Dear Younger Me:
We’ve been through a lot in this life and in this body, including quite a bit of heartache. I honestly believe that we’re stronger thanks to everything we’ve been through, but at the same time, I think we could be even more formidable had we done a few things differently. Let’s face it: you don’t have the emotional intelligence to make what I now know would be better decisions, but I do. Since I have this opportunity to give you, the Younger Me, a little advice about past relationships, let’s review:
Don’t Plan on Someone Else. I remember what you want to do. You want to get married right out of high school and have the perfect nuclear family with 2.4 kids and the hubby who had the stock broker job and maybe not a minivan, but definitely a “mom” car. That high school love that you have right now? It’s not going to work out, and that’s okay. Don’t plan on someone else for your happiness.
Just because Mom and Dad got married right out of high school doesn’t mean you have to. You will go on to learn valuable things about yourself (that I won’t tell you — I’ll leave that to Mom), that will make it okay. However, I’m telling you right now, it’s okay that your first love, who you really did love, doesn’t turn into marriage and kids.
That being said, do I think you should do anything differently with him? I think maybe you shouldn’t write that really obvious poem in English class. The teacher is going to read it aloud. To every class. Including his, and he’ll know it’s about him. Trust me, and while you’ll appear to laugh it off while in school, and it’ll lead to you being published for the very first time in your life, the pain really might not be worth it. Otherwise, your relationship with him will teach you valuable things about friendship and the male sex in general.
Don’t Be a Sucker. To the next major speed bump in your relationship road, I say firmly: “RUN AWAY!” This relationship will drain you dry, literally and figuratively. Watch out for all the warning signs. There will be many. He won’t ever have a job despite not going to school full-time. At the age that you two are, you will be his Sugar Momma. I’m telling you right now, don’t you dare buy him a damn thing he can’t buy for himself!
He will spend an inordinate amount of time focused on all aspects of basketball, to the point of ruining the sport for you for more than a decade. At this point in our life, I will say this. It’s time for older me to put my Big Girl Panties on and take back control of our love of the sport.
He will never want to put a label on what you have, and you won’t know how to ask about it. Just ask, and if he continues to refuse to label it, kick him to the curb. The fact that he is a freeloader who ruined your love of one of your favorite sports by pure immersion should be enough to make you want to run away.
Don’t Search. I’m not saying don’t date. That can be fun. It’s going to be a serious pain in the ass, too. However, it can be a lot of fun. By now, dating is a bit different than it was when we were in high school. There were no cellphones. Now, thanks to modern technology, a lot of dating is done over technology. Seriously.
Anyway, what I mean by “don’t search,” is don’t actively look for the next “crush” or “hot guy” over whom to pine. Been there. Done that. It only leads to pain. Sometimes it’s hard to be single, and we’re going to want to date. Don’t push it. You’re going to have more important things to do, like teach high school kids about World War II and how to write essays. Some day, you’ll even go to grad school. Don’t screw anything up by seeking out something just for the sake of having it. That just makes you look desperate. You’re not, and you never will be.
Don’t Ignore Yourself. My final piece of advice is more general. In any and all relationships you may have as you age, remember this: you have to take care of yourself first before you can take care of anyone else. Self-care in all its forms is a big deal now that we’re older, almost to the point where some people roll their eyes.
I’m telling you: it’s no joke. How can anyone be expected to care for or about anyone else if she can’t take care of or doesn’t care about herself? In some respects, this is going to be a hard road for you. You worry about the needs of others; you care too much. You become a teacher, at least for a little while, not for nothing.
However, there will be relationships, romantic and otherwise, that will suck the life out of you until you say: “ENOUGH! I have to take care of me!” Listen to me: it’s okay to be a little more self-ish in the beginning and take care of yourself first.
Now go forth and have good relationships!