Being in my 30’s, I would like to think that I’ve learned (the very hard way), a few things that you might find useful. Recently, I had a conversation with some friends about what we wish we could tell young women when graduating from high school. That seems like a never-ending list, so I narrowed it down to these:
1. High school will not be an indicator of the rest of your life and you have a one year time limit on bragging about what you did there. I know, it seems borderline crazy and I’m sure you are rolling your eyes, but keep reading. You need to remember this: no one in the real world cares about what you did in high school. Really. And it’s AWESOME. In fact, give yourself the time limit I just gave you and do not brag about what happened in high school. The amazing and great reality is that high school is not a life you created for yourself, it was created for you. Let that sink in. Guess what? The life you get to create for yourself is upon you. And it can be whatever you want it to be!
2. Going into this new life, you need to also remember that you are the keeper of a super secret weapon, also known as a vagina. Yes, I’m going there. You need to remember one rule about your vagina: It is yours, no one else’s, and boys will say whatever it takes and lie to get into your panties. You don’t owe anyone your vagina, no matter what is bought for you, or is said to you.
3. The old saying ‘revenge is best served cold’ is a lie. It is best served by doing what others said you could not do. Growing up, I was admittedly a disaster due to circumstances beyond my control. It propelled me into my passion for helping others, but this was not always the case.
In high school, I was a listless mess, the girl you would look at and think would never make anything of herself. I had a teacher tell me, that because I was attractive, not to fret too much because I would make me a great trophy wife for someone one day. Even writing this years later enrages me. Not too many years after my rape and when I finally started to pull myself together, I ran into this teacher. Showing them what they said I could never do, just pushed me harder to keep doing better. It will also earn you respect with critics who judge harshly, especially yourself.
4. Don’t be embarrassed by where you came from. No one is going to be impressed that you came from affluence, every last thing was handed to you, and that you are riding on the coattails of someone else’s success. You’re trailer park trash, worked two jobs to make it through college, and are still humble enough to remember how you got there? Now that’s impressive.
5. Get help for your problems. Listen, every last one of us has problems. Some you can see, some you cannot, but every bad thing that has happened to you will affect every last decision you make and color every relationship you have. I made the choice early on that I didn’t want to live a life clouded by the bad experiences I had. I’m going to be very frank with you here, and most people will never tell you this, but: ‘it’ (whatever ‘it’ may be for you) never goes away. ‘It’ will never go away. It will get easier to accept, you will view it differently as you age, and it will shape all of your future decisions. Make the choice to get help for your problems, and it will be the best decision you ever make. Also keep in mind, that while the actions of others will keep you awake at night, they will not think of you again and the damage they have left behind. Take care of yourself first.
6. Listen to your intuition. Take the time to develop this sixth sense you have. It will tell you everything you ever need to know about making the right decision for you. This moral and mental compass is a skill, and as such, must be used and exercised to develop. Use it, and use it often until you learn to recognize your ‘gut’ feeling. It will always steer you in the right direction during major decisions.
7. Learn to fail forward. What do I mean by that? You are going to mess up. Royally. Like, more than you can possibly imagine in your wildest dreams. Give yourself a night, maybe two, to cry an ugly cry and eat ice cream out of the tub (unless you’re lactose intolerant – then find something else to eat your sorrows away). If Britney Spears can shave her head on national television and Monica Lewinsky can give an interview in 2014 in Vanity Fair, then you, too, can reign in your embarrassment and move forward. Did you already mess up royally? Then what are you going to do about it? Get up and do better because you can and you have it in you to do it.
8. Find your passion. You are the only one who knows what this is. Don’t let other people push you into a career that you don’t want. Your intuition (refer back to #6) will tell you what that is. Most likely it’s the thing you do for hours procrastinating or as a hobby. Don’t waste your time doing what others think you should be doing and live someone else’s life. You get one life that only you own. Do with it what you want. You want to bag groceries the rest of your life? Then, bag some hell out of some groceries and take pride in it.
9. Don’t marry someone just because they ask you. That includes your high school boyfriend. It is highly unlikely you will marry your high school sweetheart. You might, but the odds are not in your favor. If someone asks you to marry you, and your gut is nagging at you to say no, then say no. In case no one has told you, marriage is hard. Moonbeams and sunshine last through the honeymoon. Then, you have to make compromises with someone you will realize is a complete stranger who might as well have landed from another planet. For some of us, it works out, for others, it won’t. I hope you are one of the lucky ones. If you’re not, remember the little chat we just had about failing forward? You can always get it right the next time. Also, I encourage marrying the nerd. The nerds work harder than most to have a stable, no drama life and they don’t try to relive the glory days of high school that no longer matters. The ‘cool factor’ does not equal a great life. Examples in case you think I’m crazy: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Marry. The. Nerd.
10. NEVER put anything in writing unless you are comfortable with it being read by other people. Real privacy no longer exists, and unless you are comfortable with everyone alive reading what you said, don’t send it. Also, always double check to whom you are sending your nasty grams to, you would hate it to go to the wrong person.
11. Send paper thank you notes. In this digital age, it is a forgotten touch that matters and makes someone feel special. Once you read #13, come back and read this again.
12. Be nice to the waitress and other people who work for you. If you are nice to others, but not those who serve you, you are not a nice person. Success is not always permanent, and that could be you at any given point, so be humble.
13. You, yes you, can make a profound difference in people’s lives. Don’t ever think that what you do doesn’t matter. Everything that you do affects something or someone, so live with intent. Also, thank people for the difference they make!
14. When the Universe asks you to, step up to the plate and do what it asks you to. This may be too far out of your reality at the moment, but I want to discuss what happens when life throws you curveballs and messes up your plans. Because it will, or you will get exactly what you planned, and it ends up being not what you really wanted. Regardless, you need to be open to the beauty of the curveball. My plan had always been to make policy in my field of work. Not because that was what I needed to do, or what I was meant to do, but because I was too tunnel-visioned at the time to be open to where I could really make a difference. Then, I met my husband, we married and two children who are autistic. This was definitely not in my plan. We had a ton of growing pains, and at first, I had an identity crisis of sorts. What was I going to do now that my plan had gone up in flames? I stepped up to the plate, I stopped feeling sorry for myself and opened myself up to the beauty and possibilities that came with my new life. Once I stopped focusing on what I didn’t achieve, I started looking at what my real passion was, and how that could fit into my life, and that’s when I realized writing is what I secretly wanted to do my entire life and never had the guts to do it. And guess what? I can do that with being a mother to two special needs kids and a wife, all because I chose to step up to the plate and deal with the life handed to me.
How are you going to step up to the plate?