A Conversation With My 14 Year Old Self

 

I recently celebrated my 24th birthday, which makes me as old as “Seinfeld”, which just so happens to be one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Side note, my dad has always reminded me of Kramer. Also, Johnny Carson announced his retirement from the Tonight Show that year. Remember the “quilted, quicker picker-upper”? Bounty began using that slogan that year for their paper towels, which my wife refuses to buy. Trolls were a real thing, Nirvana skyrocketed to superstardom, Dr. Seuss passed away, and the Super Nintendo (the greatest video game console of all time) was released. Oh, and the mullet was still considered a fashion statement.

My birthday also reminds me that I’m still pretty young. I am considerably younger than most people who are in my vocation (youth pastor). But 24 certainly sounds older than 23.

But what really gets me thinking when it comes to my birthday, is realizing the life that I have lived. Because I spend so much time with teenagers on a weekly basis, I’m constantly reminded of my teenage years and how dumb I was. I wasn’t Lloyd Christmas dumb, I was just teenager dumb.

We say it all the time. “If only I knew when I was younger what I know now!” Well, what if? If I knew what I know now, life wouldn’t be the same, that’s for sure. There’s really no way of knowing. But I decided to think about my 14 year old self and all the problems and drama that I was facing in 2005, when I transitioned from middle school to high school.

The things I wish I knew at 14, that I now know at 24: A conversation with my 14 year old self.

So, if my 14 year old self is still alive in some weird parallel universe this is what I’d tell him.

1. The Girl
Three girls highlighted my life at 14, and not one of them am I in contact with today. In fact, I haven’t spoken to either of them in years! But when I was 14, I was convinced that I had found the “girl of my dreams.” Three times during year 14 did I believe I’d found “the one”, and no one could tell me any differently. I finally had a girlfriend that I could go places with, like the movies and the mall. Granted, I needed a chauffeur to get us to those places, but it was still AWESOME! I was up all night instant messaging my girlfriend on AIM (AOL Instant Messenger). It was the time of my life. It was also during this time that I sent my first series of text messages, you know, when text messaging was pretty young and it still cost a lot of money to use the texting feature on your phones. I wasn’t allowed to do so, but I did it anyway because I was “in love”…and I was “in love” three times that year.

Ok, ten years have passed and I now know this: Your girlfriend will not last, nor will that one, and the other one will last but will end in burning flames, much like Taylor Swift’s many relationships. “Who’s Taylor Swift?” You’ll figure that out later. Please don’t get caught up in this “love” thing right now. “Why? I do really love her!” No you don’t. And in a few years you’ll begin to understand what love truly means. Right now you’re just super attracted to someone and she’s attracted to you, so you both really, REALLY like each other. That’s all there is to it. When she breaks up with you, take it like a man and move on. Listen to your friends when they tell you advice, but consider your mom’s advice more sacred than your friends’. Trust me, you will make it through this breakup, and that breakup, and the other breakup. In fact, if you just hold on for a few more years, you will meet the true “girl of your dreams,” and it will be more than you could’ve ever imagined. Also, quit writing songs about them!

2. The Band
Music dominated my life from 14 to 16. My friends were talented, I was talented, so it only made sense that we would start a band. Our band was going to do what no band did before! We were going to be big stars someday! Fueled by pepperoni pizza and Vault soda (also, 14 year old me, Vault doesn’t last either), we were determined to prove everyone wrong. Our first song was about a girl, so we were destined to succeed right? Wrong. Just over a year after we started the band, I left due to musical differences and started another band, while the band changed their name a few times and picked up a pretty decent following over the years. But you couldn’t tell me that at 14. Break up? No way. Well, it happened…and it hurt. The second band was in many ways more fun, but it wasn’t the same, and it also didn’t last. I began to put all my musical attention towards my own music, which is where I learned to deal with my pain.

