Four Words to Your 17 Year Old Self

Good morning!
What would you say to your 17 year old self if you could?

Four words.
Just 4 easy words.

For me, I would say:

“People aren’t that bad”
“Life is very fluid”
“Don’t be so judgmental”
“Force yourself to connect”
“Let yourself love others”

The day I turned 17, December of my junior year in high school, I thought my entire life was planned out.
I knew my path.
I knew who I was.
I knew who I was going to be.
I was a planner and a mapper.
I was detail oriented.
College focused.
I was going to get a PH.D. in developmental psychology and eventually own my own chain of unique early childcare centers.
I had a full 20 page business model written out. I had numbers. Numbers are comforting. Numbers don’t bite.
It was the one thing my sights were set on, and anyone who knows me even now knows that when I dedicate myself to something, I give 200% to the cause…even to the point of ferocious tunnel vision.

Only difference then, I didn’t realize how deeply the social relationship component factored into life success, happiness and contentment.
At 17, I had the same small set of 2-3 friends that I had since kindergarten.
I didn’t reach further.
I used them as a crutch, smothered them, and didn’t reach for more.
I hated people in general.
I was judgmental.


Who needs people anyway?

There’s such a fine line between American independence and despondency.

And then a series of 5 deaths, losses, poor decisions and life twists over the next 16 months landed me into a black pit that I would not escape from for 5 more years when I finally met Kevin.

And now, that girl, my 17 year old self, is dead. (Probably a good thing because she would have voted for Trump without a second thought).

Nowadays my view of people is far different.
My view of friendships and life is far far different, far more accepting.

I actually enjoy getting to know a variety of life stories, seeing what makes others tick and why. And life mistakes / rejection (which I still encounter routinely) doesn’t phase me nearly as much because something new and fascinating is always just right around the corner.

Self-preservation instinct is weird. It’s easy to get confused and shun connection because of potential imagined pain that can arise from letting ourselves care in abundance. But in doing so we only harm ourselves and lose out on the numerous good memories that make life actually worth living.

Ten years from now my oldest will be 17. Evan, Samantha, Marshall, Juli…they will all pass through their own moment of being “17”.

The “17” moment when their own story starts to etch itself upon their core, forming who they will ultimately become.

Your kids will too.

I wish I could save my children from the ripping, soul baring, tumultuous process of “growing up”. Yet at the same time I realize that’s what makes our stories all unique.

Because everyone must eventually craft their own
“4 words”.

I asked my 68 year old father, Jack, what his words would be.

“Don’t eat yellow snow!” he replied.

Published by Lisa Cole

Lisa Cole is a freelance writer and social media specialist skilled in non-profit marketing and grass roots advertising. This mother of four weaves humor, emotion and depth into stories about parenthood and life in the American South.

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