This year my younger sister is graduating high school and entering her first year of university. In celebration of that, I wrote some of my advice to help her tackle the next few years of her life.
Although you may not be my younger sister, I want to share some of my insights on what I’ve learned since I graduated high school.
Lesson One: Happiness should be your number one goal.
A lot of change will happen in the next few years of your life. Some of that change will be exciting but a lot of it will scare you. Some of the changes may even leave you with a sense of loss and sadness. Time starts moving quickly and you have to learn to make the most of it. Try not to dwell too much on the things that make you enjoy yourself less. The best way I have found to do this is by choosing to be happy every morning when you wake up. This way, you cannot change how you feel about circumstances, but you can accept them and make the most of them. Without happiness, you cannot enjoy the moments that you should enjoy.
Lesson Two: Make your bed, clean your room, eat healthy and exercise.
At this time in your life, not taking care of yourself will be glamourized. People will brag about having poor mental health, being messy, eating unhealthily, abusing substances and being inactive. It can be tempting to enter into this mindset, but trust me, the extra work of treating yourself is worth it. You may not always feel your best and like you have everything put together, but you can gain some semblance of control by taking care of yourself. There is also a direct correlation between taking care of yourself and your happiness.
As Ru Paul once said, “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”
Lesson Three: First impressions mean nothing.
In the coming years, you will meet a lot of people. You will make friends with a lot of people you would have never expected and lose friends you thought you wouldn’t. It can be tempting to sift through people as you meet them and quickly decide what role they will play in your life, but please don’t do this. Sometimes people can leave a bad impression when you first meet them, but remember, people can have bad days, are tired or may even just be hungry. What you see on the surface is rarely what’s underneath. If you wouldn’t want others to judge you at face value, then don’t judge them at face value.
Lesson Four: Sameness doesn’t mean friendship.
In high school, a lot of your friends are based on similarities you share like going to the same school, playing on the same sports team, liking the same music and sharing the same classes.
From this point on, you’re going to meet a lot of people who will come from completely different background and communities from you. You’re going to need to accept that agreeing on everything is not a determinant for friendship. However, mutual understanding is. You will never find a duplicate of yourself, so don’t seek that, but do demand respect for yourself and what you stand for.
Lesson Five: Forgive
No matter what someone has done or said, it’s important to forgive. Staying angry and holding grudges against someone who has wronged you is a waste of mental energy, and by doing so, you are letting them take away your happiness. People make mistakes and they don’t need to be held accountable for them for eternity. However, forgiveness does not mean you should tolerate mistreatment or let someone back into your life if you don’t want to.
Lesson Six: Friendship takes effort.
Similar to lesson four, situational friendships exist and prosper because you can easily see, talk and engage with that person. From now on, many friends you make will go in different directions and spending time with them will become increasingly hard. If you want to keep these people as friends, you must put in a conscious effort to ensure you keep the friendship alive. Remind your faraway friends that you miss them, ask for life updates and hang out when you can see each other again.
Lesson Seven: Mistakes make you who you are.
Let’s be real here: making mistakes and going through hardship sucks. That’s a given. However, you will realize that these mistakes also define who you are as a person and contribute to who you will grow up to be. You’re never going to learn anything if you don’t make mistakes and when you do, try your best to learn from them rather than dwell in the hardship.
Lesson Eight: Do it for you!
From this point onward, there will be many choices given to you and although it may seem like everybody has an opinion of what the best choices are, it comes down to you and what you want. Don’t make decisions because someone told you it’s the path to success or that it’s what you’re meant to do. Do things for you, your happiness and to achieve what you want. Also, remember that it’s never too late to change your mind and choose a different direction.
Well, there you have it! I hope you can consider these lessons as you go through the next few years and hopefully make fewer mistakes than me. You’ll do great, have a lot of fun and make tons of memories!