The Young Know Everything


“The old believe everything; the middle-aged suspect everything; the young know everything.”

~ Oscar Wilde


When I was your age . . .

Almost makes you want to roll your eyes, right?

Well my son turns sixteen this week and I’m nostalgic thinking about how far he’s come . . .

Happy birthday G!!


. . . and where he might be going.

It got me thinking about what life was like for me when I was on the verge of sixteen and what advice I could offer my son.

Other than “Cool is overrated” (a motto I’d like you to keep in mind for the rest of this post).

Because looking back at my diary, I can sum up the bulk of my teenage musings with one word:


Seriously.  And if you don’t believe me here’s something I wrote when I was a sophomore in high school–it’s a list I started compiling to predict what I thought college would be like:


College life will be fun:  

dorm parties


dancing in the rain

jamming to the hits of the week

wearing baggy sweat shirts

going with the styles


Obviously I thought college was going to be a movie montage featuring the cast of The Breakfast Club (and maybe even Gene Kelly & Debbie Reynolds via Singing in the Rain).

Coleen when i was your age _opt

 Forget SAT scores, I was ready for college–I had a sweatshirt!


But wait there’s more!  On the next page of my diary, I detail my future house and backyard.  A yard that is “537 acres” complete with a “show barn and stables.”  Which is hysterical considering I couldn’t even get on a horse without cringing in terror, but yet I wrote:


Imagine riding at free will towards the flowing grass swaying in the wind.  Your hair whipping away from your face.


Ah yes, dream big–I had that down pat.

So what would I tell my sixteen year old self now?

Forget about trying to please other people.

Because you know what I wrote as my future career back then?  A Young Adult novelist (well, that and a big time screenwriter–how else could I afford 537 acres?), but some time after turning sixteen I stopped considering any of it as a possibility, I let it slip away into that flowing grass and whipping wind.

Apparently I was going with the styles.

I cared too much about what other people thought, and about fitting in.


“We all want to be extraordinary

and we all just want to fit in.

Unfortunately, extraordinary people rarely fit in.”

― Sebastyne Young


So I say dream big and be extraordinary.


Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

― Dr. Seuss



What would you tell your younger self?



55 thoughts on “The Young Know Everything

  1. The thing I always tell any teen I run into is whatever it is, don’t put it off. Someday really is code word for Never. Do it now, live it now, be it now. Not tomorrow. This isn’t a dress rehearsal. If I could go back to that younger self, I’m not sure what I’d say because I know me…I wouldn’t listen anyway LOL


    1. So true Melinda–and I don’t think I would’ve listened either!
      Although I got a REALLY good laugh out of my son when I read him my list last night–especially the part about “jamming to the hits.”


  2. LOVE your diary excerpt…tell me-did you ever happen to dance in the rain during a picnic dorm party? haha! I love it.
    I would tell myself to stop hanging around with the ‘cool kids’, because after about 30, they arent so cool anymore.
    Also I would say “Put some sunscreen on!!!” 🙂


  3. I would tell the young me that you are different – celebrate it. I graduated from high school at 15 — it was not a fun time for me. I would also tell her that it gets better. thanks for a great post. I didn’t go to college until after I had children, and by then all I knew was that it was going to be lots of work and take lots of time so I’d best be organized. It was and I was, so all went well


  4. Such a fun post! I love your diary excerpts! I SO wish I’d kept a diary when I was a teenager, but I just wrote horse stories 🙂 I like your older self’s description of what you thought college would be 🙂 Happy birthday to your son – mine turned 16 in August, so I know whereof you speak!


  5. I love that. “Dream big and be extraordinary.” Great post…and my goodness your son had beautiful blond curls! Does he still have them? I was a nerd at 16, but I didn’t really think I knew it all until I was about 18. What would I tell my 16-year old self… “Everything you think matters now, doesn’t. Be yourself – do NOT let someone manipulate your emotions. Don’t lose yourself in an idea of love. Keep your eyes open and let your true heart shine through.” That’s cheesy, and I just thought of it now, but…there are a LOT of things I’d tell my 16-year old self. Perhaps, I will copy your blog idea and write a letter to my younger self!


