Sometimes I daydream about the conversation that would occur if I could miraculously go back in time and talk to my high school self. What do I want me to know? There would be some big time spoilers like “the junior prom dress you want to wear looks way too tight in pictures” and “after much back and forth, you don’t end up playing soccer in college.”
But, I would also want some larger life lessons to be imparted. And, most of all, I would want to assure my younger self that as long as she learns from her mistakes and keeps chugging along, it will all work out how it’s supposed to. That, and Netflix is just one of the many things she has to look forward to.
People have been telling you all along that the world is a big place and full of cool opportunities. Prove it to yourself.
Through reading, Googling, watching documentaries, talking to adults who are not your parents, etc.—expose yourself to what the world has to offer. Go beyond internally rolling your eyes at the cliché “There’s a big world beyond high school” pitch. Actually look into it! Expand your mind with practical, real world knowledge. Not in the smoke weed and talk about what it all means kind of way, in the “What does a movie director actually do?” kind of way.
You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do, but you should start thinking about it.
High school is pretty much about learning the basics, both from a social and academic standpoint. Nobody expects you to have totally mastered both (or either) departments. So, it’s totally fair if you don’t know what you want to do when you’re older. But, start asking yourself the question. If nothing else, start determining things you could never see yourself doing and go from there. Narrowing it down, even if only in small ways, will help you later on when you have to face tough, “Which path should I take?!” moments.
Nobody likes a wallower.
I suppose this isn’t limited to high school, but I did my fair share of open wallowing in high school (specifically after a bad break up). I think I’d convinced myself that if I let people openly see that I was hurt, they would feel bad for me. Spoiler: This is almost never how it works. Wallowing makes you seem pathetic, it makes people around you uncomfortable and overall it makes the healing process of whatever you’re going through much harder. Instead of drowning in your own self-pity, do something constructive that’s gonna get you out of your funk. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be vulnerable and cry it out on your own time (you should), I’m just saying there’s not a huge benefit to wearing your big, mascara-stained heart on your face.
You don’t have to like the rules of public education, but you have to play the game.
You didn’t know pure, unadulterated ire until you asked my 16-year-old self how I felt about taking physics my junior year of high school. I thought it was an absolute waste of everyone’s time to force a blossoming ~creative~ like myself to learn physics, when CLEARLY I would never be pursuing it again. Instead of accepting that I had no choice and just doing the best I could, I focused on how much I hated the system. I let this resentment turn into stubbornness, and it affected my grades, and ultimately getting into college.
Be smart about following fashion trends.
Listen kid, you’re super broke and cannot afford to be spending what little money you have on every fad or trend that passes through your school. Remember when you dropped 60 bucks on those tie-dye yoga pants just for them to fall hard and fast out of fashion less than a month later? Therefore, instead of spending all your birthday money on a few trendy pieces from Forever21 that will only be hot and in the moment for a few more weeks, be strategic. Invest in things that are more timeless and be choosier when it comes to following trends.
Your family isn’t your punching bag.
A teenage girl being mean to her mom is one of the most played-out scenarios of all time (see: Regina George and her not regular, but “cool” mom). But this is with good reason, as teenage girls can be really hard to deal with. Here’s the deal: Don’t feel justified in being mean to anyone, but especially not your family. Don’t think you’re simply fulfilling your predestined role as “bratty and hormonal teenage daughter.” Your parents are working really hard everyday to make your life great; your little brother is probably going through his own deal. If you occasionally lash out, fine, it happens, but don’t feel a sense of comfort in the fact that this was expected of you.
Friendships are hard in every stage of life, not just high school.
I’m not going to tell you to not get wrapped up in high school friendship drama, because I think that might be impossible. One could argue it’s a necessary evil of high school. However, I would just like to tell you that friendship drama never really ends; maintaining friendships is hard, no matter how old are you are. So don’t get so down on yourself about your “friend situation” at any given time and try to accept that this is just a part of life that everybody deals with.
Be smart online.
Don’t post things that are mean, incriminating, stupid or degrading. Also, maybe lay off those videos you and your friend would post on boys’ Facebook walls after school. The Internet is forever.
Put a date on everything.
One day in the future when you’re going through all of the random pieces of paper and pictures that have cluttered corners of your room, you’re really going to wish you put a date on things. At the time you think, “I’ll never forget this happened!” but the reality is you do, and specific details are the first things to go.
Identify the little things in life that make you happy.
And I don’t mean this in a vague, Pinteresty “~discover yourself and then find your bliss~” kind of way. I mean, start taking note of the concrete things that make your life better. Drawing doodles with an exceptionally awesome ballpoint pen. Going for walks when you feel stressed out. Baking things. Keeping your Spotify playlists meticulously organized. Turning your phone off for hours and getting lost in episodes of Bar Rescue. One of my small joys in life is buying print magazines at CVS and reading literally every single word, even the ads. Figuring out the everyday small things that make you happy can teach you a lot about what you value in life, and help provide small moments of comfort during times of hardship and stress.