May 26, 2017

Advice for Future Grown-Up Girls

There are no do-overs in life. We can't go back and change the past, as much as we'd like to. Looking back at certain periods of time, particularly my teenage years, there are things I wish I had done differently. Things I wish I would have known.

Would it have mattered? I'm not sure.

I'm currently listening to Drew Barrymore's memoir "Wildflower" in audio book format. I love it when an author reads his or her audio book because it feels like an opportunity to have him or her tell his story directly to me.

In the book, she addresses (albeit briefly) the rise of social media and how crazy it is to be able to share photos with millions of people with a single click. I follow my younger girl cousins on social media and enjoy feeling like I have a bit of inside scoop on their lives, even though I don't get to see them very often. I wonder how hard it is for them to be girls coming of age in our current time. One of my favorite girl cousins to follow is Elliott, a precocious rising sixth grader whose posts never fail to make me smile. From her love of elephants to her victories on the volleyball court, to her adventures with friends doing typical middle school girl things.

This morning, my girl bestie from high school sent me a Facebook message with a clip from the film Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion. She said she missed those simpler times in life when just watching a favorite movie for the umpteenth time was all it took to enjoy yourself. I miss those things too.

Some experts say that kids today don't know how to connect with people in real life because they are digesting each and every experience through screens. Others would argue that social media has made us more connected than ever before. I hope that's true. I hope young girls understand the importance of the friendship connections they are forming at this time of their lives.

The years will come faster and faster, and soon those carefree days will seem like a dream, something you kind of remember and hold dear but also something that feels so distant and removed that it might not have happened at all.

I wish someone had shared this with the young girl version of myself. If you are a fourteen year old girl who happens to be reading this, or fifteen or sixteen or even eighteen, there's still time for you. Take this bit of advice from someone who knows:

Put down your phone and really look at your best friend's face. I mean really look. Memorize the way her eyes crinkle just a tiny bit when she smiles. Hear her laugh, with its ever ebullient cadence and write the sounds of it on your heart. See the way she sits, cross legged in the back of the school auditorium, eating a plain turkey and cheese sandwich from Subway. Never forget how important of a role you have in her life, as her confidante and cheerleader. One day you might be in her wedding. Perhaps you'll be in the room as her first baby is born. These magical moments are amazing and unforgettable, but somehow they aren't quite the same as just being a couple of girls, 15 and 16, driving around your small southern town in an old Chevy Blazer, smoking Marlboro Lights out the window. Do not smoke (Marlboro Lights or otherwise).

The next time you are hanging out with your best guy friend, take your earbuds out and really listen to him. Watch the outline of his profile as he drives you to Sonic for a Route 44 Cherry Limeade made with Diet Coke instead of Sprite. For the record Diet Coke is terrible for you, but life goes on. Memorize his mannerisms, the way he crosses his arms over his chest, in his Gap sweater, leaning ever so slightly to put more weight on one foot than the other. The next time you are standing with him in front of a vending machine, as he is buying his post-lunch bag of Sour Patch Kids, take in every sight and sound of the moment, because one day you'll want to re-live it. Or all the times you pull your car into his parents' driveway, going to pick him up for some evening of teenage adventures. Take a moment to enjoy the fact that his parents are inside, waiting to greet you warmly, his dad jokingly asking you to "feed his son something and bring him home alive."

These are the moments that you'll miss most when you're stuck watching a corporate webinar or attending a conference with a plated lunch and keynote speaker.

One day you won't live in a house with your parents, where your best friend just naturally comes over and lets herself in the back door. One day you won't get together weekly with your best friend to watch Dawson's Creek and eat cheese fries. One day you will wake up and your to-do list will include things like get a watch battery, call the IRS and straighten out how your quarterly tax payment was applied to the wrong year, buy toilet paper or a broom and take that bag of stuff in the garage to Goodwill.

Maybe you'll move away while your best friend stays in your hometown, married and raising a beautiful family. Maybe your friend will move across the country and you'll mean to visit him but thirteen or fourteen years will go by and you won't be able to believe you haven't made that trip.

Of course you'll form other friendships along the way. Dearly dearly beloved friendships. Friends who become family. Friends who know the grown-up you and are there for you when you need a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Don't take these for granted either.

But it's those first friendships...the ones that form while you are still forming. They are worth more than all the likes, all the hearts, all the regrams. And I'd hate to think anybody missed out on that because they were too busy looking at a screen.

Oh, and one more thing. Have as many sleepovers as you can. Grown-ups are supposed to be able to do whatever they want but sleepovers never seem to make it on the list.