…this is what I would say.
My Very Best Advice for the Teen Just Graduating from High School
1) Go to college. I don’t care if you go to community college or auto repair college or Harvard. I don’t care if you go full time or part time or online or in person. Continue your education. The more educated you are, the more opportunities you will have. It might suck, it might not be fair, but it is true.
2) Learn about something you love. Do not pursue a career based on how much money you can earn. That sounds insane, but I promise you there are people rolling in money and hating their lives because they chose a career based on the paycheck and not the life that goes along with it. Learn about something you love – think about ways to make a living doing something awesome. Do not make decisions about your life based solely on how much money it is worth. Your life is worth more than money.
3) Learn how to manage money. I know I just said not to pursue the money – but once you have some, make sure you aren’t being stupid with it. Obviously, don’t bounce checks. Don’t run up credit card bills just because you can. Save. Learn about investing, whether that means CDs or money markets or stocks or bonds. Invest in your retirement, especially if someone is matching it – it seems like you have forever, but you don’t. Know what messes up your credit and don’t do it.
4) Spend time with people who make you better. The people who make you feel stronger and healthier and more YOU, those are the ones you want to be around. Don’t waste your time with people who bring you down, make you feel like you need to live up, or make you feel like less than you are. Something about you is awesome, hang around people who see it.
5) Take care of your body. Yes, you are young and you could probably eat donuts and drink coffee and do shots all weekend and survive it. But you could also mess yourself up, which would be tragic. And eventually you will have the metabolism of a 46-year-old (I know…ancient) and you will wish that you had taken good care of yourself right from the beginning. Eat clean as much as you can. Don’t drink too much. For god’s sake stay away from anything that you’d have to buy from a criminal – why would you trust someone willing to do something illegal to give you something safe?? Just please don’t.
7) Stay close to your family. You don’t need them anymore, technically. But really, you do. They are the people who have been there for you and will continue to be there for you for your ENTIRE LIFE. Don’t dismiss them because they aren’t buying your groceries and doing your laundry. Call your mother. Call your father. Hang out with your siblings.
8) Know you matter. There will be things that you do, or have the option to do, that seem like not a big deal, but will change the way you feel about yourself. Every time you discount yourself – your opinion, your relationships, your worth – you give the rest of the world permission to do the same. Respect yourself, treat yourself like you are important and the rest of the world is likely to follow suit.
9) Think REALLY HARD about tattoos or piercings or other “body modifications”. I know it is relentlessly uncool of me, but seriously picture whatever body modification you are considering on your grandparents. If it doesn’t look right on them, you don’t want to do it to yourself FOREVER. I know it’s art and expression and whatever. But neck tattoo + pierced eyebrow + Grandma = wrong.
10) Don’t take advice from just anyone. There will be an endless parade of people who want to tell you what to do and how to live your life. I am exceptionally wise, so you should listen to me, of course. But with other people, think about what they stand for, what skin they have in the advice they are offering, and whether they have your best interests at heart. You can listen, you can agree with parts of what they say, but there is no requirement to accept and follow all advice you are given. You can nod your head, say “Thank you for that”, and then do whatever YOU think is best. And when you start doing THAT, you know you are truly an adult.
Good luck out there! And I repeat, CALL YOUR MOTHER.
Bio: Kristen is a suburban mom of 2, working girl, and therapeutic writer. Her Addictions: Iced Coffee, checking e-mail, texting, hugging her children, and yelling at her dog. She writes at Keep Swimmin