Being a teenager was tough. Like, really, really tough. I wasn’t the popular kid. I wasn’t the talented kid. I wasn’t the hippy kid. I wasn’t the sporty kid. I wasn’t the theatre kid. I wasn’t really anything, to be totally honest. I anxiously sat through my teenage years waiting for the day that I would become as popular as my best friend and to find my talent. Needless to say, those things never happened. Being an adult is just as stressful as being a teenager, but for different reasons – actually, some reasons are actually still the same.
It’s all a game, this life stuff, and some of us seem to have the cheat codes pre-programmed. Some of us get the “love” button, others get the “talented” codes and some of us get the “eternally lost” trait, but we can all learn to grow and change and adapt and become better people that are no longer scared, alone and lost.
Here are the things I wish 15-year-old me knew:
Don’t Worry About What Everyone Else Thinks
You’ve spent too many years wasting your life on things that other people want you to do; in the wise words of Dr. Seuss “Those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” It’s 100% true. Your school friends – or any friends you make along the walk of life – will like one thing, you will like another, and you shouldn’t ever let them convince you that what you like is wrong. They’ll be gone in a few years anyway. What does their opinion matter?
They aren’t you. Nobody else is you. You are so unique and weird and individual that it’s not surprising that no one understands you. Maybe nobody ever will. Maybe that’s okay. Maybe that’s how it’s meant to be. It’s not that it’s you vs the world, it’s that you’re walking in a parallel to it, not quite fitting in but not totally on another planet. That’s pretty rad when you think about it.
Do What Makes You Happy
For the love of God, don’t do things because everyone else likes them. You spend too much time doing this and you definitely shouldn’t. It’s a waste of your life and it will make you miserable. Don’t stick out shitty jobs because everyone else says it’s “good experience”. It’s not; it’s degrading and horrifying and abusive and you even get attacked by a rat, twice. It’s not worth it. Don’t stay at parties you aren’t enjoying because you’re worried someone will call you lame for wanting to leave early. Don’t drink drinks you don’t want. Don’t quiet your beliefs because other people don’t want to know your truth.
You should travel. Prioritise it above everything else, because it’s what makes you the happiest. You will find some awesome friends and do some amazing things when you travel. Do more of it. It will make you whole.
Relationships Don’t Define You
You’re two months away form turning 22 and you still haven’t had a boyfriend. Shocking, I know. But it doesn’t matter. Yeah, you’re the girl who’s never found love, but you’ve found other things. You have a proper career job even though you haven’t even been a graduate for a year. You have two very cute dogs. The fact that you haven’t found love yet is breaking your heart. It really is. But you need to learn to cope on your own. No one is going to be there to pick you up when you’re down, or support you when you need it most.
You are strong and you have got through everything by yourself. The people you are friends or in a romantic relationship with aren’t the thing that defines you. You aren’t a product of their attention. You are so much more than a text or a FaceTime or a wasted, broken promise. You are better than that and your relationships aren’t the be-all-and-end-all of it.
Really Think About What You Want To Do With Your Life
Looking back, you can honestly say you don’t know whether sticking through three years of university was right for me. You didn’t enjoy it too much at the time, and you don’t really have any fond memories to look back on except time spent with your closest friends and your housemates. You don’t get to have the ultimate uni experience, you actually just sit alone at home for the vast majority of nights during the three years. It’ll cost you upwards of £45,000, and that’s without the interest. Think about it before you go.
You will spend many, many hours of your life worrying about whether you’ve chosen the right path, and you still don’t know the answer to that question. Start trusting your instincts: when you feel that some is right, or isn’t right, go with that feeling, regardless of what anyone else thinks. If a situation or job doesn’t feel right, get the hell out. It doesn’t matter if mum and dad will be disappointed (spoiler alert: they pay for CJ’s uni maintenance loan costs while you’re stuck with £45,000 of student debt). It doesn’t matter if you spend years of your life working towards something and then realising that it’s not what you want at all. You can change your mind. You are allowed to change your mind. You are constantly changing, so how can you expect yourself to always be on the same path?
Concentrate On The Good Stuff
The one talent you have is being able to focus on the bad things regardless of what’s going on. You will always find a way to bring yourself down. Even if it’s something as minor as “they haven’t texted me back” it becomes “everyone hates me and I will die alone”. Fuck that. Fuck all of that. Fuck everyone that has ever made you feel like you weren’t worth the ground you walked on or the space you take up.
You can focus on the good things. You can think about the good times you’ve had while travelling and the happiness that your dogs bring into your life. There is hope and happiness out there, but dwelling on the shit that drags you into the gutter day after day after day is going to keep you there, and none of the people you aim to please will help you up. Listen to your happy thoughts. Burn the bad ones. Free yourself from the shitstorm in your head. You are better than the thoughts you are having. You are better than the way that people treat you. You will have light and love and happiness.