, these decisions, that make us who we are, whether they are good or bad. I used to have a horrid temper and I was interested in the wrong boys. My senior year of high school, I experienced my first heartbreak. I fell in love with a boy in Utah that I met through World of Warcraft and I fell hard. So much so that I actually dropped a good forty pounds out of fear of disgusting him with my weight. It ended badly, and was the first of a long string of bad relationship choices that have completely and utterly destroyed my trust in others. Through these relationships, I’ve finally learned to put myself first and focus on my own needs and desires. Also, my temper has improved greatly. I rarely raise my voice anymore.

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