26 August 2013

What would you tell your grade 7 self?

Someone I know on Ravelry posted a list of the advice she’d have given to younger self … and it really got me thinking.

My 7th grade self was in some turmoil - I had been in split grade classes all through elementary, and they stopped offering that at grade 6, because although our school went up to grade 8 (we had K-8 and 9-12), the 7s and 8s had classes that were more like junior high, so the split didn't work anymore.

Anyhow, I'd sort of gradually migrated up a year in school - my teachers all knew it and I just worked with the more advanced materials and that was that. But then in grade 6 when there were no more advanced materials there for me, I was horribly bored. The school sent me for a bunch of academic testing and the experts came up with this huge complicated educational plan for me that would have made me into an even stranger person than I ended up becoming by completely eliminating any hope of a normal social life. My parents, bless them, said "just put her in grade 7 and be done with it". My principal and teachers agreed, told the experts to stuff it, and I moved across the hall. It was only weird for a few weeks, I'd been in school with all these kids for years anyway so it was not too bad.

But I was always a bit of a misfit, and this made it harder, despite all the kindness and support I was shown. It was hard to be so different.

So, what would I tell that mixed up girl?

I think I'd tell her ...

Not everyone will like you. You don't like everyone else either, so that's cool: find people who DO like you to hang out with and don't change who you are so others will think you are cool. Cool isn't important: integrity is.

Find some way of creating that nourishes your soul. Reading and learning are awesome, you've got those down pat, now find a way to put something INTO the world that adds to the beauty and wonder of the place. And then do that, regularly.

Don't assume you are not creative. Just because you can't draw recognizable stick people doesn't mean you aren't creative. Find other media, other techniques. You need to create things. You just don't know that yet.

If you can look yourself in the mirror and say "I really did try my best", then you have done ENOUGH. Your best is all you can do. If someone else says you shoulda done more, or better, or tried harder, well, ask your SELF if you tried your hardest. If you didn't, and you really were slacking off, well, then try harder next time. But when's the last time you didn't try your hardest? Yeah, I can't remember either. So don't take their judgment of your capabilities as gospel. Only you live in your mind and body. You know. They don’t.

Never date anyone you don't want to be married to for longer than six months. If at six months you don't already know you want to live with this person for the rest of your life, break up and find someone new. Don't waste your time and theirs: you already know you are destined for partnership and not meant to live alone, so treat the search for a loving and supportive partner as the serious, life-impacting task it is. Don't wait for fate to drop someone in your lap. Date "on purpose", don't just fall head over heels by accident. Well, okay, you're going to fall head over heels by accident - you're wired that way. So try to at least set up the accidents so that you're falling for guys who will at least be reasonable candidates for Life Partner. It stinks to fall in love with someone who is utterly ill suited to you as a partner - no matter how awesome and fun they are to be with. Because the rubber meets the road in the end, and then it really, really hurts. Avoid that by being intentional about your romances.

And you really, truly DO deserve someone who will love you for WHO YOU ARE. Who will not see you as a renovation project, or "good enough until something better comes along". He should be your biggest fan and your honest friend and your fun companion. If he makes you feel crummy about yourself, GET OUT FAST. Dating is a *trial run* for long term partnership: if it's not fun at the start, when everything is new and exciting, what on earth makes you think it's gonna get better if you  just "try harder" and "suck it up a little more"? Ahem. See earlier conversation about "trying harder".

You are very smart: but you haven’t actually learned how to learn. Find a way to develop those skills now, before you hit university and discover that your brain is a tool that you’ve been using in ‘beginner mode’ all these years, and now you have to learn to make it work in the real grownup world, where information does not just magically soak into your brain out of the ambient atmosphere. School – even high school, even International Baccalaureate classes – is not preparing you for the world of self-directed learning, even though you think it is. Stop coasting, find real challenges, and find them now, while you are young.

There’s probably more … but those would be the big ones.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

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