“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly.”
In light of summer almost coming to a close again, and back-to-school stuff being everywhere you look, it got me thinking about high school. I normally try not to spend too much time thinking about my high school experience considering there were a fair amount of rough spots for me, but every now and then, I’ll sit back and look at how much things have changed for me and how much I’ve learned since then. It doesn’t seem that long ago, but about 10 years has passed, and in a weird way, it seems like it all happened forever ago.
I started thinking about how different my life was then compared to now, and I caught myself wishing that I could go back and tell my younger self a few things that probably would have made my life a lot easier. If I could tell myself then when I know now, these are the top 10 things I would tell my high school self:
1. Choose your friends wisely.
In High school, friends are super important to you. Possibly more important to you then they will ever be. You will constantly hear “old people” telling you that you need to be careful with what friends you choose, and you’re going to blow them off every single time. Cuz you’ve got this. Right? Well, you don’t “got this”. They are right. You may think that you can hang out with whoever you want and that you will be strong enough to resist whatever “bad stuff” they might throw your way, but you’re not. No one is. We are all vulnerable to the influences of others, especially since they don’t happen overnight. The people you spend a lot of time around influence you slowly as they grow on you….like a fungus. You do become like the people you are around. We are all influencing others, and being influenced at the same time. We can’t stop that. So make sure that you’re hanging out with people who you want to become more like. Don’t waste your time convincing yourself that it’s not happening. And besides, it’s in the Bible too. So you can stop being full of yourself and admit defeat on this one, along with everyone else in the world.
And side note: If you’ve somehow convinced yourself that you’re spending a lot of time with a bad crew because you’re “witnessing” to them…you need to check yourself. Cuz there is a good chance you’re lying to yourself, but I’ll get back to this one later.
2. Your parents are not perfect.
Now, depending on what day it is, this will either shock you, scare you, or bring you great relief. Possibly a little of each. So brace yourself. I’ll start by saying this is not intended to bash my parents, or parents in general. My parents are amazing and they are basically my favorite people…but I need you to realize that they are not perfect. They are amazing examples in so many ways, but I need you to realize that they’re not the best example in every way. They have weaknesses. Just like you. They didn’t spend so much time on this earth being friends with God that they now don’t mess-up anymore or struggle. They are more like you in the way that you will wrestle through life than you think, and the sooner you realize this, the better you will be at understanding them and talking to them about life. They are your equals when it comes to being God’s children, so the sooner you learn to walk life beside them and forgive their struggles, the easier things will be. Trust me.
3. What you value now, is going to change.
Right now you have this grand priority system on what you want out of life. Love, Money, Dream Job, Kids of your own, and the list goes on. And that’s just for your future. You know what you think right now is most important. You think fitting in and being a part of something is super important. You think not being a loser all the time is important. You think being able to do things alone without any help is important. You think what you want is important. And maybe some of it is. But what I need you to know is that what you think is important will change. More than once, it will change and I’m sure it will keep changing. Don’t lock yourself in with what you think you know right now, being absolute truth. A lot of what you think is fact, is actually opinion and preference…and that’s ok. Just know it for what it is and realize that what you think today may not be what you think tomorrow. And that change is ok. You don’t have to decide some things right now and commit to that view for the rest of your life. Challenge everything, and keep evaluating everything. Coming up with the best possible answer you can for that moment, is not bad, and if you come up with something different later, than you have the right to change. Just be sure you have a reason for whatever you think or do. Don’t be mindless about it, ok?
4. Don’t change who you are for anyone.
At some point, if you haven’t already, you will encounter people or situations that will press you to be unlike yourself. This may be directly, or indirectly. I’m talking the range from being intentionally excluded from events and social circles, to needing to look or act a certain way to “blend in”, and everything in between. Where ever you fall in the range, doesn’t matter, because it’s coming. More than once, it’s coming. You’re going to feel insecure, lonely, rejected, excluded, unlovable, strange, different, weird, and a million other things, all because you’re not *fill in unreasonable expectation here*. I’m here to tell you that none of it’s true, and that you’re fine just the way you are, flaws and all. A lot of people don’t know how to deal with what they don’t understand themselves, so you’re going to run into a lot of people who can’t and don’t understand you because you’re not them. But you’re not supposed to be them. You’re supposed to be yourself. Even when being you doesn’t seem like the right thing to do, it is. Not everyone can peak in high school, but trust me, what’s cool now, won’t be later and what you think makes you weird now will probably make you interesting later in life. And since “later in life” is much longer than High school, I’m gonna say you’d rather peak then. So lucky you.
5. The Guy you like now, probably isn’t going to work out.
Praise God for this one. I know right now you’re thinking “but that’s not what I want. I want this guy to work out cuz he’s perfect.” Well praise God he knows better than us, right? Your world right now is small, and that’s not a bad thing. But realize that there is much more out her in life for you to encounter and explore than just what’s right in front of you right now. In a small world, that guy probably seems perfect and like the best option, but once your world expands and you grow…not so much. So don’t hold on too tightly to the idea that you’ll love them forever. Or that you’ll even like each other in a few years. If you have all of this changing and growing up to do, than just imagine how much that guy still has to do. Now do some quick math and realize that the equation (current you + current boy = supposed awesomeness) is not the same later in life (future you + future boy = ?). You’re going to be totally different person in a few years and they will too, so the chances of them still being someone you’re interested in, while still possible, is very remote. Which might be a good thing. Again, trust me.
