As my ten year high school reunion approaches this spring, I cannot help but reflect on the experiences I have had and the lessons I have learned over these past ten years. Through four years of earning an undergraduate degree, and now the six years of a career – which included earning a master’s degree and getting married to the love of my life, there have been numerous moments of celebration and joy, sorrow and heartache, and most of all–learning and laughter. I am fortunate to do what I love for a living, and to continue building a life and a marriage with my best friend. However, I cannot help but sift through my journey to decipher the advice and knowledge I wish I could have been given ten years ago. If I could share some wisdom with my high school self, it would be the following:

1) Enjoy the moment

Don’t focus on documenting, but rather living in the moment. Take pictures to have as memories, but do not forget to truly soak up every moment. I cannot tell you how many times I have been at a concert, special event, or even just out on a walking trail and most people are more focused on taking pictures rather than just viewing the sight at hand. Try to limit your phone and camera usage because you do not want to miss out on once in a lifetime experiences.

2) Take care of your body

Your health is precious, so take care of it accordingly. Your skin, teeth, and mental stamina will thank you for it later. Go easy on the makeup and contour, and make sure you wash you face every night. More importantly, get some sleep. All nighters are not doing you any favors, no matter what the excuse is. Make exercise and eating well part of your daily routine. You’ll feel great, look great, and appreciate the long-term positive effects in your late 20s. It is much easier to learn how to take care of yourself than to undo the damage later in life.

3) Cherish time with your loved ones

You are never too old to spend time with your parents, siblings, grandparents, and so on.  Embrace the opportunities to attend family gatherings, or create your own. You do not know how long you may have left with them, and you’re getting to the age where everyone now has families of their own, which impacts how much time you will get together. Do not become that person that thinks she is too cool to spend a day hanging with her grandparents at their house or talking to her younger siblings about what is happening in their worlds.

4) Be smart with your money

Save up for the unexpected things in life and try to avoid the splurge purchases. It is okay to treat yourself, just make sure it does not become a weekly occurrence. Why work if you can’t treat yourself once in awhile, right? Just be sure to put some money aside each month for those surprise costs so you are not left begging your parents, racking up credit cards, or having to take on a extra job.

5) Do not date just to date

You do not need to have a significant other to feel complete. Dating can be fun, but it can also be filled with difficulties, so choose wisely. If you do choose to date, focus on finding someone that contributes to your life, supports your goals, shares your interests, and truly makes you happy. Being single and having time for yourself is just as important as finding “the one,” so never jump into a relationship just because you’re bored or feel pressured to date. Just when you stop “searching,” the right one will find you.

6) Many of your friendships will change or end

As you will find out over time, many of your “friends” in high school were only your friends simply because you saw them five days a week. Sometimes you are fortunate enough to become lifelong friends with a few, but do not be surprised when people’s priorities change and they move on. That is just part of life. You will meet so many interesting people as you grow up, and people with similar interests, dreams, and passions as you. Do not worry about finding a best friend in high school, that will come with time.

7) Learn to prioritize your time

Time is your greatest treasure, because unlike a house, a job, or material objects, you cannot get your time back. Learn to devote your time to the people and to the events that truly matter.  Spend time with the people you care about most, and try to learn to say “no” to the people and to the obligations that only stress you out. Buy a planner or simple notebook to create a “to do” list every week. Most of all, devote some time to yourself every day. It is not selfish to pamper yourself or to simply reflect on who you are and where you want to be.

8) Be adventurous

Don’t get so busy working that you forget to build a life. Yes, a 4.0 is extremely impressive, but take some time to enjoy the world around you. Take trips, go on random outings with your friends, and sometimes just get in the car and drive to see where you end up. When you look back in ten years, you’ll want to have something to show for it.  Life experience is something you need for your sanity, happiness, and confidence.  Try new things, travel, eat, meet people, and have fun…believe me, you’ve earned it.

9) Speak up for yourself

Often times, we are too focused on making a good impression or not overstepping our boundaries, that we hold back or sacrifice our thoughts to please others. You are only hurting yourself by doing this. There is definitely a time and place to bite your tongue, especially in the workplace, but you also must take the opportunity to be heard. Your knowledge, your experience, and what you have to offer is valuable. People will respect you for this, and it may even lead to more opportunity to move up.

10) Love yourself

Do not focus on following trends, instead develop your own opinions, taste, style, and beliefs. It is easy to get caught up in popular trends in fashion and politics. Educate yourself and explore all avenues of ideas and culture, then formulate your own likes and dislikes. Don’t follow the herd when you can lead it. Most of all, be proud of who you are and of all of your accomplishments.  Sometimes you are so hard on yourself that you overlook all the positives in your life. You are beautiful, intelligent, unique, and the world is just beginning to see what you have to offer. Be you, be fearless, and stay proud.

Haley B
FFL Contributor
Haley is a fearless 20-something educator. Though she has lived in both Nebraska and Florida, her true home is in the arms of her husband, Joel. Haley is an avid coffee consumer, a fitness fanatic, a WWE enthusiast, a wanderluster, a fashionista, and a whole lot of sass.

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