I try not to have regrets. Quite honestly, I believe it’s a waste of time to ask “what if,” because there’s nothing you can do to change the past. Are there things I might have done differently? Sure. Can I do anything to change it? No. But, I can share what I wish I’d known with those who are in the same place I was four years ago.
So, as a former 17-year-old, here are 17 things I would tell myself 17-year-old self (and basically all 17-year-olds):
- Don’t take classes just because your friends are taking them.
Take classes that YOU want to take, not just the classes your friends want to take. Don’t worry, you can still be friends even though your schedules are not identical.
2. Your high school status is irrelevant.
PSA- a few years from now no one will care whether you were the prom queen or the weekly Quiz Bowl champ.
- Don’t be a mean girl (or boy).
It’s easy to remember people for the times they were cruel rather than the times they were kind. If you’re mean, people will remember. Avoid the over-dramatic teenager mean-girl phase.
- Stand up to the mean girl (or boy).
Following up from #3… What’s that saying? A bystander is just as much of a bully as the bully. Don’t be afraid to stand up to someone if they’re being a jerk. Even if it’s a friend. If they don’t recognize that they’re being a jerk, it’s probably time to make some new friends. If not, you’ll be a jerk by association.
- Make your health a priority.
It’s easy to stay fit in high school through sports and gym classes. However, once you get to college there’s no coaches or teachers telling you to run the extra lap. Make healthy choices a habit early. Once you get to college, invest in a gym membership so you don’t have to invest in bigger pants. Check out the Allen Center fitness classes and equipment.
- Be a nice person, even to people you don’t know.
Unfortunately, I’ve been the clumsy person who dropped books in the hallway. This has taught me there are two types of people: 1) people who walk past or step over you. 2) people who help you pick them up. Be the person who helps pick up the books. There’s a little thing called karma…
- Try something new.
If there’s an activity you are even slightly interested in, give it a try. It’s better to hear “no” than to regret not trying. There’s also the rule of 3. If you give something a try three times and you realize you don’t like it, let it go. If your college doesn’t offer anything that interests you, start something.
- Make time for your friends while you’re still living in the same area code.
8a. Only good friends, though.
Eventually, you’ll catch up on your sleep and get the homework done –even if it’s just for a few hours. Make time for your friends. If your friends are the people referred to in #4, maybe make some new friends?
- Save your money.
If you get paid minimum wage and think that hoodie you just dropped $70 on was worth it… you’re wrong. Save your little paychecks and your graduation money. When you’re in college and you can afford to eat something other than Mac N Cheese everyday, you’ll thank me.
- Don’t be afraid to fail.
Going back to #7, if you try something and you discover you hate it or you’re terrible at it, at least you tried. Also, it’s a lot easier to fail at age 17 than when you’re an adult. Just make sure that what you’re trying is a) legal and b) not life threatening.
- Support your classmates.
Sit in the student section, even if you can only make one game. Be happy when someone succeeds at something they’re passionate about, even it’s not something that interests you. This goes back to being a nice person.
- Work ahead.
If you can take classes that fulfill college requirements, do it! This doesn’t just mean advanced placement courses. See what’s being offered at a nearby college or take courses at your school that qualify as college credit. Reach out to your future university to learn about its general education program.
If you’re interested in gaining skills rather than earning credits, take a look at job qualifications in your desired field. For example, your high school graphic design course might be more helpful than you expected.
- Take time to pursue something you’re passionate about.
Before you decide not to go out for the team your senior year because you want to focus on school or pick up more hours at work, consider this: high school may be the last time you can play this sport competitively. You’ll work for the rest of your life, and you’ll have the opportunity to continue your education. But, you might not have the opportunity to score a touch down or shoot a game-winning shot like that again. Maybe sports aren’t your passion, but you get the idea.
- Work to have a life; don’t make work your life.
Make a little money of your own and gain some experience. Don’t devote your teenage years to your part-time job. It can be a priority, but probably not your first one.
- Go to the lame dance.
If you think the homecoming/prom/whatever dance will be stupid, it probably will be. If you think that you’re going to have fun, then you will. Your attitude determines your experience. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
- Give people the benefit of the doubt.
Just because you heard something about someone doesn’t make it true. It also doesn’t automatically make them a bad person. Make your own opinion about people rather than depending on the opinion of someone else.
- High school gossip won’t follow you forever.
Honestly, everything in high school is over-dramatized. Eventually everyone will realize how stupid some parts were, and you will joke about it.