I know you might not want to believe it but I was 12 once too and I understand that it’s hard. Grownups keep telling you that oh how easy the kids have it at your age and that “honey life only gets harder.” There’s a kernel of truth to that in the sense that as you grow older you have more responsibilities but I remember 7th grade and I have to tell you that it sure was no cake walk. Middle school for the majority of us absolutely sucks. Everyone is awkward and you’re in this in-between stage where you want to be an adult but no one wants to take you seriously. You’re an absolutely beautiful person who is growing up to a be an empathic, thoughtful and open-minded individual and you make me so proud. It’s honestly terrifying for me to see this baby sister I’ve had look up to me her whole life try to venture out in the world and figure life out for herself. You’ll make mistakes and you’ll be hurt but if there is anything that I want to convey to you is that you always get back up again. All this may sound like clichés but it’s the truth. So, being a 21 year old who is o-so-wise I want to tell you five things I wish I could have told my 12 year old self:
1. Don’t worry too much about what other people think.
Kids are kids and they can be mean sometimes but you’ve just got to focus on the people you love and who love you. In 10 years the opinions people had in 7th grade are going to count for very little – just understand that it is your opinion of yourself and not anyone else’s that counts. If you believe yourself to be a kind and good individual –that’s what counts. Always love yourself.
2. Believe in yourself
Don’t for a second doubt yourself or think that you’re not good enough. Too often – especially for girls – 12 is the time where they start second guessing their abilities and their capabilities. Our society tells boys that they can do everything and anything that they put their mind to but at the same time girls start feeling that they can’t. You’ve got to understand that you’re as capable as any person out there and you have to believe that if you want to do something you can.
3. Take risks
Now I don’t mean go cliff diving (although you can once you’re a bit older), I mean run for student body president or start a new club or talk to a new person in your grade. If you condition yourself to be wary of taking risks from the time that you’re 12 then by the time you enter your early twenties you’ll be a lot more scared of the world then you need to be. The risk may not always pay off but I guarantee you’ll never regret taking it – there’s a lesson in everything.
4. Be open-minded
Even though you might think you know what you like and don’t like, please stay open-minded. This is a lesson that actually carries through the ages. Always be open to new activities and opportunities and even if you don’t think that you’ll like it always give it a shot. We think we know a lot about ourselves but in reality, new opportunities give us a chance to constantly re-evaluate and expand on who we are. Also always be open-minded about people – everyone has a story and that story is not always in the forefront. You don’t have to like everyone but hating people takes a lot of time and isn’t worth it.
5. Be grateful – but always strive to want more.
Of course, take joy in the small things – this is something I want you to do throughout your life. Smile more, laugh more, enjoy the sun and time with family and friends. But understand that you’ve somehow in some random way been given a life that is privileged. For many years to come your only job will be to study and better yourself and that is a privilege few enjoy in this world. I want you to understand that with this privilege comes a responsibility – to become someone who, in some way, helps the world. Use your passions and your talents in ways that will make this world a better place – always have that goal in mind.
I apologize if I came across as a hallmark card but really, with everything I believe in, I wish I could go back in time and tell these things to my 12 year old self. Since I can’t I’m grateful enough that I have a sister to tell these things to. The reality is that at 21 I have nowhere close to all the answers but I have these pieces of advice. 21 is a weird age where society tells you that you’re an adult but really you’re just a kid inside. I’m looking for answers myself and hopefully years down the line I can pen a letter to my 21 year old self with lessons that I’ve learned.
Until then forever yours,
Gunjan Didi (Didi means older sister)