This year marks the 15 year anniversary of graduating from high school, and the 10 year milestone for graduating from the university.
I’m not sure if I know anyone who is celebrating their own graduation this year, but if I could give my younger self some advice it would go something like this.
Work hard to accomplish your goals even when it’s easier to be lazy, it’s not the grade that is important, it’s the life skills you gain by learning time management and the satisfaction of a job well done. Even though group projects are THE WORST, they prepare you for life outside of school and learning how to work well with difficult people is something you’re going to have to get used to. You will discover that your best friends will filter through the time and miles, and that you don’t need to see them every day to stay close to them. People will surprise you, both good and bad, and you will surprise yourself. Be true to who you are, and even though it’s completely clichéd don’t sweat the small stuff. Remember that your actions have consequences, not only for yourself but for others around you as well. You are not an island.
Play harder. Fall in love with life over and over again. You’ll never have the free time and lack of responsibilities like you do now again, at least not until you retire or marry a billionaire, and you can’t count on either of those future options. Laugh as much as possible, spend time with your family, you don’t know how much time you have left with them. Never forget to say “I love you” there will come days that you’ll regret that you didn’t say it enough to the people who needed to hear it the most.
Experience new things, you’re going to love sushi, and stop being afraid of change. Be bold, be brave, and sometimes leap before you look. Don’t panic when things don’t go as planned, detours are often the best part of adventures.
Be careful who you give your heart to, but at the same time never be afraid of love. Even when that certain someone breaks your heart, and he will, love is always a gift. You will get hurt, life doesn’t come with a floatation device and some days you’ll feel like you’re drowning, but you have to keep swimming, even if you get tired. Remember the good times, but don’t let them blind you to dangerous situations. Be gentle with other people’s hearts too, even if you can’t love them back, don’t be callous, and don’t hurt them on purpose. It’s much kinder to rip a band aid off than to slowly tear every hair out one by one, it may not seem like it in the moment, but it really is.
Above all stay honest, speak your mind, do not allow yourself to be silenced. Your stories matter, your voice needs to be heard. Never stop sticking up for the underdog even when it’s hard and it might make people uncomfortable. Do what feels right in your heart even if it means taking a different path that the one you originally started on.
Learn to let go of the toxic people in your life, you may not always be able to avoid them, but you don’t have to go out of your way to make space for them in your heart either. If someone treats you poorly on a regular basis, they are not your friend, stop making excuses for their bad behavior and move on, it won’t always be easy, but your mental health will thank you for it down the road. Hold the people who support you, who inspire you, who grow you, close to your heart. These are the people who will be there for you whether you live 2 miles away or 2,000. Be the kind of friend that will answer the phone at 2am and come to a friend’s rescue, no questions asked.
There are going to be hard days ahead, really really hard days, ones that make you wonder why you even got out of bed. Your friends are going to be the ones to get you through these days, whether they offer you a shoulder to cry on, a sympathetic ear, a road trip to distract you, or they crawl in bed with you so that you don’t feel so alone. Remember that there will be better days to come, and that while some things you never really get over, it will get easier to roll out of bed and learn to smile again. No one gets through life unscarred, you have to make a decision to be a victim or a survivor, sometimes you have to make that very conscious choice every day. You absolutely cannot let the bad days defeat you. You are allowed to cry, you are allowed to be vulnerable, you are allowed to feel scared and weak, you are NOT allowed to give up.
Be passionate about the world around you. Never lose the joy of learning new things, never stop challenging yourself. You are a creative person so lose yourself in your art whether it’s taking photographs, drawing, writing, or any other mediums you pick up on your journey. Change the world around you, make it a better place, find a cause that you can fight for. Be an advocate, an ally, and let your voice ring out among the masses. There is so much wrong in the world, do your part to set things right.
Do your best to live a life with as few regrets as possible, try not to stay angry at people who have disappointed you. You do not always have to forgive and forget, but you do have to let go and move on. If you’ve done something that you are sorry for, apologize sincerely. If someone has hurt you, find a way to get passed it, even if that means letting go of the relationship (whether that be a friendship, a romance, a negative work environment, or maybe even a family member). You cannot control other people’s behaviors, but you can control your reaction and limit your interactions. Try not to hold hate in your heart, it only hurts you, it won’t always be easy but it is important.
I have found that the easiest way to be happy is to find joy in the small things, minimal traffic on the way to work, flowers blooming, good coffee in the morning, eyeliner applied perfectly the first time, casual hot tub nights with the girlfriends, spending time in nature, late night talks with people who make me laugh, guilty pleasures like celebrity gossip and fashion, reading, bright colors, Harry Potter on DVD, and good food. Your goals and ideas about how your life should be will change over and over again and that’s okay, there’s no shame in changing your mind or deciding that maybe you were a little off in the coordinates you used to map out your life.