21 Things You Wish You Knew When You Were 16

At 16, you really think you have the world figured out. For example, I was going to be a world famous author by the time I was 22, married by the time I was probably about 25 or 26. Then, of course, I’d see one of my many books made into a film, so I’d divorce my husband and take up with some celebrity. It was going to be perfect. That, however, is not how my life panned out, and although I know my 16-year-old self might be a bit annoyed at how things did go down, I’m equally annoyed by the delusions I had at that age. If only I knew then what I know now, my 16-year-old self and I might be able to make peace.

Here’s the things you wish you knew when you were 16.

  1. You will recover from your first heartbreak. It won’t feel like it at the time, and you’ll feel like you’re dying inside, but you will get over it. It’s just going to take lots and lots of time, and pizza.
  2. You will love again. Because of course! You have to! It’s an evolutionary fact based on the biology of being human.
  3. You’ll actually have much heartbreak from which you’ll need to recover. And with each one you’ll swear it hurts more than the last, but at least as you get older you’ll realize that you’d rather have the pain of loss than to have never known the happiness of loving that person.
  4. There is no such thing as a “permanent record.” So, when they tell you that in high school, just scoff and roll your eyes. Permanent record? Who comes up with that crap?
  5. The cool kids in school peak in high school. Which, for us nerds who blossom late, can take ultimate solace in, because it’s true.
  6. You need to find your confidence early in the game. It’s not easy being a teenage girl, and even your 20s will give you a run for your money, but if you can find self-esteem as early as possible, it’s going to make all the difference. You’ll succeed earlier on, because you’ll have the faith in yourself that some women don’t get until their 30s.
  7. Sunblock is really important. It’s amazing how fast your skin ages if you skip the sunblock. No one wants to look 50 at 30.
  8. Always quit while you’re ahead when you’re drinking. If you don’t, you’re looking at a lifetime of hangovers and wasted days. Life is too short for hundreds and hundreds of hangovers.
  9. If a friend betrays you even once, walk away. You don’t need the toxic friendships in your life, or the drama that comes with forgiving and being burned again.
  10. College, sorry to say, is totally overrated. Unless you’re going into something that absolutely needs a degree, it’s just four years of partying and a decade or so of college loans after the fact.
  11. Grad school is even more overrated. Again, unless you’re going on to be a doctor, psychologist, or something similar, don’t bother. No one needs a Master’s degree in any liberal arts subject. Unless you can recognize that you’re just trying to avoid the inevitable ― joining the real world― skip it.
  12. Whatever you major in, probably won’t even be your career. But it was a good idea to major in anthropology with a minor in sculpture at the time, wasn’t it?
  13. You will change your mind dozens of times. Whether it’s about politics, religion, or your feelings on plaid, the thoughts you have at 16 will not be the ones you have even five years later.
  14. The vote for the green party is a wasted vote. Every college student goes through that phase where they think they can change the world, but the problem is we still live in two party system, so when it comes down to a crucial vote, don’t throw it away on the green party. Just don’t.
  15. You’ll be just as clueless at 25, 30, and so on, as you were at 16. Granted, it will be different types of cluelessness, but it’s still cluelessness all the same.
  16. It could always be worse. If you take a step outside yourself, you’ll realize that your worst days are probably a walk in the park for some of the people in this very tragic world. Never lose prospective.
  17. Your parents actually do understand you. Breaking news: Mom and dad were teenagers once, too, and they’ve been there and done that. It’s easy to feel misunderstood in your teens (20s and beyond), but you’re not the first or the last to feel this way. In fact, join the club.
  18. Going to bed is actually really cool. Or at least your body is going to think so at 8AM.
  19. Building your life around someone else will get you nowhere. Whether it’s a partner, a lover, friend, or a boss who has you by the ovaries, you need to build your life for you and you alone. You also need to do it so it’s strong enough to still be standing when you’re rolling solo.
  20. Don’t spend so much time worrying about your weight. You’re never going to be completely happy with your body, because no one is, so worrying about your weight is fruitless. Since this is the truth, always order dessert.
  21. Yes, you will become your mother. It’s the age-old adage that all women become their mother eventually, and it’s actually true. But you’ll realize that that’s not a bad thing at all. In fact, as you get older, she just might become your best friend.
Amanda Chatel is a sexual health, mental health, and wellness journalist with more than a decade of experience. Her work has been featured in Shape, Glamour, SELF, Harper's Bazaar, The Atlantic, Forbes, Elle, Mic, Men's Health and Bustle, where she was a lifestyle writer for seven years. In 2019, The League included Amanda in their "15 Inspirational Feminists Every Single Person Should Follow on Twitter" list.

Amanda has a bachelor's degree in English and master's degree in Creative Writing from the University of New Hampshire. She divides her time between NYC, Paris, and Barcelona.

You can follow her on Instagram @la_chatel or on Twitter @angrychatel.