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What if You Woke Up Tomorrow and Were 15 Years Old Again?

SchoolA woman recently told BBC News that she woke up one day in 2008 believing it was 1992. Then 32, Naomi Jacobs was convinced she was 15 years old. She was baffled by modern technology and had no recollection of her 11-year-old son. Even her voice didn’t sound familiar to her — it was much too deep.

“Everything from fear to joy from seeing this child that I didn’t have any memory of giving birth to, but knew undoubtedly that he was mine because he looked so much like me, to terror of having the responsibility of this small child,” Jacobs said. “I was convinced that I was going to fall asleep again that night and wake up in 1992. It wasn’t real to me what was happening.”

According to doctors, Jacobs was suffering from dissociative amnesia brought on by stress. She retained her motor memory as well as certain facts and dates — she remembered how to operate a car and what her ATM pin was. Now almost 40 years old, her other memories have resurfaced over time.

She told BBC she was happy to have been able to see her life from a different perspective, which poses a frightening question for us all. What would 15-year-old you think about your life now?

At first glance, as someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, that sounds like the last question I want to answer. Then again, maybe it’s the perfect question. Maybe 15-year-old me has a lot to teach 31-year-old me, and vice versa. The more I think about it, the more certain I am that 15-year-old me would be very excited about our present condition.

It’s not all about taking stock of what we possess after 15 years. It’s about what direction life went in — which roads we took and where we ended up.

When I was 15, I had no idea what I wanted to do when I was an adult. I was just finally getting comfortable with being myself. For too long I had been my father’s daughter. I was negative, socially anxious, insecure, depressed, overly judgmental, afraid to try anything new, paralyzed by a fear of failure, and unable to see the use of trying. At 15, I realized that if I stopped judging everyone else, I was less critical of myself. Nothing had to be perfect anymore. I started to be pleasantly surprised by most things around me and was beginning to feel joy for the first time in my life.

But that work has been derailed many times. Something modeled for me long ago was that being an adult meant being an anxious perfectionist. I would fall back into that groove when things around me were out of control.

Well, since then I’ve been doing the work to stop being a perfectionist and become more laid-back. I’m happy to say I have found joy again and I think the 15-year-old me would be satisfied with that. I have so much to look forward to, and I can actually see that now.

There are times when I don’t have the wonder and awe that I once had. I’m too busy thinking about what’s next. I need to let go of my hangups and ask myself, “What would 15-year-old me glean from this moment right now?”

All in all, I think what I’m most proud of after all these years is that I didn’t keep anything negative with me. I don’t harbor resentment, anger or grudges. I don’t rub my nose in my mistakes or the mistakes of others. I live and let live. I don’t let myself be paralyzed by my fear. I’ve taken a lot of chances, lived in many different regions, and received three very different degrees. I’ve learned that there are no wrong paths. There is nothing to regret. There’s just actively living life versus watching it go by.

Those are the things I’m most proud to share with 15-year-old me. What are you most proud of?

What if You Woke Up Tomorrow and Were 15 Years Old Again?


Sarah Newman, MA, MFA

Sarah Newman is the managing editor and associate publisher of PsychCentral and the founding editor-in-chief of the Poydras Review. She is also the cohost of the podcast Excuse Me, I Have Concerns where she discusses personal boundaries, personality and other psychology topics.


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APA Reference
Newman, S. (2018). What if You Woke Up Tomorrow and Were 15 Years Old Again?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/what-if-you-woke-up-tomorrow-and-were-15-years-old-again/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.