Five Things I Would Tell My 13-Year-Old Self

By Lila Troum

From January 2018 to March 2018, I kept a journal. Everything that occurred in my life during that period was written down; I expressed what worried me, what excited me, everything. Recently, I found that journal again, and I sat down and read it. I’m 16 now, and things have really changed for me in these three years. For these three years, I’ve learned a lot. My biggest fears at age 13 don’t scare me anymore. Things I was looking forward to happened, and I lived through them, and honestly, some were incredibly disappointing. There are a lot of things I wish I knew in middle school, and I wanted to compile a small list of these things. 

Things always get better

This is actually something that didn’t really sink in until recently. If you’d asked me if I thought things could turn around four months ago, I’d tell you no and I’d probably frown and turn away. Life has a funny way of working, I think, in terms of how it throws situations at you. Sometimes you get pushed to the very bottom of a trench and you feel stuck and hopeless, like things just can’t get better, that you’re in a worst-case scenario situation. Whether this is just because you’re mentally not doing great, or a certain event happened: you’ll always be pushed down one way or another. This position is strenuous and leaves you feeling upset and angry. It feels like things just can’t get better, that this is the worst thing that’s going to happen. Well, that isn’t the case at all it would seem. At age 13, any problem there is probably isn’t going to be the worst thing that happens to you in your entire life. What felt like an end-of-the-world problem my 13-year-old self had seems like nothing to me now, there were problems I had that caused me such stress that I couldn’t even remember until rereading. I wish that my 13-year-old self knew that things do get better, no matter how horrible things seem. It gets better. 

Appreciate what you have while you have it

I think this really hit me when quarantine struck. Nothing is forever, and though at 13 I may have not felt like I had a valuable, deadline ‘thing’ in my life, there are things that I took for granted that I’d kill to have back in my life, something that changed for everyone: the ability to go into school safely, not have to wear a mask everywhere. And also just everything else that comes and goes through your teenage years, appreciate the relationships you have, the friendships you have, the ability to go out in the open and not have to worry about getting COVID! You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, and going forward for me, appreciating the good in my life is something that I need to do more often because things are going to be so different in a few years and I’m going to miss everything that I had, the friends I have now and everything. Focusing on the bad in your life gets you nowhere, appreciate the good because you don’t know how long it’s going to last.

Stop dwelling

One of the issues I really had at 13, that I still seriously have now, is constantly reminiscing/putting myself back into old events. Whether they were good or bad, I mentally took myself there and, more often than not, it made me really upset. This is still something I do today, but I wish I could’ve realized earlier on that I did it because knowing and realizing that I’m doing it encourages me to stop and come back to the present. Living in the past and reminding yourself of the good things that aren’t yours anymore, or the bad things that happened that still make you upset isn’t beneficial in any way. I think that realizing that it’s over, you survived, and you’re still going is something that should just pop-up right in your head when you think about these things. Live in the moment, don’t think about the mistakes you made or the things you said: learn from them. You can’t go back in the past and relive a moment, you can’t change what happened but you can reform those ideas into something that’s ultimately going to make you better and happier. Sadness is a comforting emotion that we sink into when we don’t know what to do, but it doesn’t make anything better. In fact, it does the opposite and pulls you down and you allow yourself to keep reminding yourself of these moments. Move forward, learn from your mistakes and keep going. 

You don’t need a relationship to make you happy

I think if you told me this when I was 13 I would not have believed you. I’m ashamed to admit that I really craved a relationship at 13 and thought it would make my life a million times better and that everything would be great. Something that I’ve noted is that you don’t need someone in your life to be happy. 14-year-old me can look at you and tell you that she was pretty happy without someone, and right now at 16, I’m doing pretty well. Having a healthy relationship is great and all, but being happy and content with yourself is more important than a relationship. I honestly didn’t believe this until recently, but you need to have a healthy, loving relationship with yourself before you can have one with someone else. Being happy and healthy alone is critical to having a good relationship with someone else. Love yourself before you love others. 

Enjoy being 13

At 13 I was a major buzzkill in terms of how on top of everything I was at school. I constantly worried about everything, every little test or quiz, every project was always on my mind and it consumed my life. Not that grades don’t matter, they really do, but remembering to enjoy being a teenager is also important. It’s dawned on me that I’m closer to being (legally) an adult than I am to being 13 again, which is saddening because these are supposed to be great years of my life and before I know it I won’t be a teenager anymore. I constantly looked forward to high school, to getting my license, to getting into college but I think that it’s more important to just enjoy being that young. Enjoy the little things, not having to have a job, not having four different tests in four different classes, all of those things that I didn’t have to deal with then, but now I do. We’re taught to act like adults at such a young age, but I really think it matters to just enjoy being 13. 

All in all, I think just enjoying life is something that needs to be applied to every age. Easier said than done, I know, but just trying to make the best out of what you have is important and can be beneficial. Since the beginning of 2021, I’ve been keeping another journal, and I think that maybe in my junior or senior year I’ll look back at my entries and my mind will be blown. Something else I’d tell my 13-year-old self is to keep jotting down your life. I wish I had kept the journal for longer than two months because so much did change for me in my middle school years and it’d be interesting to see how I reacted and how I’ve grown and I’ve changed as a person. Plus, writing every day is not a bad habit to gain. 

1 comment on “Five Things I Would Tell My 13-Year-Old Self”

  1. ann Reply

    Your critical yet constructive approach to your former thoughts and feelings displays a level of growth that I find immensely admirable. Emotional intelligence is just as important as acing a test or making a deadline. Never stop writing

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