Given that I’m only twenty-two, it may seem a little preachy of me to be talking wistfully about a phase of my life that really only ended in 2013. But in the few short years since I have entered the faux-adulthood that we all think begins as soon as you drop the ‘teen’ from your age, I’ve seen the world in a different light.
Since being a teenager, I’ve lost a fair bit of the knowledge that high school gave me (ie. anything involving math or chemistry… what even is an electron?!), but I’ve gained social skills and an ability to dress myself. I’ve also gained a little bit of what we like to call ‘life experience,’ and it makes looking back on high school kind of depressing.
I often think that I would be SO GOOD at being a teenager now if I could do it all again. I guess that’s the point, though – nobody’s good at being a teenager because teenagers are, by nature, not good at much other than taking selfies and making decisions their future selves will regret. Sorry guys, you know it’s kind of true.
Here are 8 things I wish I could tell my teenage self so she could have been, like, a better person.
1. Stop caring so much what everyone thinks.
Guess who turns out to be good at life, quite likable, and cool after high school? You! And guess who turns out to be kind of average after high school? Pretty much all of the people you cared so much about impressing.
Stop trying to fly under the radar and do what you want. Teenagers are a narcissistic breed, so chances are that nobody will really notice you regardless- so it’s really a shame to spend so much time trying to fit in. Nobody remembers all the kids who just cruise along trying not to rock the boat. It’s the ones who are shamelessly themselves that you look back on fondly, as weird as you might have thought they were at the time.
2. Stop counting calories.
Your metabolism is the best it’ll ever be. So yes, go for a jog occasionally and don’t eat too much McDonalds, but stop obsessing over every bite that goes into your mouth. You have the rest of your life for that.
One day in the (very) near future you’ll look back at photos of your eighteen-year-old self and wonder how someone that hot and skinny could have been concerned about the calorie count of a Greek salad. Eat some fucking pasta and stop worrying. You look fine.
3. Trust yourself.
This applies to literally everything. Stop asking everyone if your essay thesis is okay, because you actually have a brain and if you think it’s okay then it probably is. And don’t just buy the same clothes as everyone else, because nobody else has quite figured it out yet either, and it’s better to be dressed awkwardly as yourself than awkwardly like everyone else.
Don’t wait for someone else’s okay – your own instincts are enough. There is no worse feeling than missing a chance because you pushed aside your own gut feeling to follow the pack.
4. Don’t ever dumb yourself down.
Pretending you’re not good at something is really the worst thing people ever do. Luckily I never really did this because I went to an all-girls high school where being a girl boss was cool before #girlboss was a thing. But I definitely didn’t do anything extra that could have helped my future out.
Don’t be afraid to put in a little extra effort, even though someone decided that trying hard isn’t cool. Extra effort just means you’re ambitious, and ambition is probably the coolest trait of them all. Going the extra mile now might seem like you’re pushing yourself forward too much,but in a few years you might just find yourself ahead.
5. Be nice to everyone.
Honestly, just be really fucking nice to everyone. Teenagers are a mean species, and so are a lot of adults, unfortunately. Throw a little compassion around and it might just set you apart a little.
I don’t mean be a push over, or do what everyone else wants all the time- but when there is nothing to be lost by taking the kinder road, why wouldn’t you take it? It doesn’t cost you anything to toss around a few more smiles or more kind words than is absolutely necessary.
I know I said not to care what everyone thinks so much, but this is different. You shouldn’t care if someone thinks your hair sucks or if you’re ‘trying too hard.’ If someone tells you that you could afford to be a little kinder, you should take it to heart. Just be super nice and watch the good karma rain down.
6. Calm down.
Right now your body is a raging river of hormones, so I understand that you’re easily riled up. Failing a test is the end of your career, failed romantic pursuits foreshadow a life of singleness, and nobody understands you.
Except none of those things are true- just chill out. Stop scrolling through dramatic quotes about being alone placed over images of fields and oceans. It’s probably all going to be fine.
7. You don’t need to decide everything now.
I still don’t know what I’m going to do a year or six months from now, or really what my next snack is going to be (Nuts? Granola? Do I even want a snack?). So it’s pretty unfair that before you even graduate high school someone will be asking you to make decisions on college or work that somewhat define the rest of your life. So if you don’t know, don’t make a decision- there’s nothing wrong with taking a year, or more, to get a grip on life and put off any heavy decisions.
8. The best is yet to come.
Just trust me on this one. This is not all there is. One day you’ll get to eat lunch at whatever time you want and not have to wear socks that you bought at the uniform shop, and this will all feel like a sweet but strange dream.