This spring, I hit a major life milestone: graduating high school. On one hand, the ceremony was cathartic for me and I felt prepared to take on college. On the other hand, even though I couldn’t relive high school, I still had this feeling of being ready to do it all over again. This time, equipped with everything I had learned in the past four years.
Beyond books and academics, there are so many valuable lessons about adolescence and growing up that I wish someone clued me in about earlier. So, if you’re someone just starting high school or even if you’ve had a few teenage years under your belt, I hope you’ll read further and indulge in the guidance I know will help you along your journey.
Good grades, prestige and money are no substitute for happiness.
While these are fine, measurable goals that can help guide you, they are worth nothing if you aren’t satisfied. I stayed in certain situations for longer than I should have because I thought it would be “good for me” or that it would “pay off in the long run,” but in reality, trying to keep up with the demands of these responsibilities was making me miserable. You owe it to yourself to be truthful about your limits and what makes you happy. Always put yourself and your happiness first before anyone else’s.
Never keep kind words to yourself.
Even if you’re shy, even if you’re talking to a complete stranger, those one-off interactions can make somebody’s day. Whether it’s complimenting the skirt your classmate is wearing today or thanking your friend for helping revise your essay, be generous with the love you give to others.
Your best friend(s) will get you through everything — Don’t forget to keep in touch.
Friends are what makes high school worth it. Remember that you have them to rely on whenever you’re feeling down or just in need of a weekend hangout. I wish I had checked in with them more often, it would have helped me stay more connected. Especially when I notice myself getting too deep into my homework or studying.
Your path will look drastically different than the person next to you.
Don’t compare your journey to another’s. It’s a practice easier said than done, but when you start focusing on what you’re doing without tuning into someone else’s life, you can then start to appreciate all the hard work you put in. You are unique and whoever you decide to be in the future will be a valid decision.
You will get there when you get there.
This phrase serves as a reminder that it’s OK to not know what you’re doing in the future. Feeling lost is an incredibly common experience. You are a work in progress and you’ve got your whole life ahead of you! Don’t try to rush it. As long as you are passionate, you will be able to reach your goals. It might not be tomorrow, it might not be next year, but one day you will look back and wonder why you ever worried so much.
Everything comes to an end eventually.
Being a teenager means you often think about the end of the world. Well, in the way that if you don’t pass that chemistry exam or if your crush rejects you, it’s going to be the end of the world, and you’re going to feel terrible forever. But with every obstacle you overcome, you are reminded that the world is tough, but you are tougher. Every day is another chance to start anew. You don’t have to be tied down by your most embarrassing or upsetting moments. You can always recover, you can always come back.
We are all just people trying their best.
Yes, even that teacher’s pet with straight-A’s isn’t perfect. We are all humans with a wide range of emotions and behaviors. Remember that you are never alone in your struggles and that you always have someone to talk to. The single most important characteristic we share? We are all capable of change. Petty beef and immovable grudges are not worth the emotional turmoil. Forgiveness goes a long way, so forgive often.
… But not everyone deserves your forgiveness.
In some circumstances, it is better to choose yourself than to continue sacrificing your valuable time and energy. Your circle should be filled with people who want the best for you, and who support and uplift you. If a person isn’t someone you see in your future, say goodbye, have confidence in your decision, and never look back.
Knives Nguyen, (he/them/theirs) is a journalist from the Bay Area who covers entertainment and culture. You can connect with them on LinkedIn: @knivesnguyen.
Edited by Nykeya Woods.