Things I Wish I Had Known At 16 Years Old, 16 Years Later

The challenge of focusing on different perspectives is a difficult one – I don’t possess a creative fictional brain and spent a lot of time attempting to imagine various situations from the perspective of contrasting people, to no avail.

However, the sad news that I have received this week has prompted me to reflect on life a little, and I found myself thinking about the me of 16 years ago. This me was a very different person to the me that I know now, and there are lots of things I want to say to that 16 year old, with her frizzy blonde hair, her insecurities and her weaknesses. I thought I knew everything. I had a plan – where I was going to go, what I was going to do and how I was going to do it – and if my 32 year old self could travel back in time I would give the 16 year old me a good slap and a lesson in naivety. However, hindsight is a wonderful thing…


Straighteners didn’t exist back then. Neither did sunglasses apparently…

These are the things I wish I had known at the age of 16, 16 years later.

How to say no. There have been many decisions made for me during my lifetime and it took me until my late 20’s to learn how to say ‘no’ and tell others what I actually wanted for my own life. Learning this at 16 could have potentially saved me hours of boredom and dissatisfaction.

How to simply let it go. I spent most of my 20’s harbouring futile resentment and hatred towards people and situations that were out of my control. Meanwhile, while I was crying and feeling sorry for myself, they were out living their own lives without thought for anyone but themselves.

How to appreciate a moment. I have lost count of the amount of times I haven’t taken the time to step back and enjoy something beautiful.

Not to take the lives around me for granted. My grandfather, one of the nicest, most kind-hearted men I’ve ever known, passed away when I was 16 and to this very day I miss him dearly. One of my biggest regrets is not taking more time to find out about him, his life and his experiences. It was nearly 13 years after he passed that I researched my family history and found things that he could have explained further.

How to value my own opinion more than the opinions of others. At the age of 16 the slightest unkind word would send me into a spiral of self-doubt and worry. While these doubts still plague me from time to time, I can now trust my own judgement that what I am doing is right for me, and despite my many flaws and faults I can look at myself in the mirror and be proud of who I am.

How to hold my tongue during a heated argument. At times I have been ruthless when angry and have said things that I will never be able to take back, regardless of how many apologies I have made.

The value of money. I’ve wasted thousands over the years on nonsensical things and have nothing to show for it. Indeed, if I had saved the money that I have spent on cigarettes since starting my smoking habit at the age of 16 I would be able to put a large deposit down on a house, or be able to travel the world at least once.

How to appreciate that the love of a friend is just as important (and in some situations more so) as the love of a partner. While I am not the sort of person who abandons her friends for a relationship now, I have neglected friendships for the sake of a man on several occasions in the past and have had to work hard to regain them.

To understand that, regardless of the subject, my mother was, and still is, right about everything. 

What about you? What one piece of advice would you give to your 16 year old self? 

You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @Suzie81blog

Written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge


56 thoughts on “Things I Wish I Had Known At 16 Years Old, 16 Years Later

  1. Every point you make is one that, at 16, we don’t contemplate, so we bungle on through, learning as we go. I needed a lot of advice when I was l6, advice I did not get because my parents, for some obscure reason, thought I was sensible and intelligent enough to figure things out on my own.WRONG! If i knew what I know now, I would tell my 19-year old self not to marry the man I did marry, to wait and be patient. I would remind myself that teenagers grow up to be just as stupid as they think their parents and teachers are now.

  2. I love the picture. Very cute. Like you, I’ve had the “time machine fantasy” (spoiler alert! Working on a novel know around this concept). I’ve thought that it would be great to travel back in time and give my younger self advice, but you know what? If we had the answers given to us when we were younger we wouldn’t have accepted them, and if we had we’d grow up to be morons because we never learned to learn from our mistakes. You probably turned out perfectly because of your growth from your former flaws.

  3. I would tell my 16 year old self not to buy the cigarettes at 17 and have the sweets instead…..which is what I went into the shop initially for. It’s the one thing I truly regret. The rest is a learning curve I can live with. 😉 x

  4. The worry less about what others think and that being myself was just fine! I am trying to teach it to my 16 year old daughter but maybe these lessons are only learnt in time? As the saying goes you can’t put an old head on young shoulders.

  5. I like this idea of looking back and knowing then what I know now. There are many things I wish I hadn’t done but I don’t think I would have changed anything. Maybe I’m a glutton for punishment but I sort of feel that my mistakes have helped form me into the person I am now. I would perhaps have given myself some fashion advise though because there have been some crazy outfits throughout the years, but even those were the cries of a sixteen year old me trying to express her individuality. Great post, it made me think…thanks for that.

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  7. I would tell my younger self that “you are not alone.” I grew up in the Material Girl 80s and needed to conform in order to get along. That meant keeping opinions to myself and the nerdy parts of my personality hidden. Once I got to college, however, I found my people – other women who a version of me in their towns and schools. It was gratifying and they remain my friends over 20 years later.

    I would also tell myself to allow people to leave your life, when the time is right. Never hold on to friendships because you feel like you “need” to. In fact, I’m talking about breaking up with friends today.

