So as my wife likes to say, it’s great to have a freshly minted 13-year-old in the house because now we have a being in our midst That. Knows. Everything! Who’s luckier than us, you know, other than Colorado Springs homeowners?
Anyway, despite what my son likes to think, I believe there’s a thing or two that he just might *not* know yet. To help, here are
Five Things I Wish I Knew When I Became a Teenager
1. Very few people are good at keeping secrets – I always come back to something I heard at the Spy Museum in Washington: “We’ll never know who the world’s greatest spy is because they’ll never spill any secrets.” As someone who has earned the nickname “The Vault,” I have learned the hard way that the majority of people out there are incapable of keeping secrets. Not that they don’t want to—I’m just saying it’s human nature to share stories and secrets, and they can’t help themselves.
And if you think other 13-year-olds can keep secrets, well, trust me, they absolutely cannot. For example, you may want to believe that when you tell your friend Milo what classmate you have a crush on in 8th grade, he’ll never tell anyone, yet when he writes “Ray loves [Name of girl who sits behind you]” on the brown paper cover of your math book and Mr. Betzig walks by and sees it and shouts, “RAY LOVES WHO?!!!” and the whole world hears it and the Earth doesn’t instantly swallow you up no matter how badly you wish it would, you learn that … well, the best way to keep a secret is to keep it to yourself.
You will also probably always take the dust jackets off your books for the next 33 years or so.
2. People don’t really change; situations thankfully do – I know this might be a pessimistic world view, but as much as you want to believe it, very few people are capable of true change—in other words, those kids who seem like the popular kids but are jerks to you in middle school and, say, make fun of your large nose in 3rd period English class, will pretty much be jerks who make fun of other people’s noses when they grow up, too.
The good news is that middle (and high) school isn’t forever, and when you get to college and the world beyond your educational enslavement, you have more freedom to choose who you hang out with as well as the opportunity to make new (real) friends who generally don’t care about the size of your nose because they’re not clueless inbred jerks who probably sniff their sister’s underwear when no one is looking.
Chances are that most of those panty-sniffing losers’ best days will have been in high school, and when you’re reaching your stride in Life, they’ll be thrice-divorced and looking how to make the payments on their van down by the river.
3. Do it the right way – Right now, it might seem like taking short cuts or cheating are the easiest ways to succeed, but trust me, the only person you’re cheating is yourself. Not to go all “After School Special,” but putting in the effort and time to actually learn things and do assignments correctly will only benefit you in the long run. (Really. No jokes here. … move along.)
4. “Friends come and go, but family is forever” – My grandmother actually told me this when I was about 13 and wanted to go somewhere with my friends rather than hang with them, and I laughed at her. Turns out she was right, sort of. I mean, yes, there will be relatives who turn out to be douches and you never want to see again, and you will also certainly have very good friends who you will probably know for the majority of your life, but in general, your family will be around you from cradle to grave, like it or not. That means figuring out how to deal with them, how to love them and even how to survive them in some cases—I always think about how as kids my sisters used to kick the crap out of each other and now that they don’t share the same room any more, they’re besties. I’m not saying that always happens, just that if you work at it a bit, it can, which means you have someone to torture for decades.
5. Love at 13 isn’t forever – You know that brand-new $50 video game that you *have* to have? Yeah, in two weeks, it’ll be on the shelf with the other 23 you *had* to have. Ditto that person you meet in middle (or high) school that you don’t think you can possibly live without. Sure, they may seem like the most amazing thing in the world right now, but life isn’t lived in middle or high school, and when you get beyond that, relationships (and situations—see No. 2) change, as will your tastes. Crushes will come and go, and you owe it to yourself to keep an open mind and heart until you reach an age (probably over 20) where you are capable of finding “true” love … although chances are you’ll still have to kiss a few frogs until you find the right person …
And even then, you might kiss a few more because when you ask them out the first time (after they’ve been flirting with you for a week), they’ll tell you that they’re suddenly dating someone else. Then you’ll have to wait a few months before they lose that loser and realize that you’re the right person for them, too! (No really, this can happen. Ask anyone *cough cough* your mother *cough*)