The Advice I Would Give to My High School Self

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

There are probably many of you who are reading this article and thinking—gosh, what would I tell myself, retrospectively? It’s a tough, thought-provoking premise. Admittedly, many of us had wonderful high school experiences, which helped to hone our college years and, perhaps, our careers. Others of us may not have had charmed high school experiences. Nonetheless, one cannot argue that we all have learned something during our high school years. And isn’t it amazing just how wise we have become—50-plus years later!

To that end, here are some reflections of several neighbors and friends (who you may know) giving some thought to this inquiry. The initials and the age of each respondent are given.

R.P. – Age 75

You won’t believe how quickly your life will go by. Make good memories. Ask your parents more about their growing-up years. Write it down. Be there for your siblings. They need your love and support. Treasure the time you get to spend with your grandparents, your uncles, and aunts. If your parents could do a better job, they’d already be doing it. Love them anyway.

B.C. – Age 80+

What I considered to be important, 20 or 30 years later, in retrospect, was not important. But I do not think that my teenage self would have listened.

J.C. – Age 61

Live large, chase what motivates you, always believe. Every day—and I mean every day—is a new opportunity.

B.E. – Age 75

Don’t be in a rush through life. You will find that the days may go slowly, but the years go very fast. You can learn something valuable from absolutely everyone whom you will ever meet. Don’t discard those small memories of your life. One day, they can come back together to form something truly beautiful. Parents don’t raise children. It’s actually the other way around. Be respectful and compassionate of your elders. The clock is ticking for you also. Do a good deed each day. There is more room in a broken heart.

S.S. – Age 76

To my teen self: Be a bit braver, trust your friends, and be kinder to your sisters (they will be your best friends for years and years). Work a bit harder, and don’t be in such a hurry to grow up (once you do, the years will fly by). You are smarter than you feel, but your heart will guide you to make the smart choices. You are loved.

M.S. – Age 76

Before going into high school, I would tell myself that high school is only four years out of my life history and I should not put much emphasis on being popular, nor lament the fact that I might not feel a part of a group. There are more important things to worry about in life.