6. Your status in the “social scene” is not permanent.
A lot of the pressure of trying to fit in is from feeling like if you mess up how people see you now, then you’ll never recover. You’ll just be a dweeb for the rest of your life and that will be that. People will just decide what they think of you now, and they will never be able to look past that. Well, that may be true for some people, but not most. Most of the time, people grow up and realize that the world around them has grown up too. Again, things change. If you feel like a loser today, it doesn’t make you a loser for the rest of your life. Even though you’re not one to begin with. The people often who find themselves at the bottom later find themselves at the top. So if you’re feeling like the lamest of the lame, or feel like you’re winning at life right now, it doesn’t matter. You’re not locked in. Things could change tomorrow. And if someone tries to lock you in somehow, then that is that person’s issue. Not yours. Some people struggle with change. Just don’t join them on their ride on the struggle bus.
7. Don’t take on friends as projects.
This one’s major. All throughout life, you’re going to encounter a lot of people who need help. People that need just a little bit of extra love and attention, or need to work through major life issues. People out there are dealing with serious issues and struggles, and you’re going to want to help. And you should. Just don’t get trapped into the mindset that you can save someone. You’re not a savior of any kind, so please don’t start acting like one. You need to point them to one, not be one. You should love and care for people as much as you can, especially if it’s a friend or family member. As long as you’re not pursuing that person with the hope or belief that you can help fix them. People need friendship from you, not a savior. If you start acting like you are one, you’re doing them a disservice no matter how much good you think you’re doing. And you’ll probably scare them away. People have to deal with things on their own terms in their own time, and continual nudging to deal with things when someone isn’t ready is only going to make them run for the hills. And I’ll give you a tip and tell you that you, are not in the hills.
8. Don’t beat yourself up over your mistakes.
I know that from where you’re standing, it can look like everyone else in the world is so perfect and doesn’t struggle or make mistakes, except for you. And sadly there will be more days where you feel like that. But it’s not true. There isn’t a perfect person on this earth, and trust me that even the person you’re comparing yourself to is struggling with something. Everyone is. Remember that the internet is just a highlight reel of people’s great moments, and that everyone always has their best foot forward when they’re out in public. They’re not going to make sure you know that they yell at their family all the time, or that the struggle with anxiety and depression every other day. So stop comparing yourself to everyone else and beating yourself up over the unfair comparisons and your failures. Everyone fails at some point. It’s a part of learning. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t have anything to work toward or do. Failure is part of the human experience. Our understanding of that should bond all of us together, not separate us. But the worst critic you will face will be yourself. So stop feeling like beating yourself up for mistakes is ok because you’ve somehow convinced yourself that you deserve it. Don’t punish yourself. Learn to forgive yourself now and move on. Trust me, you’ll get lots of practice.
9. Focus more on learning yourself; less on others.
It’s easy to get caught up in just watching all that’s going on around you with other people and get sucked into their story and comparing yourself to what you see. But don’t waste your time. There are whole sides of yourself that you’ve yet to discover because you haven’t taken the time to think about you and what you want. You have passions, dreams, hobbies, and so much more that you have to discover about yourself. So don’t spend too much time trying so hard to get to know everything about other people, that you forget to spend time really getting to know yourself. It may seem silly now, but that time will be time well spent, and you’ll need it later. And keep learning yourself, because over time, you’re going to change a lot, and like an old friend, you don’t want to forget to keep up with the changes. You have preferences built into who you are, and they are there for a reason. Learn them, and don’t be ashamed of them in all their glorious detail. Plus once you know who you are, it helps other get to know you too. Cuz it’s hard to get to know someone who doesn’t know who they are. So make sure you take some time to figure out who you are apart from everyone else. Think Runaway Bride and how do you like your eggs. If you don’t know, than you need to go find out.
10. Being in a relationship is not the only thing your future can hold.
I can say this one over and over again a million times and it still probably would need to be said some more. I’ll start by saying that there is nothing wrong with wanting to be in a relationship. There is also nothing wrong with wanting to grow up, get married, and start your own family. But if that is all you think your life can hold, than you need to rethink that. You are whole by yourself. So don’t go around looking for your “other half” as if you won’t be complete until you find them. You can live an amazing full life without ever being in a romantic relationship. And if it doesn’t happen for you, than that doesn’t mean that you missed out on something. If we don’t get to experience one thing, then we often get to experience something else in its place. So maybe you spent your time and money traveling the world, learning, contributing to a non-profit organization, or something else that you wouldn’t have been able to do if you had significant others in your life. Your path may not look like everyone else around you, but that does not mean you’re on the wrong road. You’re on the right path for you. And to limit your future to a specific thing or situation like that will only cause you to be unhappy if it doesn’t happen. Don’t let your happiness rest on such fickle circumstances. You’ll regret it later if you do.
There are more things I could say to myself, but these were some of the top ones that surfaced when I asked the question. I’m sure in the next 10 years, the list will have changed again, but it’s a start.
If you have something to say about any of my 10 things, or have a top 10 list of your own, I’d love to hear it. Just drop a comment in the bottom of the post. What would your top 10 be to tell your high school self?