  8. Great list and I would probably use some of those on mine as well. But my big one would be, don’t settle! Oh and that I should’ve followed that writing dream because dreams never die. Instead I’m starting it now at 37 and years behind. Hope your week gets better!

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  10. Two things come to mind which are just as applicable to my current self as to my 16 year old self which are: “It gets better when you allow it” and “Strive for excellence rather than perfection”

  11. Reblogged this on Phoebe's World and commented:
    A lesson I had to learn the hard way! ” To understand that, regardless of the subject, my mother was, and still is, right about everything. ”

    I can relate to this. Totally!

  12. This is filled with excellent thoughts. I especially like the part about realizing friends are every bit as important, and sometimes more meaningful than male/female relationships! Hey, I totally understood how you ‘unfollowed’ me, since I did that accidentally to someone in the past, then had to re-follow which seemed rather embarrassing, since for months I had ‘liked’ their posts! Don’t worry about this and thanks for being ‘there’ for me! I enjoy your posts and their perspective! Smiles, Robin

  13. I would try to get through to myself that the cool kids really aren’t all that cool. They’re just as confused by the world and as uncertain as I was, but they’re better at hiding it, and having seen who they grew up to be, I think it was better not being one of them. Of course, if my 16 year old self saw my 44 year old self, he’d probably run a mile!

  14. Appreciate the moment is great advice. I now always try to enjoy things while they happen rather than wait until 10 years down the line and just be able to reminisce.

  15. Oh boy, at 16 I REALLY wish I had learned that throwing myself into a bad relationship was NOT going to solve my problems at home. But at the same time, if that relationship hadn’t happened, who knows if I’d have the life that I adore now? Who know. . . . 😀
    I also agree I wish I had learned to hold my tongue during arguments – I was quite a mouthy one back then, and I cringe to think at times how disrespectful I was sometimes!

  16. Most of the things I sincerely do often wish I knew at 16 … I can’t put them in writing. I have to say… I had a lot of these you list or was well on my way. Some I still don’t have together at 56. But I am learning and still getting better. And what was once the agony of self learning and correcting is actually now a great pleasure and gives me great satisfaction. Anyway… it’s not about me! Great post!

  17. You know, I so agree with all your great advice to yourself. Looking back, is great hindsight. I think everyone wishes they did things a certain way when they were 16, and not the way they actually did. At 16, we were all babies; hopefully, we’ve done some growing up at this point.

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  19. I would tell my 16 year old self not to be afraid of taking risks. I played it too safe when I was younger and I have hardly any experiences to look back on as a result.

  20. Great post – I think I would tell my 16 year old self a lot about the relationship she is about to begin and the rollercoaster that it will bring – that it will bring great happiness but also great sadness and that he will eventually cheat on her, but that it is still worth loving every second.. I would tell her to go with her instincts – if something feels wrong – it probably is!

  21. I was trying to think of something serious and profound – and couldn’t. My teens were great and I would not change a thing. So I thought if I could give my 16 years old self two pieces of advice I would echo probably Fox Mulder – “The Truth is out there” – ” I want to believe.”

  22. I just came across your blog and being that I am also 32 I’m giving this some serious thought now! It’s tricky – I’m so happy that I am where I am now, that even though I didn’t love my teenage years I’m not sure if I would change them. Cause then I wouldn’t be me. But! I would tell myself to take more risks, and not to worry so much or try to be perfect all the time. That high school isn’t really real life, and that things have a way of working out for the best. Great idea for a post.

  23. Love your list! I wish I’d known that everyone else was so concerned with what they might not be doing right that no one cared if I was wearing the wrong shoes or used the wrong word. I wasted a lot of time worrying about insignificant things.

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  26. I always thought I would go back and slap my 16 year old self if I had the chance. But then I got a facebook message from the boyfriend I had at 16 and he was talking about what a great friend I was to him back then and how nice I was (no…he wasn’t trying to date me again! lol). And some of my other friends have said the same things. I think we are very hard on ourselves…even our former selves. Now I try to just think fondly about the girl I was.

  27. Beautiful list. I don’t have anything to add, but I’m going to go back over your list and remind myself of a few of these. Thanks.

    Happy Sharefest. I hope you have a lovely weekend.

  28. This is so spot-on—all things I wish I had told myself as a teenager and continually remind myself about. Some people never get to this point, so while we all wish we had known this stuff years ago, getting there by the time you’re 32 is pretty damn good. The one thing I would add, which is kind of a combination of saying no and trusting yourself, is: You are the one who ultimately has to live with yourself and your decisions, so the only person you should be worried about disappointing is yourself. 🙂

  29. I feel like the wish that we’d learned how to manage money earlier in life is nearly universal!

  30. The mind is crazy when it gives you false realization. You have to realize that your mind is playing tricks on you, and solve your problems by being consulted with family for advice. Soon you’ll think things through, and not by what the mind thinks is right. Hope that helps. 🙂

  31. These are all great pieces of advice! I love the one about appreciating the moments – they do by so quickly! Glad you linked up today!

  32. Thinks a great list. I think I would tell myself not to listen to all the horrible things my mum said to me and about me and that it was ok to say no to people and that I would be strong enough to deal with the fallout of that. Took me a while to learn that but it was a lesson that changed my whole life.

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