Image Credits: Ash Hill Photography

Though my years on this planet are few in comparison to the grand scheme of life, I’ve learned my fair share of lessons—both the easy way and the hard way. The transition from high school to college has led me to reflect on what I have learned that has helped me grow as an individual. I hope these are beneficial to you, as well.

1) Get involved in as many things as possible.

In high school, life is usually hectic already with schoolwork, possibly a job, and whatever else you choose to fill your time with; however, you will get so much more out of the “high school experience” if you get actively involved in everything that interests you. Join that team, run for student government offices, join the club. You’ll make friendships you never would have, and the experience will help make high school more bearable.

2) Don’t make your decisions based solely on others.

This time in your life is about growing as a person, figuring out your interests and what you want out of life before you journey off to college. Don’t spend it texting your friend, asking them if they are going to the game. Go to the game. Get out of your comfort zone, experience life, and make memories. If it’s a bust, then leave—but it could also be an incredible time. Be an individual, not a lapdog.

3) You don’t need to be in a relationship.

Part of you, at times, will also crave what seemingly everyone around you has. Don’t cave in to the latter thoughts. Being in a relationship is okay, obviously, but you don’t have to bounce from one relationship to the next. Learn to love yourself. Learn to be alone. Learn that it’s okay to be alone. Grow as an individual, and wait for the perfect person to complement your life.

4) Everything takes time.

Whether you’re getting over someone, working out, learning to love yourself, or rushing to grow up, nothing is fast and easy. Don’t get too caught up praying to be 25 already. Enjoy the moment and make it as good as this period in your life can be. Time will fly by like it always does, and eventually you will reach the point in life you’ve been dreaming of and join every other adult who says “I wish I was young again.”

5) Have huge dreams and don’t let anything—or anyone—stand in your way.

Unrealistic dreams become realistic when you put in hard work, passion, and never let them die away. Become a lawyer. Be the first person in your family to graduate. Travel the world. Start a business. Anything is possible in this great country when you set your mind to it. It won’t be easy, but it’ll sure as heck will be worth it when you can look the doubters in the eye and say “I told you so.”

6) Choose your friendships wisely.

Parents say “You are who you associate yourself with,” and they’re right. If you hang out with troublemakers all the time, people will assume you’re a troublemaker. You’re guilty by association. Be nice to all people, but keep your circles small and make those who have that privilege be good choices. Make friendships that will last a lifetime.

7) Be more than your hometown.

If you love where you’re from, that’s great—but there is so much more out there. Travel. See. Live. Go to Times Square, see the Capitol, eat at hole-in-the-wall restaurants in random cities, take a road trip. Do anything to get out of the confines of your city limits and see how amazing the rest of this world can truly be. Gain knowledge and experience that will last with you for a lifetime. Never leave anything on your bucket list unchecked.

8) Talk to your parents. They’re just trying to help.

Sure, their intentions may sometimes seem to lack reasons other than to tick us off, but deep down, they’re just trying to help us. They want your life to be better off than theirs. They want you to emerge from the cage a champion. Tell them you love them, and tell them often.

9) Don’t care about the opinions of others.

When you’re stuck around the same people for twelve years, everyone knows everyone and everyone cares about everyone’s business. Don’t pay attention to people who give you a hard time, because eventually, you don’t have to be around them anymore. Their opinions, labels, and talk won’t mean anything. Don’t spend your years trying to please them—that’s a battle you’ll never win. Someone will always have something to say. Focus on trying to please yourself.

10) Get a job.

It doesn’t matter if your parents pay for everything or pay for nothing—you need a job. They come with a paycheck and skills that will improve your future and your resume. Begin becoming independent. By having a job now, you’ll learn how to save and spend your money properly on your own.

11) Everyone is fighting their own battles.

You know what it’s like. Life is hard. Everyone is battling in a war, from in their head to in their heart to in their home to in the hospital. Be kind to people. Whether you self-identify as a “people person” or not, be nice. There’s no reason to be a jerk to people because of how they look, how they talk, or how they act. Keep your opinions to yourself. Be a good person.

12) You don’t have to always be doing something.

You don’t have to constantly have someone over or always be texting someone. It’s okay to have alone time. In fact, alone time is some of the most important time ever. So say no to the party, put your phone on Do Not Disturb, bake some brownies, take a hot shower, and just relax. Let your system reboot.

13) Don’t put things off until tomorrow.

The more time you wait, the more time you waste. The only time we are guaranteed is the moment we are currently living. Finish the task while it’s on your mind. You’ll more than likely forget what it even was in an hour. Take charge of your own life and don’t let the wavering possibility of tomorrow be the day you start living.

14) Never stop working on yourself.

You are a work in progress, and always will be. You should never be content with who you are today. Be proud of how far you have gotten since day one and think, “How can I make myself even better?” Do it. Grow. Grow into the person you want to become, even if you’re not quite sure who that is yet. The opinion of you that matters the most is the one you hold. Make the little girl inside of you proud of who you are today.

15) Develop your own opinions.

In the culture we live in today, it’s easy to “go with the flow” of what’s acceptable today; however, you are first and foremost your own person. Don’t align with a political party just because your friends and family do. Don’t like football because the guy you like likes football. Don’t like dark lipstick because dark lipstick is a trending topic on Twitter. It’s okay to be a Republican when your parents are Democrats. It’s okay to absolutely hate football. It’s okay to like red lipstick more. Acquire knowledge on everything you can and form your own opinions. Be a “someone” not an “everyone”.

16) Burn every picture of you from middle school.

They’re all terrible. yes, all of them. You know it, I know it, we all know it because it is true with all of us. We live in a scary time of roasting each other and terrible pictures of us resurfacing. Save yourself the horror and private every old Facebook album you ever created ever. You’ve worked hard to become the gorgeous being you are today. Just kind of…poke the old you with a stick and lock the chest. You’re not her anymore. Let’s leave her in the past.

17) Study, study, study.

You got by without studying for years, but that isn’t going to last. Test are harder, more intensive now that you’ve reached higher, more intensive education levels. Figure out now what studying method works best for you and hold onto it.

18) Question everything.

If you don’t understand a question enough, ask for help. If something is on the news and you think “What’s that about?”, find out. If something interests you, try to learn everything there is to know about it. Don’t settle for the information you’ve already obtained. Be content when you’ve had your fill of knowledge. A questionable nature is what causes you to grow both intellectually and individually.

Emily W
FFL Cabinet Member
Emily is a Crimson Tide-lovin' Conservative whose callings in life are to raise self-esteem & eat tons of pizza rolls. Usually spotted at home, in her bed, because Desperate Housewives has replaced her social life. Roll tide.

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