  6. Happy birthday to your son. I love the diary excerpt too. I think mine was a little dark when I was 16 and I wrote several books — probably in the YA genre now. I would tell myself to seize opportunities, even if they scare you sometimes.


  7. Great post! Funny, yet so true. I would tell my younger self that I could do whatever I wanted to do (as a career, not illegal things). I would tell myself that I am smart enough and not to give up on me. Oh, and I love your shorts!


  8. Coleen, your sunny outlook permeates those diary entries. As for fitting in, the attempt is excellent training for a YA novelist. How can you convey yearning to belong if you haven’t? So glad you’ve reclaimed your writing dream. Happy Birthday, G!


  9. Honestly, I would probably tell myself to listen to my mom. But not about everything. IT’s because of my choices that I am where I am today. BUT…. there are somethings that I regret, because I didn’t listen to my mom.


  10. I think it’s great you can go back and look at yourself and thoughts at the age of 16. I imagine looking back at our thinking process at that age could be rather entertaining and embarrassing at the same time. My sophomore year of high school English our teach made us keep a journal for the entire year that we would turn in from time to time for grading. I found the journal some time back and laughed at myself for what a dumb a** I was back then. The advice I would give any teenager is to never stop dreaming.


  11. Oh, your diary is fabulous! I think I actually shredded one many moons ago when I happened upon it and read the contents. It was sooooo annoying and ridiculous. Of course now I wish I had it so I could read it and laugh but them’s the breaks. And besides, there are others still in existence that I’m sure will make me laugh plenty when I crack one open. They’re downstairs in some box of “treasures” that I’ve been keeping for years.

    As for what I’d say to my 16-year old self? First it would be, “seriously, don’t write that down because Mom sneaks in here and reads your journal.” 🙂 And secondly, “Everyone, ‘cool’ or otherwise, feels a lot of the same things you do. We’re all just trying to figure it out. Hang in there, and don’t believe anyone that says ‘high school is the best time of your life’ because they are wrong, wrong, wrong. LOTS of good stuff yet to come.”

    Great post, as usual, Coleen! 🙂


  12. Happy Birthday to your son! What a fun post. I wrote a massive piece of writing about the meaning of life around that time, so I’d say to myself back then Go and have a laugh you saddo! 😛

    So hard to know how to teach your kids the right thing. My friend’s daughter left home for the second time this week, it really makes you think. She’s only 16 too.


  13. Happy 16th to your son!!

    I’d tell my younger self exactly what I tell my kids ~ take risks, make mistakes, and get messy. But when you make a mistake, own up to it and learn from it. Definitely don’t waste time trying to please everyone because then you’ll short change your own dreams. Live with integrity every day. Stop stressing about what so and so said about so and so!! It doesn’t matter in the long run. Oh, there is so much more I’d tell my younger self. I was kind of an idiot back in the day. ; )

    I love your quote ~ Dream big and be extraordinary. That’s my new favorite saying.


  14. Amazing post. I’ve often thought about what I wish I could have passed on to my younger self and it’d be similar to what you said. Don’t care so much about what people think – be yourself, follow your heart and trust your gut. And I’d have told myself to quit getting so wrapped up in being boy crazy. There’s all kinds of time for boys later! They don’t make up your self worth – get confident in yourself and make choices that make you feel good and build yourself up! Join drama and extra-curricular sports. Don’t be so afraid!
    Love that – dream big and be extraordinary! Great motto!


  15. Happy Birthday, Coleen’s son. Listen to your mom. She’s a smart lady. 🙂

    As a mother I have often wished that my kids could learn from MY mistakes. But in the same way I wouldn’t learn from my mother’s, they won’t listen to me either. Unfortunately it’s the mistakes we make over the course of our lives that are responsible for who we are today. And no matter how much we, as parents, would like to protect our children from stumbling, from the pain of a broken heart (because we can see that ‘he’ is a jerk), from hurt of any kind, we cannot. Kids are stubborn (just like we were). They have to experience something before they can believe it.

    Great post, Coleen!


