I am a very reflective person and as I am sure most people would agree, there are a lot of life lessons I have learnt recently that I wish I knew when I was a teenager. I tend to mark the year I turned 18 as being the point where I started to really change as I left school and got a full-time job so here are the 18 things I wish I could tell my pre-18 year old self.
- If you don’t like something, don’t do it. I was a dancer for nine years, quitting when I was 13. However for the last few years I was there, I didn’t really enjoy it and in hindsight, I should have left earlier.
- If you want to do something, do it. There were so many things that I wish I had done – learn to play the piano, learn some form of martial arts, learn to figure skate, participate in a school production – and I feel like not doing a lot of those things have negatively impacted on who I am now.
- Don’t forget your home life! I spent a lot of time during school solely focussing on school and neglecting my personal life. I went to school, came home and did homework and then went to bed. There were no hobbies and no time for me to just be myself or to spend time reading and that’s something that I regret as I feel less of a rounded person.
- When you’re working, work. So this is a little conflicting to point three, however I found that a lot of the time when I was studying, I was working for the sake of working. I would spend quite a lot of time copying up notes and, although they looked pretty afterwards, it was a huge time-waster as my brain switched off and I spent hours mindlessly copying notes.
- Read more. I really wish I had read more when I was growing up, especially non-fiction books as they are so rich of knowledge.
- Learn that language! I was probably about fourteen or fifteen when I got two language courses – Spanish and Italian. Both courses are structured to be completed in six months each, however it has only been within the past month that I have actually started to really use the Spanish one. If I had started when I had received the courses (they were a present from a family member), I might be fluent in Spanish and Italian now, and it may have really helped me with my French GCSE.
- ‘Friends’ aren’t all that. I never really had many friends, and to be honest I still don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I want more friends – I want to have a ton of friends – however I want them to be genuine and real. During school, I used to hang around with a group of people and was always upset when I was left out of this or that. However, upon reflection, I realised that the people I was hanging around with weren’t real friends and it shouldn’t have bothered me as much when I was left out.
- Neither are boys. Boys didn’t like me until I was about 17 and even then, the only boys that liked me were either A) in a relationship or B) just interested in sex. I’m glad at how my relationship life has turned out because it has made me realise my self-worth and it made me think a lot about the type of relationship that I want to be in, however it was still hard at times to realise that there wasn’t anything wrong with me other than my incredible lack of self confidence.
- Chances are, you’ll get bullied. But that’s not a reflection of you. I was bullied. I was bullied in primary school, I was bullied in high school and I was bullied in sixth form. I could tell you a bunch of comments that people said to me that made me feel like I was less than a piece of dirt. Being bullied made me feel like I wasn’t worth it and almost like I deserved to be bullied, though I have recently learnt that the people who bullied me were pathetic and the only reason they made those comments was because the comments received a cheap laugh and the guys weren’t comedic enough to make proper jokes.
- Be forceful. I had a couple of unwanted sexual advances when I was about 17/18 and one of the things I regret was that I wasn’t forceful enough early on. I had said no to a guy and he persisted, so I said no a couple more times and eventually he got the message. I feel incredibly lucky that nothing bad happened but still I wish that I had been more forceful the first time around because I now know that I did nothing wrong.
- Don’t blame yourself. I am not going to say that I was an angel child. I did things that I am not proud of and things that I should be blamed for. However, there are a lot of things that I blamed myself for even though they were nothing to do with me, which only helped fuel my feelings of insignificance and insecurity.
- Don’t be too hard on yourself. OK, this is a piece of advice that I still need to take as whenever I do something wrong, I always take a walk down the seriously detrimental street of self-blame which is awful, however I definitely do it a lot less now than I did when I was younger. Chances are, whatever happens, it’s not that bad. You don’t need to be so hard on yourself.
- Sometimes the only person you can rely on is yourself. This one doesn’t apply to me now as I have met some incredibly nice and reliable people in my life, however when I was 18 I had two friends who I thought would always be there for me but turned out when the going got rough, they got going. There are people who I can rely on now, however I allowed the people who let me down when I was 18 to let me down multiple times.
- Don’t confuse curiosity with compassion. I am guilty of having done this quite a few times when I was a teen. I had a lot of things on my mind constantly back then and as soon as someone showed a shred of interest, I basically told them my life story and everything that was on my mind, and then I got frustrated when they didn’t care afterwards. They were definitely curious and not compassionate.
- Learn life skills. Learn to cook, learn how to do laundry, learn how to iron. I moved out when I was 19 and had no idea how to do any of these things so my learning curve was pretty steep. I survived and I managed to learn it all, but it would have been so much easier if I had learned it all as I was growing up and not in the two weeks before I was moving out.
- Help her out. Seriously, help your mother out with the cooking and the laundry and the vacuuming and the tidying. She dropped you off in town to catch the bus, she has been at work all day and now is going to stand and cook you tea and then she is going to clean and tidy before she can sit down. Yes, you have been at school and you have homework. But help her out.
- Chocolate is bad for you. Boo! Again, this is another thing that I still need to listen to. Chocolate tastes amazing but it is not the healthiest of snacks. Cut back on the amount of chocolate and other junk food you eat and A) watch the weight fall off you and B) see how much better you feel within yourself.
- Excuses are embarrassing – just do it! Ultimately, at the end of the day you are responsible for your own success and failures. Forget about making excuses and just do whatever it is that you’re procrastinating!
I hope you have enjoyed reading my 18 life lessons that I wish I knew before I was 18, what are some of your biggest learns?