So, my younger brother and sister are about to turn 16. I’m not around as much as I’d like to steer them away from some of the stupid things I did, or stupid things I saw my peers do. My friends laugh at me because I sound like an old woman, but if they were to sit me down and ask me what advice I had for them, this would be it.
1. Don’t get caught up in high school romances. I’ve seen you both already upset over someone who didn’t like you as much as you liked them, and I remember vividly (because it was not that long ago at all) just how much that sucks. But I also know now that in college it’s nice not to feel like I’m running home to some boy who needs me around, but instead friends who have their own lives too and whom I can catch up with and gossip and tell all about the cute boy in my History class that they’ll probably never meet.
2. NEVER, EVER, EVER answer your phone past 2AM on a drinking holiday. I lost a friendship that was drowning in distance by answering the phone that late, and while it probably would have died out anyway I don’t like that I had to threaten harassment charges to a person I once really cared about over the phone at 3AM.
3. Get good grades. No really. I know you think now that none of these classes will apply and I’ll be honest there’s not a ton of stuff I’ve used from high school so far in college other than basic math and literature. However, you need to get good grades so that when you’re in college and struggling to make loan payments and figure out how on God’s green earth you’re going to pay for next semester, you’ll have a solid high school GPA to use for the endless scholarship applications you’ll be filling out.
4. Set up an account on zinch.com RIGHT NOW. You can get scholarships now that most people won’t be looking for because they think they don’t exist. There’s nothing more irritating than seeing on a search engine “High school sophomore? Get money for college now!” and thinking to yourself “Holy shit I should have started this ages ago!”
5. Don’t let the counselor’s talk you out of music classes. I know that AP credit is important to the school, and you’ll need at least some of those classes to get into the really good schools you want to go to. But really, music is important. It will keep you centered when you don’t know where else to turn, and it will calm you down when you’ve got three finals in the morning and you can’t get your brain to stop going at 90 miles a minute while you’re trying to get a few hours of rest.
6. Hold on to your good friends. You know the ones. Those kids who you can argue with and then you both actually apologize to each other because you care about the fact that the other person needs to know you know you messed up. I can’t tell you how much I love meeting up at Starbucks or IHOP with my friends like that from high school and catching up. Those are the people you’ll know forever, not the head cheerleader who has our dad as a teacher and suddenly wants to be your best friend.
7. When you are about to get a car be patient with mom and dad. They’re trying really hard to give us everything we deserve and more, and it does get overwhelming for them sometimes too. My car is old and constantly needing something else fixed, but I know we got a good deal because I’m the one who found it. They’ll do everything they can for you, so don’t be a brat.
8. When you leave for college don’t be afraid to want to come home. I was so nervous the first time I wanted to just come home just to spend time with the family, because I thought they would laugh at me and think I couldn’t handle being on my own. Mom and dad (and even me and our older sister) will want to see you guys and hear about your adventures.
9. Be social in the dorms. Your life will be a million times better if you make study groups for your major specific classes and the people you have things in common with. Go to those embarrassing RA events even if they don’t always apply to you because at the very least they will have free food. Find people you can confide in when mom won’t answer the phone, and find people who will buy you ice cream on your birthday.
10. Don’t rush your Senior year of high school. I know it seems like light years away that you’ll be off to college and not down the hall from mom and dad anymore, and there will be days at college when you are glad you aren’t right down the hall from them. However, there will also be more days than you think that you just want to go down the hall to their room and vent about whatever it is that has you so upset and have them hug you and talk you through it. Savor every moment you have at home now because there aren’t too many things I miss as much as being able just to walk down the hall and ask them a question about whatever may be on my mind big or small.
11. Don’t do anything harder than weed, and don’t get wasted. Getting wasted may seem like it is fun and you might think it is actually all it’s cracked up to be. Trust me, it’s not. I know you’re thinking “What does she know, she can’t even drink” and believe me I’m painfully aware of that. However, I’ve talked one too many a friend into calling in sick for work because they spend $100+ on alcohol the night before and are on the floor of their bathroom insisting they’re fine. Weed is in fact not the worst thing that ever happened to the world, and you probably won’t have any major side effects from it. However, I’ve seen a teenager die in her first year of college because of an accidental mix of medicine and alcohol, and I’ve seen another come pretty damn close because of a bad acid trip. It might seem like fun but gambling with your life is absolutely the stupidest thing you could ever do.
12. Find a good room mate and stick with them. You’ll be forced to live in the dorms for at least a semester if not more by colleges who want to suck every penny they can out of you. You might as well have someone to share the frustration of no hot water (ever) and the heat not working in the winter time with. They’ll piss you off sometimes but a good room mate is like a good pair of pajama pants. They might trip you up sometimes but they just fit so well you can’t give them up.
13. Have a lot of fun. You can turn around in a few years and laugh at yourself and blame everything you did in the 7 years you were a teenager on you just being a “stupid teenager” like everyone is going to call you anyway. Some of it will be stupid, and some of it will create lasting memories you’ll laugh at in less time than you think. You can’t predict tomorrow, and you can’t expect that you’ll make every right decision there is to make, but you can try your hardest and turn around eventually and think about all the fun you had.