You Are Never Too Young
I’m sure you’ve heard some type of critique regarding age in your life. I remember one summer vacation as a young girl, and I wanted to ride the vicious roller coaster The Hulk! at Universal Studios. It was gigantic and for adrenaline seekers—I just had to ride it. My parents lost their minds and said, “You can’t, you are too small and too young.” I was 5 years old that day, and wished I could turn 6 in that moment. I was so disappointed that my parents were keeping my adventurous spirit locked up, just because they thought I was “too young.” The next day, I made it a point to wear my tall sneakers to try to make my dreams come true, and ride the tallest, fastest roller coasters my new “height” would allow. My parents decided to overlook their fears for the first time that day, making me the happiest and most motivated child in the park. At that moment I felt invincible!
Limits are placed on us as children to protect us. I understand it, but it doesn’t impress me. I personally never saw the danger aspect to the rules and boundaries around me; I only saw the fun with pursuing my dreams to ride that thrilling roller coaster, go whitewater rafting, or even zipline. As time passed, pushing boundaries became a habit for me and I believed that I was capable of completing any goal I had, and pursue my dreams, without ever considering if I was too young.
I had to get creative though, because it wasn’t easy. I was told to wait when I wanted to start my nonprofit, open a business, join an advocacy group and write a book at 15. I could literally hear the sound of crickets, you know like in all those funny movie scenes. It wasn’t just society and the laws that were created, it was my parents. They always had this distant stare when I would share my goals. And then when they tried to convince me to wait or be patient, it just made me want to push harder. Why are these experiences reserved for “older” people?
As a society, we are fascinated with entrepreneurs who make business work, achieve social media heights and create inventions. That gift is inside of each of us. We have the power and passion to achieve the impossible despite our age, gender, social preference and ethnicity. Yet so many entrepreneurs are out in the world second guessing their talent due to the stigma of their age.
Parents and adults always try to inspire us when we are young, saying phrases such as “The sky is the limit” and “You can do whatever you set your mind to,” but it takes time to understand that we must believe in ourselves first. We forget to tell ourselves that we can’t rely on others to have our backs when it comes to our dreams. We forget to mention that slowly friends may take another route and become strangers. We purposefully do not mention how hard and lonely the world may seem on the road ahead.
I felt like a lone wolf at my high school, I was the odd ball out because instead of attending every athletic game (or class), I was either traveling, practicing a speech, researching opportunities or working on my nonprofit. I know my teachers probably cringed every time I asked to make up homework, or a test. And my peers were just enjoying their days, going to games, parties and immersed in the high school experience. I was chronically run down physically, and fought so much sickness and stress. And yet I pushed on, because the dream for me was so real, it made it all worth it.
Those years spent in hustle mode for me paid off. Although I was considered “too young” I became an award-winning published author, traveled to speak nationally three times, even gave a TED talk, and received recognition for my efforts to change the stigmas of scars for so many children and teens. But for every yes I received, there were plenty of “cricket moments,” like the time when I didn’t think I would ever find a publisher. Or watching a speaking opportunity go to someone older. In my opinion I had just as much experience and even more passion than others, some looked at me and saw a young blonde girl who didn’t have much to offer. But I will always see myself as so much more, and you should too. So what if most people weren’t taking my dreams seriously? I did, and that was all that mattered in the end. Find other likeminded young peeps like yourself, they are out there, trust me. Maybe they aren’t in your high school, and that is ok. I found my tribe once I traveled out of state. My young mentors are seriously going to break barriers and dominate globally, and I couldn’t be more inspired to do the same.
A lesson I learned early in life was understanding who I was deep down and discovering who I wanted to be. I knew I wanted to be great at anything I set my mind and heart to but I also wanted to be kind, responsible, and compassionate. I wanted to be remembered for doing something good in my life. I faced many obstacles along the way and that helped me build my character, and have the strength I needed to become who I am today. I also had to accept my flaws and imperfections. I called myself pretty for the first time at the age of 15, and realize that I needed help to make my ideas work. I let society and my peers describe my physical scars ugly and unattractive. Until the day I decided to take control of my own life, my own image. Selfacceptance is key to discovering who you are. Are you too young? Absolutely not. Are you too old? No. Are you too inexperienced to know what you want out of this world? Big NO. Change the way you view yourself and never give anyone the power to define who you are in this world. I will never forget the feeling I had, when I was able to change a young mind to envision themselves in the now as successful. It’s up to each of us to change the age limit on success, beauty, and intelligence.
There will be many times you will have to rise above stigmas or obstacles, small or great. And you have the tools to do so in any way you choose. YOU are enough, YOU have more strength and power than you or the person sitting next to you can comprehend, YOU have the character of a leader, a role-model, YOU have accepted your flaws and discovered that you are an incredible human being, YOU will rise above any negative barriers that come your way and YOU will beat any and all stigmas that try to keep you from becoming who you are meant to be.
It has only been a matter of days since I left my teen years behind. I am now 20, and I have to say I will miss a lot of my past due to achieving momentous dreams and goals at a celebratory age. A “job well done” pat on the back will now be harder to come by. But that’s okay. It’s time for me to take my dreams and goals to the next level. And as I do, I challenge you today to see (and help others to see) that no matter your age, race, gender, social class, that you are creating a difference in the world and you are unstoppable.
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