Have you ever looked at the innocence of a child and seen yourself in them? Maybe it’s the way you see the little girl next door skips everywhere she goes, or you when you look into the beaming eyes of the 8-year old girl you babysit when her face light up whenever she talks about the best new book she finished reading.
Recently, I have caught myself wondering what I would tell my 11-year-old self before I reached an era of my life full of the childlike innocence fading — learning people can’t always be trusted and mistakes are a part of life, but things will get better. Reflecting on growth past my childhood nostalgia, there are a few pieces of wisdom I would endow my 11-year-old self:
1. Not everyone is meant to be in your life forever
I remember thinking in 5th grade best friends and I (or the "Fab 5") as we called ourselves, would be my soul-mates, my bridesmaids and forever friends. Fast forward to middle school, when suddenly finding boyfriends to go to the movies with became more important than planning the next sleepover on the weekend, friendships started to turn into dust. Soon I learned girls can be mean and it's sometimes not worth it to hold onto a friendship. People come and go, but what you learned from them never changes.
2. Don't judge based on people's decisions
If there is one thing I discovered as I grew up it's that people's poor decisions don't always reflect their hearts. When I was younger (and probably way too deep into my teenage years) I had the mindset that people that did bad things, weren't good people. I have learned that some of the best people haven't made the best decisions. Just because people don't have the same choices in life as you don't make them any worse.
3. Don't be so hard on yourself
You will make mistakes. This is a part of life. This may be messing up on your math test in 7th grade, it could be saying something unkind to a friend at 16, or truly being sorry for how you acted during because you were hurt at 22. Despite your mistakes, know you are human and they are inevitable. Learn from them, accept growth and forgive yourself.
4. Not everyone can be trusted
Children tend to see the best in everyone. This trait can be carried into your 20s, to believe it or not. My best friend once said, "you biggest downfall is giving everyone the benefit of the doubt." It is good to see the best in people, but remember not to expect too much from everyone and don't take it to heart when they reflect less than what you thought.
5. It's not bad to not be in a hurry to grow up
Sometimes you're going to feel pressured to grow up. Maybe in 6th grade, your friends started talking more about boys and makeup. Perhaps in high school, everyone only cared about drinking and parties. If you're not interested in growing up fast — don't pretend to be. Staying a kid a little longer was one of the best things I could do. Growing up will happen eventually, but don't rush it. Stay a kid a little longer, it'll be worth it.
One reminder that I give myself when I decide whether or not to trust my judgment is to be some that would make my 11-year old self-proud. Children see the best in people, dream big and are hopeful for the future. No matter what grow up stuff gets in my way, I try to bring out my 11-year-old soul from time to time to remember to not take life too seriously.