Dear 15 year old Ashley,
I’m writing to you to tell you what I’ve learned in the six years since I was 15.
I first want to say that I know you’re doing the best you can do. I know that high school is really hard, and that your home life may be confusing right now. But I have a lot of love for you, and I know you’re going to be ok.
Since I was in your shoes, I’ve started college at Indiana University and met a lot of new people outside of the group of kids I grew up with in Bloomington. Growing up in Bloomington with the same group of kids may seem annoying right now, but I’ve realized, since graduating high school, that it’s a privilege to have grown up with the same people. You may not feel it now, but there is a sense of security associated with knowing people so well; maybe it feels like too well.
In the future, you will appreciate the opportunity you had to grow up alongside them. The ins and outs of high school can be painful, but just remember that you are lucky to have people that you know so well. The rest of your life may not be this way.
Since I was 15, I’ve learned that there’s a reason why attendance in school is mandatory.
People are always telling you to go to school, but they never really have good reasons as to why to go to school, besides not to get sent to the principal’s office or land in after school detention.
Firstly, you are privileged to be able to decide not to go to school. Many kids around the world wish they could go to school, and you have this opportunity handed to you. Use it if anything, in honor of those who can’t.
Secondly, for the rest of your life, you’re going to have times when you really don’t feel like doing anything. Life after high school is not necessarily more fun than life in high school. By avoiding school, you’re not learning how to deal with these boring, uncomfortable, or emotionally difficult situations that will crop up over and over again in your lifetime. You’re actually putting yourself at a disadvantage, because you’re going to have to learn how to do this stuff eventually.
Do you want to learn how to do this in college, when you don’t have as many support systems to fall back on? Do you want to learn how to do this at your first job, when you have the risk of getting fired if you decide to avoid work? Or do you want to learn how to do this now, when you have a slew of support systems around you and less risk of it resulting in any adverse situations?
You should probably just try to learn how to get yourself to do things that you don’t want to do now. I know it’s painful, but hey, what you’ll learn in the next few years is that, when people say “that’s life” they’re really not kidding.
Since I was 15, I’ve learned that it’s really important to ensure that you are actively aware of your sexual risk taking.
No, high school will not teach you everything you need to know about sex. It is not enough to rely on this education.
You need to educate yourself from reputable sources; go to your doctor’s office and talk to them about it, or talk to your parents (if that’s something that you feel you can do). This is vital to do BEFORE you start having sexual relations of any kind.
Since I was your age, I have found myself and many friends in scary situations as a result of our own sexual risk taking, or factors outside of our control.
Sex can be great, but it puts you in a very vulnerable position, mentally and physically. Although we should all be responsible for each other’s safety, this doesn’t always happen. You need to keep yourself safe – this includes from people who will not respect you or your body, STDs and HIV, and pregnancy.
YOU DO NOT WANT TO GET PREGNANT OR GET AN STD.
Please, as an exercise, imagine that you got an STD or got pregnant. What would that feel like physically and mentally, and what would the next few days, months, and years look like? Would you like to have to deal with any of those consequences? Probably not.
You are not infallible, and the consequences of unsafe sex are real. Stay safe, if anything, so that you don’t have to take the time to deal with any of the mental, physical, or emotional consequences.
There’s much, much more that you will learn in the next few years. My advice is to protect yourself as much as possible.
I’m not saying don’t take risks. I’m saying that really think through the consequences of the risks you take. Which ones are not worth the headache of dealing with the ramifications?
Remember to love yourself, to keep your mind open and your head up.
Ashley Judge is a CCPE intern and junior studying mathematics at Indiana University.