The Life Secret I Wish My 16-Year Old Self Knew Then

The River Poet

Apparently, at age 16, I was fond of using the words melancholy, moroseness, dismal, forlorn, hapless, etc. I remember reading a variety of things back then but somehow these were the kinds of words that stuck with me. I know this not from memory but, should I say, from re-discovery. I recently stumbled upon the blog that I kept way back in 2006, and while most of my posts seemed heavily cryptic that I no longer remember the circumstances that I deliberately hid behind my words, I do know for a fact that my writings mostly stemmed from loneliness (or other variations thereof).

Growing up, I think I was always quick to conclude that for any negative event that happened to me – low score in an exam, loss of a relative, unrequited love – it was always due to my own shortcomings and failures as a person. I was quick to assume that I was never enough. Of course I thought of all these things by default, never intentionally. I don’t believe anyone would naturally be so self-injurious.

I didn’t know where or how it all started exactly.

Before I even knew it, I was already at the thick of it all.

And from there, just like any unresolved issue, it developed into a wide range of other things: insecurity, anxiety, loneliness, bouts of depression, a fixed mindset – I found myself going only for things I knew I’d be good at; anything that revealed my weaknesses and rendered me incapable, I readily avoided. And in the face of failure, I absolutely flaked and flunked.

In one of my posts back in 2006, I was recounting a conversation between a friend and myself. “What do you want in life?” He asked. “To make the most out of it, to live with very little regrets,” I said.

I was always so afraid to make a mistake, to make one single wrong decision.

Had I been given the chance to let my 16-year old self in on a life secret, I’d tell her this: In this life, no one is exempt from failure or mistakes. So to channel all of your efforts to steer clear of those things would only prove to be futile. Instead, channel all of your efforts to learn the skill of resilience. It is perhaps the most invaluable life skill.

“You can learn it?” I can almost hear my 16-year old self ask.

Apparently, yes. I likewise once thought that resilience was a trait, likely to be innate, which begs one to make the distinction between people who either had it or didn’t. But much has been studied these days about resilience to tell us that there are certain things that can be taught, learned, and practiced, in order to allow for one’s level of resilience to change over time.

So to my 16-year old self: to make the most out of life is to keep moving forward, to never allow yourself to be paralyzed in perpetual indecision because of fear of the unknown or frustration from unmet expectations. To make the most out of life is to invest in relationships and not live all of your days in isolation, no matter how comfortable it may sometimes seem. To make the most out of life is to accept that regret is but a state of mind that you choose to subscribe to. To make the most out of life is to realize that much of this life is a choice, and that we have to choose to move forward and start over as often as necessary.

To make the most out of life is to always strive to choose resilience every time.

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