Two weeks ago, I turned 18. Do I feel like an adult yet? Not really. But I have definitely learned a lot in the past 18 years that I'd really like to put out there, so here we go!
1. If you don't feel confident, just pretend to be. Eventually, you actually will be.
This one took me a while to catch onto, but it's absolutely one of the most important things I've discovered and want to pass on. I was a pretty shy and insecure kid throughout most of the middle and high school. I always thought that confidence was something that came from within, that some people were confident, and other's just weren't (and that I was simply a member of the latter group). Recently, it occurred to me that this is not the case at all! In fact, most people are not naturally super confident. The majority of us have our fair share of insecurities and nervousness- that's just human! The true key to confidence is just pretending to be confident until you actually are.
2. Your given environment might not be the right place for you, and that's okay.
It's okay to feel out of place, or like you don't quite fit in. The important thing is that you never water yourself down or compromise your originality to fit into a mold. Hold onto your true self and try your best not to lose yourself in the idea of who you're supposed to be. If you keep searching, you'll eventually find the right place.
3. Say yes to everything you can. Stay open to all opportunities!
This seems like a given, but it actually took me time to realize. Every time you say yes to anything, you're opening up a world of new possibilities. So try to stay open to trying new things, even things that may seem daunting or out of your comfort zone. You never know where something will lead you!
4. If it won't matter in five years, don't worry about it for more than five minutes.
A very wise friend of mine said this to me one-day last year when I was stressing out over a quiz. At the time, the simple statement felt so legendary to me. How had I not thought of this before? This little philosophy gave me permission to stop feeling too anxious about everything, so I decided to adopt it as my own. Since then, I've been much less stressed about everything. My quality of life has seriously gone up, and so have my grades! Who knew that when you stop worrying so much, you actually have a clearer mind?
5. There is no perfect high school experience. Just do what you enjoy.
For a while, I struggled with the idea that my high school life wasn't like what I'd expected from watching movies and TV. I even worried that my life wasn't as exciting as the lives of other people my age. Now I know that there is no one right way to go through high school! If you're worried about missing out on a "typical" high school experience, whatever that might mean to you, I suggest that you don't worry. If anything, just try a lot of different things to find out what you really enjoy.
6. Nobody is ever paying as much attention to you as you worry they might be.
This is just a basic rule of thumb. You'll know when it applies.
7. Embarrassment is the world's greatest bonding tactic.
I learned this while trying to bond with coworkers at my first job: if you can manage to casually throw in something mildly embarrassing about yourself, people will warm up to you much faster. Most people feel a little bit vulnerable and shy when first meeting other people, so divulging a personal anecdote does wonders to cut through the tension and anxiety, making the whole situation so much more comfortable. It'll also make the other person feel like you trust them and want to be friends with them!
8. The most freeing thing you can do is stop caring what other people think.
THIS. IS. SO. IMPORTANT. It's a hard thing to do, but it makes everything so much easier.
9. You WILL make mistakes, and that's okay. Try not to regret anything.
I always say that I have no regrets because every choice I've made, mistakes and all, have brought me where I am today and made me the person that I've become. I think that mistakes are inevitable and important. How else will you truly learn?
10. If you're contemplating taking a chance, just take it.
If you're thinking about taking a risk, ask yourself, "If I don't do this thing, will I look back and wish I had?" If the answer is "yes" or "maybe," do it.
11. Try your best to be happy wherever you are in the present moment.
It's easy to say that you'll be happier when something happens, when something begins or another thing ends, etc. But it's so much better in the long run if you make the conscious choice to find happiness wherever you are right now. If you're unable to control your environment and situation, then you just have to make the best of it!
12. Not everyone dates in high school, and that's not a bad thing.
My middle school self expected to have had multiple boyfriends by now. Needless to say, that didn't really go as planned. Actually, I haven't had one real, official boyfriend yet. I used to worry about that, but it's really no big deal. I have so many friends with varying levels of experience with romance and dating. Some have much more than I do, some have less, and nobody really cares that much! I've learned that it's so important to trust the timing of your life. If the right person hasn't come along, then it's probably just not the right time.
13. Trying to be like someone else never works, so just be yourself.
14. It's important to make an effort to truly understand yourself.
You might be thinking that this is obvious, you already understand yourself fine. But do you really? Sometimes, I don't even realize I feel a certain way about something until I take a moment to truly check in with myself. I do this by journaling and turning off distractions (phone, I'm looking at you) for a little while, usually before I go to bed, so I can just be alone with my thoughts.
15. Comparing yourself to others is useless and will only make you sad.
Everybody is different and everybody is wonderful and interesting in their own way! Don't waste your time comparing yourself to other people. If everyone was the same, life would be terribly boring.
16. The hardest thing you will have to do is learn to love yourself the way you are.
I still haven't gotten there, but I've gotten a lot closer.
17. Nobody really has the answers. We're all just making it up as we go.
All it takes is a little improvisation.
18. Childhood goes by insanely fast, so hold onto it for as long as you can.
For the past 18 years, all I wanted to do was grow up. Now, I just wish I had a little bit more time to be a kid. Enjoy it while it lasts.
Well, there you have it: 18 things I learned in 18 years. Hopefully, these will help someone out there!