Sweet 15: Food, boys and music - by Nora Ali

"Sweet 15" is a series of posts written by past participants of the Distinguished Young Women/Junior Miss program reflecting on their 15-year-old selves. Get ready for some wise, witty and seasoned advice from women of all ages and backgrounds. They have gained perspective on their teenage years from diverse life experiences and will share with you through this fun new series!

Interestingly enough, one of my high school teachers had his students write letters to their future selves, and I just received mine in the mail. Literally, a letter straight from the source: 15-year-old Nora, commenting on her current situation and her hopes for future Nora. From my 2-page hand-written note, I've come to the conclusion that my cares as a teenager were pretty similar to my cares now... food, boys, and music. Typical of a teenager, and typical of Nora Ali. Let's explore these further:
  1. Food. My very first sentence of this well thought-out letter to myself was "I'm full of Chinese food." Apparently, I didn't care so much for "first impressions" on my future self. I also didn't care whether or not I offended future Nora: in the middle of my note, a snippy "I hope you don't get fat" rang loud and accusatory. Thank you, past Nora for this sensitive insight! Past Nora used to be able to eat whatever she wanted, but now I have to think "is this brownie really worth it?" "Will my pants fit today?" There are those skinny girls who say "it's never worth it," but I thought this back then, and I still think this now: a brownie, mac and cheese, a juicy steak... it's ALWAYS worth it. The only difference now is that the brownie will go straight to my love handles. Past Nora, I hope you appreciated the food you could eat whilst remaining so tiny!
  2. Boys. In my note, I immediately transitioned from pondering whether or not my older sister would be married in 5 years, to wondering if I would have a date to prom. Seriously, past Nora? You're reflecting on your family's life changes and then you wonder who you're going to prom with? Back then it was "Omg will someone ask me to prom???" and now it's "Omg will someone ask me to marry them???" Past Nora, I hope you realized that none of the boys from high school ever mattered, and any stress you encountered as a result of them was utterly pointless and totally pathetic!
  3. Music. According to my note, my mid-teens were defined by songs with names like "Miss New Booty" and "Get Low"... seemingly fluffy, empty "music" which lacked any real content. Thankfully in our current times, we've progressed to more meaningful hits with true artists like Miley Cyrus and Rebecca Black. Right. Past Nora, I hope you realized how pure and un-autotuned music was back in your day... and how "normal" pop artists were in the pre-Gaga era! 

While the world has changed since I was 15 and my concerns back then were far less significant than they are now, it seems as though I myself have not changed very much.  I still love food, I still concern myself with boys (well, "men" now I suppose), and music is still a big part of my life. The one thing I did learn from my past self was that I really knew how to enjoy life - I ended my note with "Don't get too stressed out, and just be happy. Everything happens for a reason, and everything will be taken care of." Sure, I fretted over who my prom date would be, but at least I had this little twinkle of wisdom to offer my future self. Thank you, past Nora, for keeping it real.

Nora Ali is a graduate of Harvard University with a BA in Statistics and Quantitative Finance. She is currently working in New York City as a Pan-Asian Equities Financial Analyst. Originally from Mendota Heights, Minnesota, Nora represented her state at the 2007 America’s Junior Miss National Finals and was selected as America’s Junior Miss that year. The program is now known as Distinguished Young Women.