Something many of you may or may not know: I’m a youth educator. I go into middle and high schools and talk about sexual violence prevention. And as unappetizing or appealing it may sound, it’s actually very rewarding, and 99% of the responses from these kids is positive. I walk away every single day knowing I’ve delivered information that has made an impact on them.
However, something I’ve been thinking about since I’ve been going into schools, particularly high schools, is how much I was like them when I was in high school. It doesn’t matter the school district, the type of classroom, even the type of student—I find myself relating directly with every single one of them. Unfortunately, this often leads to lots of memories of high school that I had kept buried, but it’s also lead to another feeling—a feeling of regret. Mostly, when the students mention stories or incidents, and it makes me wish desperately to give them advice, to let them know that things will change, and most importantly that high school isn’t everything.
So in keeping with that thought process, I’ve decided to make a list of all the things I wish people had told me when I was 16, and that I wish I would have listened to (in case someone DID tell me). But I want this to respective of everyone’s experience—having discussed this idea with Alex, he, himself, had several things that he wanted to add to this list. So, if you feel like there’s something I missed—or something you wish someone had told you, please feel free to add.
What I Wish Someone Had Told Me When I was 16
1. I wish someone had told me that having sex with someone does not equal love. It will not mean you love them, and it will not mean they will love you.
2. I wish someone had told me that my race and my sex will be apparent everywhere. That even at the young, tender age of 24, I would experience racism and sexism on a regular basis. I wish someone had told me to look out for it earlier.
3. I wish someone had told me that high school, in the long run, doesn’t really matter. That I wouldn’t be talking to 99% of the people after graduating, that the events that happen there will not result in nearly as much pure happiness or pain as the events to come. I’m sure this statement will be true in 50 years—that I have not yet experienced as much pain or pleasure as I can still.
4. I wish someone had let me experience of being a icon of beauty that wasn’t white, thin, blonde haired, blue eyed. While I believed that wasn’t an icon of beauty when I was in high school, they are still the standards I live up to.
5. I wish someone had told me to really work hard to keep the people that matter. I’m no good at that all.
6. I wish someone had told me that everyone has ultimate potential—that the people who will make the most difference in your life do not have to be pseudo-intelligent/creative bullshit assholes. That I am BETTER than that.
7. I wish someone had explained what consent was. I wish someone had explained what to do when you are in a dangerous situation—how to get help if you’re sexually assaulted or in an unhealthy relationships or anything (how can Manhattan High NOT have a program like this? I am baffled.)
8. I wish someone had told me to be more patient.
9. I wish someone had told me that my definition of love or friendship or anything was completely wrong (although, that’s not necessarily true—I simply did not have all the information yet to make a more correct definition).
10. I wish someone had told me that I have a CHOICE.
11. Eventually, sophomore year in high school will NOT be the most impactful year ever.
This is all I have right now. I’m sure even I will have more things to add at a later time. Please add things if you feel like I’m missing something.