So, ten years have passed and I want to fill you in on some pretty cool details about what you’re going through right now. Your band failed. Twice. So what? Brush it off and use it as motivation to become a better writer and overall musician. Right now, you’re filled to the brim with song ideas. Do me a favor and write all of them down. Trust me, no lyric is dumb unless it goes against everything you believe in. Keep your head up. In just a few short years you’ll be doing things with your music that you’ve dreamed of. And when that happens, take it all in and treasure the moments. Those moments don’t last, as you already know. “Can I still write songs for my girlfriend?” I already told you to stop! Seriously, I would advise you to stay away from doing that, because one day you’ll look in a box and find a CD full of those songs. You’ll listen to it, and you’ll want to punch your teenage self in the face for it. But, if you must, go ahead. Just remember to save the true words for the girl that I told you about before.

3. The Friends
This one hurt the most. Going into high school I felt like I had great friends, and I believed without a doubt that those friends would last forever. We did everything together. Skateboarding. Video games. Movies. Music. You name it. We were always together doing stuff! One by one friends began to fade into the background. For one reason or another, friendships failed. I didn’t understand it at the time, and I don’t understand it today. There were many times when I closed myself off from my friends because of girlfriends, which probably was a major reason for failed friendships. Either way, most of my friendships that I had at 14 aren’t here at 24, but that isn’t a bad thing.

“Ok, before you start, I know what you’re going to say. You’re going to tell me that my high school friends won’t be my friends after high school, and that I’ll make new friends etc. etc. etc. I’ve heard it before, and quite frankly, I don’t believe you.”
I know you don’t believe me. I wouldn’t either. But trust me when I say this, you will lose friends. They’re not all going to stay as close as they are right now. But that’s ok! You will make new friends and they will be great! One day you’ll see that very few of those friends are still around. We just went separate paths in life. You’ll still be able to contact some of these friends, and some of them you’ll still be able to call “friends”. I will fill you in on a secret: one will stick with you no matter what happens in the next ten years. I won’t tell you who but you wouldn’t expect it. Change isn’t bad. In fact, drifting away from some of these friends is going to be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to you because of who you’re going to become. “Well, who am I going to become?” I’m glad you asked.

4. God
I’ll be honest. When I was 14 I was going to church with my friends because I thought it would be fun hanging out with them…and there were some really pretty girls at their church. Their youth group was split up into different classes. Because I was younger than them, I lied to the adults so that I could be in the same class as my friends. (P.A. if you’re reading this, I’m sorry!) At 14 I started to take God seriously until the band broke up. After that, I wasn’t in church for awhile. In many ways, I’d forgotten about God. Sure, I still kept my belief in him, but I wasn’t a “Christian”. I was a young teenager focused on girls and music. I had no idea what I was doing.

In the last ten years, nothing on this list becomes more constant in your life than God. I know you don’t see it now, but God is about to do some amazing things in your life. “What could that possibly be?” I can’t even begin to tell you, because if I did, you’d quit everything and run away. One day you’re going to realize that God is the only one who won’t fail you. When that day comes, embrace it with all that you are. Don’t turn your back on God for your friends, for music, or for any girl. Don’t allow anyone to compromise your faith. I know it will be hard, but stick with it. The crowd will fade away. The trends will fade away. But God will not.

“How can I really believe you?” Believe me because I know how badly you were hurting that first day in fifth grade in a new school with no friends. Believe me because I know how hard you worked at being a good kid in school, at home, and with your friends. Believe me because I saw you land the kickflip before any of your friends, and when no one believed you, I felt your pain. Just because I’m 24 doesn’t mean I don’t remember you and the life you’re living.

“So, you’re really the 24 year old me?”
Yes.
“Can I ask you a few more questions then?”
Sure.

“How’s my hair?”
Better than ever!

“Do I have a beard when I’m 24?”
Sadly, no. And please, please, save yourself the embarrassment and do not participate in no-shave November.

“Do I get married to any of my girlfriends from high school?”
Not a chance. But you are going to go through a series of unfortunate events that will ultimately lead to you meeting the girl that you’ll eventually marry.
“…Is she hot?”
You know it!

“Do I ever find out what happened to that frog from Boy Scouts?”
TO THIS DAY, I STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT HAPPENED TO THE FROG!

14 24

 

Author: tjoshbennett

I'm Terry Bennett, a husband and a dog owner. I'm a songwriter and a pastor with a love for adventure.

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