12 Words of Wisdom We’d Tell Our High School Selves

By Chanel Dror

A few weeks ago I went down the Facebook rabbit hole, somehow finding myself rereading a conversation between myself and a girlfriend from 2006 (my senior year of high school). With each line I read, I grew more convinced that there was no possible way I had written those words — they were petty, gossipy and downright mean! In that moment I felt awful and embarrassed for my past self, and was reminded of how little I actually knew about life back in high school, but in the moment, I thought I knew it all.

With back-to-school upon us, we thought we’d honor the season by polling our team to find out what they would tell their younger selves. From “focus on your goals” to “don’t focus so much on your goals,” it was so fun to get a glimpse into one another’s adolescences (and even more fun to see the throwback high school photos everyone submitted!) Click through, and in the comments section, let us know what you would do differently if given the chance to go back to your teen years…

Get to know yourself.

To be honest, I often feel like I need to take advice FROM my high school self. My high school self was fearless. She never worried about her body image. She took risks without a second thought, including moving to Vancouver to live for six months and work on a TV show. The one thing I kind of regret about high school was my love life. I spent a couple of years ping-ponging between two boyfriends that I loved but that ultimately weren’t right for me. This caused a lot of pain for all of us. I eventually figured out that I needed to be with someone that fit me and shared my values; someone that I could really be myself with. And, of course, I met my husband about two weeks after having this realization, at the ripe old age of 17.

So, something I would tell young Tara before she got into that complicated romantic mess is: get to know yourself and your values BEFORE seriously committing to someone, and never, ever try to force a relationship that you know isn’t right. It’s not fair to you or to the other person. It is absolutely better to be alone than to be in a relationship that doesn’t work. Set ’em free and move on, girl!

Oh, and also, young Tara: please appreciate the fact that you can eat burgers whenever you want, never work out, and stay tiny. Sadly, you will turn 18 and experience eating salad AS YOUR ENTIRE MEAL and figure out what the heck an elliptical machine is. Live it up, baby.

– Tara Rasmus, author of our Decoder column

You can go to art school.

Growing up, there was never a question that I was creatively inclined (my grades in math & science were evidence enough to prove it!) but even so, I never considered pursuing a creative education post-high school. I was of the mindset that school was school, and your interests are just hobbies.

I’m so grateful to have fallen into a creative career anyway, but to this day I wish I would have spent my high school and college years developing my artistic skills and becoming a pro at things like photography, studio art, and textiles, instead of working toward a degree in communications.

– Chanel, Executive Producer

Do what makes you happy and no one else.

Not having fun? Doesn’t bring you joy? Then it’s easy, don’t do it. You’ll be your most authentic self when you’re doing what you love.

– Kelly Krause, author of our Live Kindly column

Don’t ever let your social life stand in the way of your true ambitions.

I was a free spirit in high school — I still feel really connected to who I was then. I loved having friends from lots of different groups. Those were adventurous, wild, vulnerable years… I wouldn’t change much about it. But I think at times I pushed myself to be social, when I’d really rather be working on art. I’d tell my high school self that it’s okay to just put your head down and work sometimes. Don’t worry if you miss a few parties. If anything, a bit of mystery tends to work in one’s favor.

Also: Be kind during breakups, nice to your mother, and stop trying to have straight hair — it’s never gonna happen.

– Jenn Rose, Art Director

Purchase timeless fashion pieces. 

Watch out for fast fashion trends. Save your money and purchase a few investment pieces. I promise, in 15 years you will thank me when you look back at photos during high school and say to yourself, ‘oh my goodness, what was I wearing.’ I remember saving my babysitting money to buy Juicy Couture hoodies in every color. Looking back, I wish I’d saved for a timeless leather jacket and boots.

– Marnie Duncan, author of our fitness tutorials

Acknowledge when you’re happy.

I really had a good time in high school (sometimes I had a little too good of a time). I had a really untraditional educational experience, but I had really good friends (and a very cute boyfriend). When I look back now, I was having the best time — staying out all night and going to shows and going on long drives in the country with my friends. We spent a lot of time doing nothing and hanging out at hookah bars, which were truly all the rage in 2007. I was so busy trying to seem angsty that I let that chapter of my life fly by without realizing “This is it! This is what it is like to have A LOT of fun.” That’s something I try to think about now. When I am having a really great time or really having so much fun, I just try to stay very present in that moment and soak it all in. I would’ve said to my pink haired self “This is as young as you’re ever gonna be, and this is you having a great time.

– Molly Kendrick, Camille’s Sister

Be kind and don’t mess with your eyebrows.

The high school halls can sometimes be a cold place. Be a person who is genuine, honest, and kind. You won’t regret it and will be remembered for it. Also, don’t mess with your eyebrows — some of those aren’t gonna grow back.

– Landrie, Director of Partnerships

Your life is happening right now.

When I was in high school and college, I always remember this sense of ‘When I’m older / graduated / married / have a family,” then I’ll really be living my life. I had no idea how quickly it would all go by, and now that I’m in my 30’s and actually have a real job and a house and a family, I wish time would slow down! I’d tell my high school self not to be in such a hurry, to savor the process of growing up and the freedom that comes from having few responsibilities. I’d tell myself to stop worrying because it really is going to all be okay — and that now’s the time to enjoy the journey, be present, be thankful, and stop waiting for life to begin.

– Camille

What you love won’t always be ‘cool’, and that’s okay.

Do it anyway. Even if your friends don’t love it. Even if you think ‘I’m in cheerleading’ sounds way cooler than ‘I’m the yearbook photographer.’  You know what you love, and what your strengths are. That’s a gift in itself!

– Laura, photographer and editorial intern

Treasure the people in your life who have given you gifts that cannot be measured but will last a lifetime.

A few people come to mind for me, but none more generous than my grandmother Pauline, who from my earliest memories shared her love of flowers, poetry, great conversation, homemade bread, perfume, Dallas newspapers, occasional shopping trips to Neiman-Marcus, coffee, music, art of all kinds (she had prints of Picasso and Chagall – some rather shocking – all around the house) and an unwavering love and loyalty to family. She even taught me how to flirt, a skill which she considered essential! Being with her was so much fun, and along the way I was learning to see and appreciate beauty in many forms. I would advise my high school self to skip school for the day and spend it instead with your grandmother, drinking coffee and reading poems and playing old records and telling her just how much you love and treasure her.

– Christina Styles, Camille’s mom

Learn the basics.

It only took a few months after high school graduation for me to understand how much I depended on my parents. In college, I realized that I didn’t know how to change a flat tire, sew on a button, or grill up a good dinner. Post grad, I’ve been googling lots of questions like “how to file taxes” and “ways to build credit.” If there’s one thing I could tell my high school self, it would be to get a head start on adulting. Find out how to properly hand wash delicate clothes, remember to take your car in for an oil change, and learn how to cook one great meal. All the other stuff, you can figure out along the way.

– Carmen, Production Assistant

Wear sunscreen and don’t go tanning.

You’ll regret it later.

– Lauren McGoodwin, author of our Work Life column