I have lived 21 years.
I know it is not long enough to consider myself much of an expert on life, but it is long enough to have learned a handful of valuable lessons that I would have loved to have known when I was younger. Maybe some of these things I had been told long ago, but never really took to heart. Like a lot of lessons in life, you can’t really understand them until you’ve experienced them. It’s amazing how much of a difference a few short years can make in widening your perspective and changing the way you view the world around you.
1. Don’t worry about what people think.
People often judge others with extremely limited knowledge about them, their background, their struggles, and their home life. Why care about the opinion of someone who only sees a mere sliver of the full picture?
2. Never put a guy before your best friends.
My high school boyfriend is long gone, while the best friends I had in high school are still by my side.
3. Say “yes” more often to social invitations.
You only regret the memories you don’t make. Football games, plays, parties and other social gatherings are a big part of what composes high school and college memories. While it is important to remember you don’t have to say “yes” every single time, I think it is better to say yes more frequently than you say no when it comes to taking chances and trying new things.
4. Don’t date just to have a boyfriend.
A lot of younger girls think they have to have a boyfriend just because all their friends do or because that’s what they have been convinced of from watching Hollywood movies. The truth is, you probably won’t end up marrying the same person you dated when you were 15 years old. I wish I had spent less time in unhappy and immature relationships in high school, and more time laughing and making memories with my girlfriends. After all, these are the people that would continue to be by my side nearly 7 years later.
5. Not everything works out according to the way you planned; flexibility is key.
I have learned that you can plan all you want but when the time comes the plan will usually change. It’s good to have goals and dreams and an idea of how you want the future to unfold. Yet it is also important to remember that in reality life never works out exactly the way we imagined.
6. Don’t rely on anyone else to help you get where you want to go.
People can help you only to a certain extent as far as achieving your goals. In the end you’re the one who has to take matters into your own hands and do it yourself. Many people spend far too much time waiting around for the things they want to fall into their lap when they could be out working towards achieving their goals themselves.
7. Don’t let the opinions of others influence how you view yourself.
Whether it be family members, teachers, coaches, or even friends, don’t let anyone place a limit on your potential or tell you what you cannot achieve. Like many teenagers, I used to long for the approval of others. When my art teacher told me I lacked any real artistic skill, I believed her. When a guy pointed out flaws in my physical appearance, I believed him... becoming aware of imperfections that I had never even noticed myself. Looking back, I wish that I had ignored criticisms that were made with bad intentions or that were not constructive. I wish that I had realized sooner to stop taking every negative comment to heart.
8. Enjoy the place you’re in without always wishing it away.
When we are younger, we wish to be older and when we are older, we wish to be younger. I spent the last year of high school dreaming of college. I spent it wishing to start college. Then, I spent most of my time in college dreaming of what life would be like after graduation. I believe there is certainly something to be said about really being present in the exact moment you are in and not always wishing for the next thing.
9. Don’t try too hard to be a people pleaser.
When I was younger I hated the thought of disappointing people. If someone needed a favor, I would always agree to help even if it put extra stress on me. I have learned the value of having a backbone, sticking up for myself, and not being afraid of saying no when I want to say no.
10. Be selfish about your education.
A teacher once told me that if there is one thing in life I should be selfish about, it is my own education. By that, he meant I should be fiercely determined to not let anyone or anything get in between me and what I want to achieve academically. If you really value your education then never sell yourself short. Never settle for less than you know you can accomplish.