  16. So much. There’s so much I’d want to say. That there will be bad days, but more good than bad. That many dreams will come true, including ones I don’t know I have yet. To trust myself.
    Great post!


  17. LOVE the pics!!! You are a brave woman;) I know those milestones with our kids can be tough. I have four boys 18-12, and each milestone kills me!!
    I’d tell my young self to slow down, life is short and enjoy it more!


  18. I would definitely tell my younger self to love myself more and quit worrying about the others. If I would have known how little impact people I desperately wanted for friends in high school would have on my actual life, I think I could have been much happier sooner.


  19. It’s a good thing I hadn’t taken a gulp of coffee before reading this post–I would have spewed it all over my screen. I’m glad you dreamed big, Coleen. Big dreams, even grandiose dreams (although wishing for a horse farm isn’t completely grandiose), cause us to reach toward higher aspirations. And it’s in the stretching that we achieve our greatest accomplishments. So that’s what I’d tell my younger self: Go ahead and dream big!

    Callie Kingston


  20. I would tell my younger self—and all young women—that you’re more wonderful than you know. The “something more” you strive for truly is out there…and though you’ll hit some bumps, you’ll find your way. Your mantra of “don’t give up” is there for good reason. Oh, and that guy with the crazy hair and bandana? Um…not so much. LOL

    “Dream big and be extraordinary.” Words to live by, Coleen! Love this post. Thank you.


  21. That’s so funny how your expectations of college were all about the social aspects! Mine were all about studying. Mostly correct! If I could, I’d tell myself not to worry about boys – and that just because the ones I liked weren’t popular, didn’t mean they weren’t jerks! LOL


    1. Oh this was only part of the list–it’s actually much longer including studying on, I think I wrote “my career topics” or something vague like that! 🙂
      And yes about the boy thing– I agree!


  22. This is a great post, Coleen, getting a glimpse of the young Coleen of years ago. So cool that you wrote that stuff in your diary. I wrote things in Gregg Shorthand when I was 16 so no one could read it (like my mom)! All I know is that I’m thankful I survived my stupid teen years and I’m even more thankful that my kids survived their stupid teen years. I would tell my teen self to knock that &*%# off, but I wouldn’t listen to an old fart so it wouldn’t matter! Happy birthday to your son!


  23. I actually laughed out loud a few times while reading this post! I love it!!

    I would tell my younger self, “Stop laying out with spf 4! You are Irish, for goodness sake!”

    Happy Birthday, G. I can’t believe he is 16. 🙂


  24. Coleen, this is a wonderful post, and happy 16th birthday to your son!

    Ironically, I think that the advice that I gave myself at 16 (preserved in journal form) is better than anything that present-day me could give to my past self. Right before I turned 16, I wrote a note to myself to “never compromise your ideals or your beliefs.” I’ve compromised those ideals more than once in the last 9 years, and it’s only recently that I’ve realized that those beliefs are the ones that I want to live by. It’s a strange thing to think that my younger self might’ve had better insight into what makes me tick, but kinda cool all the same. 😀


  25. Okay, you are just too cool! Great diary excerpts! *boohoo* I did not keep a diary so now I cannot look back and laugh at myself. I wonder how I lived through it all. 🙂

    Btw, you were cool in your Notre Dame sweatshirt! 🙂

    Happy birthday to your son. I know you are very proud. *waving*


  26. Coleen, I’ve commented o your PPBF, but this is the first time I really visited your blog. I like it a lot. Your son is adorable. And, I enjoyed your post. Oh to be 16, and have the wisdom of 44 yrs. 🙂 I believe I’d tell my 16-year-old self that you don’t have to decide what you’re going to be or do in this world, because as your life experiences will add point you in the right direction. Just keep walking your path.


  27. I so enjoyed my first visit to your blog, Coleen. I’ll be back.
    What would I tell my younger self?
    “Stop looking around, being all concerned what other people are thinking about you. Figure out who you are, who God made you to be — and focus on being that person.”


