Last week, my oldest daughter, Eliana, turned 16.  She’s the sweetest, smartest, most beautiful 16-year-old I know!  There’s no stopping the positive impact she’s having, and will have, on this world.  It’s truly unmistakable.

A couple weeks back, our school put on a Cabaret which was basically a talent show for the high school students.  Eliana did a solo while playing the ukulele she got for Christmas a few months back.  The song she performed was from a lesser-known group called Arcadian Wild and since the song was too long for the time allotted, she decided to write her own concluding verse.  All this was a surprise to Keri and me because Eliana practiced on her own and didn’t want us to know.

I relistened to her song after I knew she wrote the last verse.  I’ve never been prouder.  For the parent of an athlete, it’s easy to cheer the touchdown or basket made.  For the parent of a musician, this was the equivalent of a game winning 3 pointer.

I’m excited to see what God has in store for her.  In the meantime, I’d offer some thoughts for my (or any) 16-year-old.

  1. You are not alone. We’ve never had more ‘friends’ on our social media feeds, but they’re all behind a screen, behind a wall.  Human connection matters.  You have friends, parents and a community cheering you on, wanting to help, willing to offer a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear.
  2. Don’t forget the Golden Rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  No one wants to be gossiped about, mistreated, disrespected, or undermined.  Treat others like you would want to be treated, and it will go well with you.
  3. Invest in yourself. In a world that makes you feel the most epic FOMO ever imagined if you didn’t get in on the latest and greatest crypto craze, it’s important to remember that it’s far more important to invest in yourself.  Read, grow, learn, work hard, go to college or a trade school, take that missions trip.  Those opportunities will prove much more valuable than a share of stock.
  4. Use common sense. Book Smart and Street Smart are not mutually exclusive.  Learn the essential skills in life to set you apart from the awkward geniuses that you’ll encounter.  Learn a firm handshake, look the person in the eye, handwrite a thank you card, use correct grammar in your emails, put your phone on silent when you’re with friends.  These things will allow you to go further than a good ACT score.
  5. Everything matters more when you’re young.  The drama is more impactful, the decisions more weighty, the paths ahead more nuanced.  Take a deep breath, none of it will matter 10 years from now.  Trust yourself, rely on others, step forward with gratitude.  Relax, it will all work out.  Just chill a bit, and enjoy the life set before you.

Far be it for me to have stated all the wisdom needed for a 16-year-old.  So, what about you?  What advice would you have given your 16 year old self?