This June marks 17 years since I graduated high school. That seems so crazy to me because it doesn’t feel like 17 years have passed. I don’t feel like I am old enough to have been out of high school for that long! No wise comments either! Hahaha….
A lot has happened in these fast 17 years though. Some things I wish I had done differently and some choices I wish I would have never made. But every thing that has happened has shaped me into who I am today and for that I am grateful.
With that being said, there are some things I wish I could go back and tell the young woman I was, but as we know, it’s hard to tell a teenager anything, so would I have listened? It’s hard to say. I thought I knew it all and sometimes, there isn’t anything anyone can say to you; you have to learn it for yourself.
Here are 10 things I would tell my high school self:
- These really are the days of your life. I’m not going to say the BEST days of your life because that would imply that there’s nothing to look forward to as an adult. Also, high school is hard. Not necessarily in terms of the course work, but it terms of fitting in and making friends. But these will most likely be the most carefree days of your life. You will have responsibilities, but in most cases not like you will in adulthood. Make the most of your high school career- join clubs, play sports, write for the newspaper, run for student council- don’t be afraid.
- Don’t spend so much time comparing yourself to others. You don’t know what their story is and chances are they are just as insecure as you are! Everyone has a struggle and comparing yourself to someone who you think has it “all” is unfair to yourself. You are every bit as smart, pretty, funny, athletic, whatever, as they are, you just have to believe it and then cultivate that belief. Most people are not born with the ability to get a 4.0 GPA. It takes work and you’re not putting in all the work you could be. Learn to love your curly hair; it really isn’t the Afro you think it is- didn’t you see that girl at school with the new perm? People pay big bucks to have what you have naturally!
- You get to decide who you are. You are not defined by who you hang out with- well to a degree. There is something called guilt by association, it’s not necessarily fair but it’s true. If you’re hanging out with a crowd that is known to regularly shoplift, even if you don’t, people will assume you do. They’re not going to take the time to get to know the kids like you have, so be careful and choose your friends wisely. You get to decide if you’re a shoplifter too or a music geek, a drama nerd, or a loner. You may hang with all sorts of people but you don’t have to fit a label that others have placed on you. Your grades also do not determine who you are. You may not get the best grades but that is because you need to try harder, not because you are a slacker. What I am saying is this, you have a choice in the person you want to be. You don’t have to be what other people have said you are; so you mother told you that Lisa gives up when the going gets hard, but why does she get to decide that? You are YOU, you decide when you “give up” and when you push harder! You don’t have to go with the flow and just do what is expected of you. You have a say in how your life is going to go and once you graduate, you will have the ONLY say in how your life is going to go, so you better start thinking for yourself.
- Don’t waste so much time on unattainable guys. I don’t mean unattainable like they are out of your league. ANY boy would be lucky to spend time with you! I mean boys who don’t see your worth, your beauty, and who treat you badly. You never know who could be looking at you while you are chasing boys not worth your time. I know, you thought you loved him. He was fun to hang out with and you two were like best friends. You seemed to understand him but he treated you like crap most of the time. Don’t you know you deserve more? He had a lot deeper issues than you could have known and one day you two will make peace, but please know that his treatment of you had FAR more to do with him than you. However, that does NOT mean you should marry the first guy who really pays attention to you and makes you feel special. Just trust me on this one.
- Don’t waste too much time on boys, period. You need to discover who you are, independent of boys. This is also one of the things that doesn’t define you- whether or not you have a boyfriend. At no point in your life should you ever base your happiness or self-worth on having a man. I am not saying that down the road a loving and respectful relationship won’t be worth it because it is totally worth it. You need to find out what makes you happy, what your goals and dreams are, what experiences and memories you wish to create for yourself, and then see how having a relationship fits into that. Build your life around you and the rest will fall into place.
- Being popular and having a lot of friends really isn’t all that important. As the old saying goes, I’d rather have 4 quarters than 100 pennies. You probably don’t fully grasp that concept right now but let me tell you, I know a LOT of people, but very few would I call a true friend. Not everyone is as kind and trusting as you are. They won’t nurture your friendship the way you do. You’ll learn this the hard way over the years. What is important is being a good person despite what others may do to you.
- You are NOT fat!!! You may not be a size 2 or even an 10, but you are perfect just the way you are. Your body does not define your worth either! (see previous blog post:http://bit.ly/1BtLJuO) You are healthy but you could be taking better care of yourself, you know exercising and eating better. Overall though, you have a great body! We are bombarded every day with images of what the media wants us to believe is attractive but it’s not realistic or healthy sometimes. God gave you the body you need to carry you through life, imperfections and all. Treat it kindly and respect it for the vessel that it is.
- It’s okay to not know what you want to be when you grow up. I don’t know why “they” think that an 18 year-old knows what they want to do for the rest of their lives! Seriously, there is too much pressure put on kids to decide their life’s course early on in life, most times before they even truly know WHO they are, let alone WHAT they want to do for the next 50+ years! College is important and you should go, if not for a career path then for the life lessons you will learn. Just try not to rack up too much debt! Live your life a bit, discover your passion, do what makes your insides sing, give back something meaningful to this world. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to know it all when you graduate high school!
- Go on your class trip! I’m not sure why you think that staying home and hanging out with your new boyfriend is a good choice. This is your first opportunity to experience life outside of Maine. And NYC?!?! Are you nuts? I can’t think of a better way to kick off your new-found freedom than a trip to New York City with your best friends! You should have participated in more fundraisers throughout the years so you wouldn’t feel so guilty about asking your parents for the money. Or you could have saved money from the 3 jobs you have had all these years! Start taking advantage of your life! Once you are settled down, there won’t be too many chances for travel. Which leads me to…
- Save all the $$ you’re spending on cd’s and other useless crap and use it to travel and experience life before college or starting a family!! If there is just one thing I could impress upon you the most, it is to live your life before you commit yourself to others. Be you for a while before you become a wife and a mother. Motherhood is the most amazing thing, but it can wait. Being a wife can wait. You can be a girlfriend and still live your life. If he’s the right man for you, he will support you in this. He will want you to be wholly YOU so you can reach your full potential. The world holds many lessons and adventures for you, so let go of your fear of being alone, let go of your need to make everyone else happy, and focus on what makes YOU happy! Relationships and jobs will come and go but you will always be with you. Make sure you don’t have any regrets and learn from each mistake you make. Oh, and all that cash you blew on tapes and cd’s? One day there will be these things called iTunes and YouTube and it will amaze you how you can get all the music you want from them, sometimes for FREE! No one listens to cd’s anymore and all the ones you have bought end up in a closet, like some sort of shrine….save your money!
There it is, the things I would tell myself if I could go back in time. I’d like to think that I would at least listen and consider the advice. It’s easy to say that I am grateful for my life experiences thus far because it’s not like I can turn back the clock. But I truly believe I am where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to be doing. Of course there is room for improvement and some of this advice for my old self holds true for who I am today. I hope to instill these messages in my two children so that one day they won’t look back and say they wished someone had told them this information in high school.
Tell me what you wish someone would have told you in high school in the comment section below!