Do you remember the year you turned 15? Did you feel socially awkward at the time or did you feel a little restless and impatient, waiting for life to happen? Was life full of infinite possibilities then with many doors yet unopened and numerous lives still untouched? I think about those moments now as Chiara, my eldest, celebrated her 15th birthday last week.

I felt grown and mature at 15. I roamed the city of Philadelphia taking subways and buses to see friends and hang out. Brainwashed by my parents to believe that I would be a pre-med major in college, I interned at Hahnemann Hospital on Broad Street near Center City with real pre-med college students, working with medical researchers and doctors on their projects. Sounds impressive right? In reality, it was more like – what the hell was I thinking?! I was so uninformed and ill-prepared compared to the college students who were there that summer. Most of the time, I felt like I was a zombie roaming the hospital’s hallways.

At 15, I had my first kiss. It was a summer fling in Virginia Beach with a boy who completely got my attention when he started break dancing to some cheesy ’80s pseudo rap music at a local dance club’s teen night. By the time the DJ started playing “Purple Rain” by Prince, I thought I was completely in love with the boy.

In my middle to latter teen years, I thought I knew much about life already. Compared to today’s 15 year olds, maybe I did. I certainly had a lot less parental supervision and my life was not micro-managed. The only expectations my parents had for me at the time were to get straight As in my report card and not go out with boys. There were no Internet, smart phones, or social media so the world seemed a bit smaller and safer those days. I suppose it’s true that ignorance is bliss. All the bad stuff exist but in some faraway place, not a click away on your phone or laptop.

Over the last few days, I have wondered what I would tell my 15-year old self, or my daughter Chiara, for that matter. I suppose I would say not to hurry growing up and try to enjoy every phase of your teen years. Life happens in a blink of an eye, just savor all the moments, good and bad. I would also say not to be afraid of your own uniqueness — own your talents and your flaws. Be proud of the total product and never sell yourself short to make others feel comfortable about themselves.

What about you? What do you remember most about being 15?

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