  28. What would I tell my 16 year old self? Here’s what! “You! Yeah you! This is your future 55 year old self, and I’m gonna kick your A double S for all the years of hardship you caused me, with your irresponsible and lackadaisical attitude, your contempt for discipline, and your knee jerk rebellion against any kind of authority, which gave you a total disregard for common sense and the value of planning ahead!”

    You have NO idea the kind of trouble you ended up causing me, with your ‘Rebel Without a Cause’ stance, which you thought was nonconformist and cool, but really was just an excuse for you to not work hard, and not do stuff that you thought was boring, no matter how important it really was to succeeding in life, instead of just drifting! That’s not cool; that’s just self deception and stupidity!”

    Wow! I didn’t know that my 55 year old self had such serious issues with my 16 year old self! But I really liked your selection of quotes, and thanks for stopping by my blog. Next time I come back here to yours, I’ll try to not turn my comment into a therapy session, and sorry about letting that happen.


    1. No apologies necessary! There are moments that I would be kicking my teen self over if I hadn’t been so darn lucky. I did some stupid stuff, but simply lucked out when it came to the possible consequences. And for all the other times I was just too clueless and dorky.
      THanks for coming by and sharing Chris!


      1. Thanks for your patience and generosity, Coleen. The good news is that in spite of being more stubborn than a mule, and having a personality that loved being out of touch with reality, to the point that I tried to live in an ongoing state of surreality, the school of hard knocks beat me into shape, and I actually managed to find success in life.

        There was a first marriage that was the result of bad choices on my part when I was 23, to a woman who was even crazier than that I was, that ended in divorce six years later because we were both too immature to make a marriage work.

        But I got marriage right on the second try, by marrying an absolute gem of a woman, and we’re still married and happily, after 21 years and counting. With an aptitude for success in sales, I even managed to make a good living, and we now live in a home that’s paid for.

        But it took a very long journey lost in the wilderness, with many bad experiences to get to the point where I understood the value of hard work and sensible living, and enough so to benefit from a lot of very hard learned lessons.

        I think that maybe “dorky” isn’t such a bad thing, Coleen. It can have far less serious consequences than being cool and clueless, and I’m proof.


  29. But, Coleen… college life was fun! Don’t you remember? This is how I remember it –

    Dorm parties = you and two or three of your classmates crammed in my tiny studio apartment cramming for a psych mid-term and choking down stone-cold pizza and warm, flat soda. Whose got time for parties?

    Picnics = Eating Subway in the car while the rain came down in sheets outside, threatening to wash away the picnic tables.

    Dancing in the rain = more like making out in the backseat of a fogged up Volvo because that rain is like 12 degrees!

    Jamming to the hits = eh, not so conducive to studying I found out… too distracting. Can you believe the professors wouldn’t accept “I was busy making up mix CDs for this weekend; that’s why I didn’t finish my assignment.”

    Wearing baggy sweatshirts = actually, that one works only in the privacy of your room. Some of those upperclass bitc** are all to happy rip into your fashion faux pas… let’s not give them any excuses.

    Damn…. I miss those days!

    Excellent post, Coleen! Thanks for posting your link over on Susie’s blog. 🙂


    1. Tiny studio apartment with cold pizza and flat soda–you are describing my Junior year of college-LOL! That and donuts–I think we ate alot of donuts.
      Thanks for coming by Veronica!!


  30. Coleen, I found you in Susie’s blog party. This story makes me smile as most of my children are grown with lives of their own. I told the two things:
    * I will always love you no matter what.
    * You are in charge of the decisions you make in life, but the consequences may not always be what you think they are and they will always affect someone else.

    When I was in college I had 5 children. I got a “C” on a math test and they grounded me. They took my car keys and screened all my phone calls. They really enjoyed telling people I was grounded. I couldn’t say much because I had just grounded my daughter for getting a “C”.


  31. I would tell my younger self a few of things:

    1) Pay attention in school. You have to work hard for what you want and your education is a big part of that.
    2) No, that guy named Todd is not the man you should marry. It will be a big mistake….huge.
    3) Don’t be in such a rush to do everything. Save some for later….

    Your post made me very happy that I wasn’t a diary/journal kind of person! 🙂


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