Things I would never actually tell my 16 year old self because she was better off not knowing

I kind of hate posts like this. They’re self-involved, letters to no one. They’re useless, really, because even if a 16 year old manages to read all of the good stuff on the internet and ends up here, it’s not going to be relevant to their life. They’re specific to the people we were, an imaginary line hurled back and hauled on.

The thing is, if I’d known these things, I would have turned out different. Probably more arrogant. But worse than that, I’d never have been able to be ignorant and it is, like a bunch of horrible tattoos say, bliss. Because the whole point of growth is not knowing things in advance. The whole reason we’re chucked out there, naked and unformed, is because fucking up makes us better. Fuck ups at 16 prevents fuck ups at 30, when your parents can’t bail you out anymore.

The thing is that 16 year old Scarlett needed to be ignorant, mainly because if she’d known all of it, she might have hurled herself off a tall building. Or she would have changed it. And neither of those things would have been right.

That said: hi, 16 year old Scarlett. Here’s what I know now, and didn’t know then.

You are not the smartest person in the world

You are quite smart. You read fast. But you are far from the smartest. You are not even the smartest person in the school, let alone the suburb, let alone the world. And your overt, shiny faith in your own brain is not winning you any friends. Life is not an Enid Blyton novel.

You are not that ugly

You’re just not, you know? You don’t measure up to Jennifer Aniston and some of your friends are better looking, but those bits you’ve got to work with? The hair and the skin and the eyes? They’re not shit. They’re average. And with the glories of make-up, your genes aren’t even going to matter. They’re going to be inches deep in slap. Eye-liner is your pal and it’s all going to be OK.

Not that many people actually care what you think, or do

People are inherently, wonderfully selfish, and that makes them categorically blind to all of the flaws you see in yourself and your behaviour every single day. They won’t remember when you tripped over, or what you wore, or how you fucked up the punch line. They will remember when you’re cruel.

Stop being cruel

Your violent lack of confidence coupled with a sharp tongue makes you kind of an asshole. And even if the people you’re insulting hate you, or think you’re below them, they will remember a well-placed insult. That means you should stop doing it, even if it doesn’t seem that way. Don’t do it. Put the daggers away.

Stop gossiping

It’ll become a habit that’s hard to break.

Hobbies are good

Learning something useful might be deeply uncool, but soon being uncool will be cool again. it’s the way the world works, just run with it. Learn to knit or something. Learn to start a fire. When you grow up, you’ll realise how deeply incapable you are, and unlikely ever to survive a zombie apocalypse. Get some skills, for fecks sake. Your flatmates will laugh at you when you can’t cook rice, mark my words.

Be less scared

You are accountable for your actions, but your fear of that is holding you way back. Do some stuff now so you don’t have to do so much stuff for the first time in your 20’s, it’s making your 20’s much more action packed than they really needed to be.

You have to learn to drive


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