My students taught me so much, and I hope that I taught them a lot along the way as well. But just in case, here’s a list of things each and every one of them should know. This is the meat and potatoes of life here, guys. LISTEN UP!
1. Start paying your loans back now with programs like Upromise. THIS WILL MAKE YOUR LIFE AT LEAST 15% LESS STRESS-FREE!
2. Keep reading and writing, even if you hate it. If you can read and write, you can literally do anything in the entire world. You can read a book to teach yourself a new skill, write yourself a job-winning resume, or win the heart of the person you love. Do not let it slide because you have “more important things to do.” Oh, and if you still hate reading, here’s a list of 7 ways to make it easier and more enjoyable. Try it!
3. Do everything you can. If you’re going to college, don’t hesitate to join a club. If you’re getting a job, don’t be afraid to try to create new projects. Just do everything you can before you look back and realize you missed the chance to try all those things you always daydreamed about. (But not in my class… right? 😉 )
4. Ask for what you want. If you want a raise, have a meeting with your boss. If you’re going to the military, don’t miss your opportunity to ask for the station you want. You have no reason to not get EVERY. SINGLE. THING. you want out of life, so ASK FOR IT. I know questions can be scary, especially ones that can affect your future, but people who make you feel bad about asking aren’t people you want to be around anyway.
5. DO WHAT YOU LOVE! If you’re like me, you love a lot of things and want to do them all. I have already been a photographer, a marketer, an imaging coordinator, a social media specialist, a blogger, and now, a teacher. This is likely not the last thing I will do in my life because life is too short to block off any path to something you love. If you don’t think you can make money off your passion, I promise you there is always a way. (Here’s an article explaining how it’s possible. Hint: work your ass off.)
6. Seriously, work hard. I know it’s tempting to snooze 70 times, especially if your first class doesn’t start until 11 a.m., but I’ve found my life as a hard worker far more rewarding than mine as a lazy bum. I found more peace and happiness by working toward a goal and achieving it. I felt less bored being busy, and I felt healthier. Try to remember that all those things you want are best achieved by grabbing them yourself; don’t depend on someone to get it down from the top shelf for you.
7. That being said, please relax. Have fun. Make new friends. Fall in love for the first time. Find NEW love. Sleep all day if you have nothing to do. Go outside and enjoy your new cities. Take road trips. Write letters. Do things that keep you sane, happy even. (JUST BE SAFE!)
8. Say goodbye when you have to. Drop toxic friends, even if they’ve been around since childhood. Now is the time to find the people who make you happy — there’s no room in your life for people who make you feel like a bag of garbage. If someone judges you for simply being you, walk away as fast as you can! If you meet a new friend who later turns out to be a psycho (I can tell you some horror stories), just leave. If you find a partner who puts you down, DUMP THEM! Remember that the hurt you feel by losing them will quickly be overshadowed by the joy you feel that you can be yourself with no apologies.
9. Be yourself and only yourself. Maybe you already know who you are. Maybe you still have to find yourself. Maybe you will reinvent who you are 50 times and have just as many identity crises. But the most important thing is to be who you are, even if people don’t like it. There will always be people who don’t like you; in fact, the majority of people won’t, especially if you’re really good at something or really kind. It can bother you — hey, we’re human! — but learn to shrug it off. You know there are people out there who love you to your core, and those are the only people who matter. If you don’t want to drink, if you want to wear sunscreen, if you want to be loud, if you want to be introverted, if you want to sing, if you want to change your mind, DO IT! Be who your soul tells you to be, and ‘eff the rest.
10. Kill ’em with kindness. Most of you have heard me say this, but in case you weren’t paying attention, I’m telling you again. It is hard to learn how to do, but once you master this reaction, you will never be able to do it any other way. People are going to talk about you, get mad at you, hurt you, and try to get under your skin… among a million other dumb things. DO NOT REACT WITH ANGER; kill ’em with kindness. This, of course, does not mean you shouldn’t tell people how you feel. It simply means that you take the high road. You keep your words to yourself unless you are speaking directly to the person you are at odds with. You keep yourself happy. You make it impossible to hate you because you would rather forgive than hold a grudge. And guess what? You will find yourself more at peace at the end of the day the longer you do this. My mom taught it to me in high school, and I’m teaching it to you now.
11. Keep your family close. Even if that family is one you create yourself, hold ’em tight. Keep in touch with them. They are going to be there in the middle of the night when you’re having a panic attack about your exam. They are going to drive hours to pick you up to take you to an urgent care down the street from your apartment when you’re sick. They are going to give you the pep talks you need and the advice you don’t want. They are going to be your best friends forever. Do not forget about them or throw them away for someone who won’t matter in the long run. But remember… you have a say over who is your family and who isn’t. Don’t feel tied to a bio family if they make you feel awful, and don’t feel short-changed if your family is made of friends. All families are equal, even if they look a little different.
12. Don’t let fear rule your choices. As someone with a horrendous case of stage fright and a massive anxiety disorder, I promise you that this will be your biggest regret. Don’t let fear dictate what you do or don’t do over the course of your life. You will regret every time you weren’t brave enough to overcome that nagging fear in the back of your head. If you’re scared someone will leave you if you take that internship, you probably don’t want them around anyway, right? So abandon the terror and GET TO LIVING!
13. Let other people live. Don’t be a judgmental ass. Try to accept everyone at face value, but if you don’t agree with something or someone, just move on.
14. Prepare yourself for heartbreak and disappointment. It will happen. People in all sectors of your life will let you down, and there will be times you fail. It happens to everyone, even extremely bright and lovely people like all of you. To pretend it won’t happen is silly, so prepare yourself with coping skills for these lower moments in life. Find a person to talk to, a place to go, something to do — things that will comfort you in the dark times. Most importantly, remember that the good always outweighs the bad, and there is light just around the bend. All you have to do is hold on tight until you get there!
15. I am here for you forever. If you need more advice, I have plenty from years of experience. If you need a shoulder to cry on or just eyes to edit a paper, I’m your girl. If you want to bounce biz ideas off someone, I’ve got your back. If you need me to drive two hours to Boone to pick you up because you don’t feel safe with anyone else, I will do that for you. Remember that when you feel alone or like no one loves you. I always want to see you or hear from you. As the song goes, I will always love you. I am here for you forever.
Have the best lives. I can’t wait to watch them unfold. Love y’all!
P.S. Remember to make your own gardens, camp under the stars, build your own furniture, take photos of everything, build a closet of go-to staples, and learn how to cook at least one great meal.