Advice to Myself at Sixteen by special guest Lucille Lang Day

“Here is the question: If you could talk to your 16-year-old self, what would you say? What advice, warnings, or encouragement would you give your younger self?”

Advice to Myself at Sixteen

Dear Lucy,

Believe it or not, you will want to know that the aggregating anemone is green because photosynthetic algae live in its tentacles, that the first William of Orange saved Leiden from the Spanish by flooding the province, that there is a difference between Projectivist and Objectivist poetry, that learning to say “Where is toilet?” in as many languages as possible is a useful skill. What I’m saying is, “Go back to school, the sooner the better.”

Aging is not a disaster, like war or famine, and it certainly beats the alternative. There are far worse things than failing eyesight or white hair.  Still, it’s true that firm, plump breasts and skin that does not hang in lumps are not forever, so don’t create a life and self-image that depend on these things.

If you think you’re in love with a guy you’ve just met at Doggie Diner and haven’t been out with, or even after your first or second date, don’t trust these feelings, no matter how handsome you find him. You’re probably just reacting to his pheromones, in other words, his scent. You must stop kissing guys you’ve just met at parties. Such boldness is not glamorous and does not prove you are irresistible. Most people will assume you are either drunk or a fool.

Spend more time with your parents: go shopping with your mother, watch movies with your dad. In forty or fifty years, you will miss them far more than the man you married at fourteen, the one you will marry at twenty-six and have another child with, or any of the boyfriends you’ll never marry (that you didn’t marry them will one day make you glad). Also spend more time with your daughter. Being a good parent is difficult even for adults, and having had a child at fifteen does not help the matter. If you don’t try harder, at sixteen your daughter will resent you more than you ever resented your own mother or even the vice principal of your junior high.

Also on the subject of children, you can expect to spend more than fifty years with one or more children or grandchildren under eighteen in your life. I know you want to be a writer (and you will!), but the kids will suffer more than your books if you ignore them when they want your attention (the books won’t even care at all if you disappear for a few days). The joy you get from the kids will be an incomparable pleasure, and you will be sorry later if you don’t give them the time they need. So in addition to holing up with the typewriter (later it will be a computer), make plenty of time for playing Candy Land, watching Dumbo, and setting up the miniature horse ranch. The kids will eventually sleep or go off to school, and you will not always be their first choice for a playmate. In a pinch, you can write with one of them on your lap or at your feet.

Romantic love is never easy. It’s nothing like in the movies, but more like a complicated dance you’ll never fully master, although you’ll marry for the last time at fifty-four. Even with this partner there will be stumbles and missteps, but he will give you much more joy than sorrow, so try to recapture the rhythm as long as the music lasts.

Advice to Myself at Sixteen by Lucille Lang DayFrom Your Future with love

_________________________________________________© 2012 Lucille Lang Day


Advice to Myself at Sixteen by Lucille Lang Day

Lucille Lang Day


Lucille Lang Day’s bio:  Lucille Lang Day is an award-winning poet and the author of eight poetry collections and chapbooks, most recently The Curvature of Blue (Cervena Barva, 2009). She has also published a children’s book, Chain Letter, and her memoir, Married at Fourteen, will appear from Heyday in 2012. Her poetry and prose have appeared widely in such magazines and anthologies as Atlanta Review, The Hudson Review, The Threepenny Review, and New Poets of the American West (Many Voices, 2010). She received her M.A. in English and M.F.A. in creative writing at San Francisco State University, and her M.A. in zoology and Ph.D. in science and mathematics education at the University of California at Berkeley. The founder and director of a small press, Scarlet Tanager Books, she also served for seventeen years as the director of the Hall of Health, an interactive museum in Berkeley. She lives in Oakland, CA, with her husband, writer Richard Levine. Visit her website at: