When I taught high schoolers, I used to do this visualization exercise where I turned off the lights in the room and told the students to pretend they had been transported to another place where in the distance, they see a stranger alone on a park bench.
The closer they get to the stranger, it occurs to them that he/she is familiar. It turns out the stranger is the student, only 10 years later. I tell the students to ask the stranger to give them the best piece of advice they’ve realized has been the most beneficial for their success (the assumption is all the students have attained success).
Even though the kids obviously didn’t have the foresight of someone 10 years their senior, the exercise forced them to look at who they were in the present and think about what good or bad habits they needed to keep or change. For some, it gave them perspective on how to cope with recent loss, and for others it helped them look at a distance at that one flaw that was causing them to stumble, or it allowed them to value a personal strength they had overlooked.
In Angela A Barton’s letter that Melissa Banigan has featured on her “The Advice Project,” “an organization that empowers teen girls and women through education, writing, publishing, and travel,” I’m reminded of that assignment. While my assignment asked teens to look forward and Angela’s letter is a look into the mirror of her past, both activities show how reflection, positive influence and guidance can empower teens, during some of the most self-critical years of their lives. Angela’s personal advice about love is of the universal kind that I think will resonate with young girls who are bombarded with ideas of beauty they feel determine their worth. Read Angela’s letter here. All The Love You Ever Wanted.