Dear 17-Year-Old Self,
You think life is really hard right now and rightfully so.
Chemistry is going to be the death of you. No one has asked you to the homecoming dance yet. You have no money to go out with your friends after Friday’s football game. And you’re trying to juggle a social life while you have a mountain of homework waiting for you when you get home.
Everyone keeps asking you where you’re going to college, when you’re taking the SATs and what you plan on doing with the rest of your life. They want to know how many schools you’ve applied to. They want to know your Plan A, Plan B and Plan Z. But you don’t know the answer to any of those questions. Heck, you don’t even know when your next history test is.
I get it. High school is tough. You’re still trying to be a kid, but everyone is pressuring you to grow up. So please hear me when I say this: don’t listen to them.
And let me tell you why you shouldn’t.
A couple weeks ago, my best friend and I went out to dinner. She’s getting married in a couple months (congrats, by the way, you’re the maid of honor), so we decided to have one last hoorah of a weekend.
We sat in a Longhorn Steakhouse for two hours that night talking about our lives and how much they’d changed over the past few years. We talked about our jobs and all of the responsibilities that came with them. We talked about benefits and life insurance and retirement money. We talked about what it was like to live on our own and move out of our parents’ house. We talked about her wedding and how she would be living in a different state in a matter of months.
At one point she got up to run to the restroom. While she was gone, I sat there thinking about all of the other times we’d gone to dinner at Longhorn. This had been our go-to place ever since we got our driver’s licenses. We went after basketball practice on more than one occasion. We went for each other’s 18th birthdays. We went when we’d had a crappy week at college and needed a meal that wasn’t from the dining hall. And every time we went, at one point or another, one of us would inevitably say:
“I can’t wait to ______”
It never failed. We would talk about how we couldn’t wait to graduate high school. We couldn’t wait to live on our own. We couldn’t wait to finish college and get real jobs. We couldn’t wait to get married. The list went on and on.
If I could go back right now, I’d tell myself to stop saying that phrase, to stop worrying so much about what was next. I’d grab my 17-year-old-self by the shoulders, look her straight in the eye, and tell her to enjoy the season she was in right then.
Andy Bernard from "The Office" said it best when he said,
“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.”
So do me a favor, and take my advice. Enjoy where you’re at, and don’t try to grow up so fast. I know being in your 20s sounds exciting. Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of great things about it, but there are a lot of things about not being in my 20s that I wish I could get back.
I wish I could go back to wearing yoga pants and a sweatshirt to class instead of having to dress up every day for work.
I wish my biggest cause of stress was my pre-calc test on Friday instead of trying to figure out my 401-K.
I wish I could go back to never getting anything in the mail instead of getting bills every other day.
I wish I could just ask dad to fix my toilet when it breaks instead of having to figure it out on my own.
I wish I could come home every day to dinner that mom made instead of having a bowl of cereal for the fourth time this week.
I could keep going, but I’m sure you get the idea. There are so many wonderful things about being in high school and just being young in general. Don’t waste these years wishing you were older, richer and more independent. You’ve got plenty of time for that. Trust me.
I want you to look back on these days and smile, knowing that you lived every single one of them to the fullest. Sure, you’ll make mistakes. You’ll get bad grades. You’ll get your heart broken. But those things will pale in comparison to the memories you will make in this season of your life.
You’re in the “good old days” right now, so why not start living like it?