I can (barely) remember being a teenager. Then, as now, I knew it all. I had life completely figured out. I had a plan that would lead me to riches, fame, and a fantastic family life. I was smart, I was going places, and I was going to have it all!
Too bad I didn’t realize how little I really knew and how much I had to learn. Too bad I didn’t understand that life happens even to the most intelligent, most hard-working people in the world (and that I had missed the application deadline for genius status). Too bad I didn’t understand how completely one choice can change the entire direction of your life.
Fortunately, I have been able to look back and see how Heavenly Father has used every experience to fill in the blanks on many of the things I needed to know.
Anyway, if my daughters were actually inclined to listen to me, here is some of the wisdom I have gained that I would impart to them:
- College: If you haven’t started now to lay the foundation for qualifying for good scholarships, you need to start. Don’t let your fears or misgivings steal your dreams from you. Go somewhere new, and get all of the learning and education you can. Don’t worry so much about out-of-state tuition and other things. If there is no one able to help you finance your education, don’t sweat it. Take the classes you can, get a job and work your way through. The harder you have to work for your education, the more you will value it, and the better off you will be. The good, strong work ethic you will develop will take you through a lot of things that will knock other people off their path.
- Career: Be prepared to support yourself and always have a back up plan to take care of you and your family. Sometimes life comes at you hard and fast. The more that you can do, the less you panic. Choose something you love, but be realistic about the amount of money that you will earn from your job. Don’t be afraid to have more than one skill set. You might just find that you can (or have to) work a second job or have a small side business to help out the family budget. The more options you have, the less likely you are to be trapped in a dead-end job or in fear of a bad boss. On the other hand, I live by the saying, “to choose is to renounce – and that’s o.k.” You may have lots of options, but if you try to follow them all at once, you are doomed to fail. Pick the one you like the most and fill in the others as you can.
- Dating: You will marry someone you date. That’s a given. There should be a lot of thought and care taken in deciding who you will date and how you will date. Sexual attraction is good, and there is a time and a place for it. However, when everything else in a marriage hits the skids, so to speak, sex will not hold the marriage together. The odd truth is, that if you choose your dating partners and your future spouse based on real things like character, similar interests, religious values, and overall compatibility, you will have a much hotter relationship for a much longer time. Also, watch for warning signs: dabbling in pornography is the sign of an addiction in denial. Addictions kill relationships. Watch out for feelings that the other person put himself first, doesn’t really consider your feelings, or is habitually overbearing: you could be walking straight into an abusive relationship. How does this guy treat his former girlfriends? You may think it’s wonderful that he talks so badly about them and is so complementary about you, but there is a big chance that you will one day also be an ex. What will he say then?
- Marriage: Never again would I marry if I had serious misgivings about the way I was being treated or had to make a lot of excuses for the man I was engaged to. Marriage may be a contract, but it is also a Heavenly covenant. Both spouses have an end to hold up. On that note, it is your responsibility to honor and cherish your husband. He is not perfect, he is human. He will forget little things and have little habits that can annoy you if you let them. He is not a fixer-upper, and an attitude like that on your part will drive him from you. In the end, you will have chosen a good man, and he needs to be reminded of that. Tell him! Show him he matters by taking the time to be attractive when he is around. Do little things that show him he matters. Over time, he will probably find himself doing the same for you.
- Family: You come from a shattered family and have lived in a war zone for all of your young life. In this area, I would urge you to make sure that you do better than I did. I assumed that I was smart enough to make a few changes to fix the things my parents did wrong, try to live the gospel, and end up with the perfect family. Raising a family is the most important thing that you will do in your life. If there is anything worthy of study and consideration, it is the process it takes to put a family together successfully. You will need to make changes in yourself – this is a normal part of the process and one of the best things that will happen to you as you rear a family. You owe it to your children.
- Finances: If there is any hole in American public education that I would like to see plugged, it would be in personal finances. In school, you are taught skills that you will need to earn money, but you are not taught much about how to intelligently use the money once you’ve made it. Money is a form of power. Power can be used for good or evil. The more power that you have, the more strength and self-control you need. Power without strength of character can ruin you. Learn to control your appetite for more – too many possessions end up possessing you. Learn to use your money as a tool, and let it work for you.
- Faith: Although there are many who try to figure out life and explain everything in the absence of God, that’s the hard way. There is a plan, there is a purpose to life, and there is a God in the heavens that loves you, knows you, and has your best interests at heart. It wasn’t part of the plan for Him to explain everything to you (or me — or anyone else, for that matter), and it wasn’t part of the plan for everything to make logical sense. We are here to learn about a very delicate power – faith. Everyone puts their faith in something. The trick is to put your faith in the right place. If you make a point of getting to know Heavenly Father and His Son, Our Savior, you will have your faith in the right place. The closer you get and the better you know them, the more you will understand the power of faith. Your faith will be tested and tried to the point that you think you don’t have any more. That’s part of the growing pains we go through here. If you stand firm and strong, you will be able to look back and realize that you have had a good life.
So, that’s my advice, for what it’s worth. My children may not be ready to listen yet, but you did.