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As I sit back and meditate on the many mistakes that I have made in life, I consider what advice I would give to my younger self, and then I wonder whether he would have listened. 

Between the ages of 14 and 16, I thought I had it all figured out. I rebelled against adults, because in my young mind they didn’t know what they were talking about. How could they, when they couldn’t see the world through my eyes? Ironically, now that I am older I see things differently.

Back then, I saw the world in the way that I wanted to see it. Back then it was only about what I wanted. That included girls, the latest fashion, cars, gangbanging and money. I didn’t have a clue about the future nor did I care. Why? Because I never thought I would live to be 18 years old. All around me, my peers were getting killed, so it was just a matter of time before I would be next.

My mind was so closed back then. What was I thinking? The problem is that I wasn’t thinking. Foolishly, without any rational basis I thought I knew it all. I would make mistake after mistake, every day, and never gave it a second thought. In my mind, my parents and other nosy adults did not know what they were talking about when they tried to give me advice about the decisions I should be making in life. How could they understand me when they had not experienced what I had been through? Besides, it wasn’t the 70s or 80s anymore.

So what advice would I have given to my younger self today? First, I would have to put myself in his shoes to relate to his thought process and then realize how his thinking had been distorted. I would tell him to listen to his mother because that is common sense. After all this time, I have learned that it was my mother who was there to rescue me every time I got into trouble. She was the one who cried because I wouldn’t listen to her and did the very thing she warned me against.

When my rebellion landed me in serious trouble she never gloated over my misfortune. On the contrary she was hurting with and for me. She never once said “I told you so.” Instead she was there every time I needed her, unlike my peers. I would have said, “Listen to your mother first of all, she loves you more than anyone else in this world”. 

I would also tell my teenage self to slow down; I would let him know that every decision that he made would affect his quality of life tomorrow. You cannot change the decisions you make, so you have to give them serious thought. The world doesn’t owe you anything.

I would also tell him not to spend all his time playing because it means he will be required to work harder in the long run. 

“Look at the bigger picture, not just what is right in front of you. Education doesn’t seem all that important to you right now, but it is the foundation stone of everything that you will become. These are the basics of life and you cannot skip over the basics to get to the luxuries. When you make mistakes, take timeout to evaluate how and why you made this mistake. Catch it before it becomes too big and irreversible. When someone asks you why you made that mistake, you often say, ‘I was not thinking.’ Well, younger self, you need to start thinking.”

I would tell my younger self to take responsibility for what he does  and stop blaming people for his blunders. I would ask my younger self where he wants to be in five years and which steps he’s taking to get there. 

“You have to have a plan, and work that plan. As the old saying goes, ‘If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.’ I know that you do not want to fail in life. You want to be successful. Crime is not the way to do that. First you have to learn what real success is. Right now your definition of success is distorted.”

I would tell him to study the greats in history and see how they found success from the ground up. I would tell him to look to positive inspirational mentors. Even if his reality is hard, look to the future to see how it can one day become better and work towards that. 

“Do not try to escape reality through drugs and alcohol. Find creative ways to deal with your pain, anger and frustration. If you are misunderstood, do not feel alienated. Just be who you are and accept yourself for who are even if others don’t. 

“Face reality no matter how difficult it is. Try to change it; You are not helpless to make change in the world. You are not powerless. Do not just see what is wrong with the world and complain about it. See what you can try to do along with others to make the world a better place. Do not be selfish, it is always bigger than just you. Stay grounded and humble. If you do not like the bully, then never become like that person. Do not make your choices strictly from peer pressure.” 

If you are a young person, please listen to me. My experiences as a 16 year old were real. Read my story and make better decisions than I did. 

 
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. The Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned. The work is lightly edited but has not been otherwise fact-checked.

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Bobby Bostic

Bobby Bostic is a writer and poet currently serving a 241-year life sentence without parole in Jefferson City, Missouri, for a robbery committed when he was 16 years old. Bobby is the author of 13 books.