Supermom In Training: A letter to my 16-year-old self

Dear Jenn,

Being 16 years old can be a bumpy road – lots of ups and downs and so many wonderful discoveries. When I was 16 I got my license (and took my first solo ride to the McDonalds drive-thru) and met my now-husband, my first real boyfriend. I took my SATs and had to start thinking and preparing for university. I went to my first party (at Todd Opper’s house in Long Lake Estates, where a line of teenagers in cars took up an entire stretch of road outside the neighbourhood and me and my friends broke through the security stop and made a mad dash to the ‘do, which was broken up by cops a mere hour after we finally got there) and I had my first taste of booze (0.5% wine coolers my best friend’s brother bought us for after the homecoming dance – I drank two, wandered upstairs, and accidentally ended up in my friend’s parent’s room, where I proceeded to accidentally step on her dog, who yelped and woke her dad, and I finally frantically fumbled to safety in my friend’s bedroom). And now that I’m 30, I’ve learned some valuable lessons I wish I knew then:

1- There is no such thing as a “popular crowd.” Hot-football-guy who all the girls love will end up bald and overweight, and the hot-girl will become as equally plain. The “nerds” and “geeks” will have the well-paying jobs, luxurious lifestyles, gorgeous spouses, and will retire early in Barbados. The quiet-girl will move to New York City or Los Angeles and go to burlesque parties and red carpet ‘dos, the tough-jock-guy will become a family man with four little girls, and all the “cliques” will completely change.

Don’t strive to be “like” anyone else because, in the end, you’ll only be happy when you’re being yourself.

2- You really and truly can be anything you want. True, some professions are much more difficult to break into but anything is possible. And while you may think you’re cut out for one aspect of an industry, you may just discover that you’re talented in another facet of the biz.

If you want to be a rockstar in your heart of hearts, you can, but only if you pursue it for the right reasons – if it’s because you want to be rich and famous, well then you want to be rich and famous, not be a musician. But a person who truly wants to be a rockstar wants to play music and be heard. Music is in their hearts, not greed for riches. So put your everything into it and you can achieve it in some way – learn the mechanics of music, take lessons (instrumental and vocal), study the history of music, listen to it, absorb everything about it. Maybe you’ll be one of the lucky ones who becomes a popular recording artist, but even if you’re not, you’ll find contentment exploring music in another form – playing on TV and music soundtracks, teaching music, or even taking your second-best skill of business administration and using that to make a living but also joining a local band and playing on evenings and weekends, still showcasing and fulfilling your love for music. If it’s what you want to be, then make it happen… one way or the other.

When I told people at 16 that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up, a lot of “head’s up” adults warned me that it could be a tricky “job” to make a living with, but I didn’t care. I took every writing class I could until university and then joined the journalism program. I wrote tons of articles for free to build up my portfolio, and slowly but surely it became my profession. You can be anything you want to be as long as it’s something you truly love and you’re willing to work and sacrifice for it.

3- Make your moments. Your school years are naturally filled with milestones – you always remember when you turned 13 (and were an official teenager), or 16, or 18, or 21. But after, say, 25, birthdays blend into one another – I have no idea how my 26th birthday was different from my 28th.

You also remember things like first boyfriends and dances and heartbreaks because you can associate them with a “grade,” like “In 8th grade, when I was 13, I kissed my first boyfriend Brad Cohen in the racquetball courts at Omni Middle School.” But when you get into that 9-to-5 grind, days blend into weeks and time seems to pass at a frightening pace. So make your moments. Mark your birthday, no matter what your age, with a great celebration. Take every opportunity to drag your lazy butt off the couch and meet your friends downtown at the pub, because life happens when you’re standing still. People get married and have kids and group/friend dynamics can change at the drop of a hat. So embrace every change and every opportunity and make the most of them.

4- Do unto others. This is my final word of advice: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Always. Even if they treat you crummy back. At least you can know that you stayed true to who you are. Don’t let people sour you. People can be bastards. They can be rude and selfish. Even so, be respectful. It will make you a good daughter, sister, friend, wife, coworker, and neighbour. Don’t bully or make fun of those who are lonely or different than you – reach out to them, the same way you’d want to be treated if you were feeling isolated or picked on. Hold the door for the woman with all the grocery bags because you’d appreciate it if someone helped you out. Listen when someone is speaking to you, thank the person who does something nice for you, wave to the guy who lets you cut in in traffic (even if the last guy you let cut in didn’t give you “the wave”)… if everyone did unto others this world would be a much nicer, more tolerant place to live.

A full-time work-from-home mom of a toddler, Jennifer Cox (our “Supermom in Training”) loves dabbling in healthy cooking, craft projects, family outings, and more, sharing with readers everything she knows about being an (almost) superhero mommy.