I’m going to level with you here, the thought of no longer being a teenager scares the living shit out of me.
It’s a strange, terrifying, and somewhat exhilarating feeling to look at the date on your lock screen and suddenly realise you have three weeks left of being a teenager. Time has a habit of dragging on until the very last minute and then catching up all at once, doesn’t it? I’m still trying to figure out what happened to the almost two years between now and my 18th birthday, and why it feels like I’ve done virtually nothing with my life since then. Honestly, I’m so excited for new adventures, but at the same time, I’m not even close to being a functioning adult member of society so I’d kind of like to scream. Just a little bit.
It’s safe to say I feel completely unprepared for the world of my 20s and yet at the same time, 19 is beginning to sit a little like a favourite shirt that’s had more than its fair share of wash-and-wear and just doesn’t quite fit anymore. Which leads me to think it might really be time to move on … funny how that happens. Funny and more than a little unnerving if you ask me because 20 is approaching whether I like it or not. In saying that, I’m feeling more than a little bit nostalgic so, in all my vast wisdom and put-together-ness, I thought I’d share some of the fairly important things I’ve learned over the last few years (many of them the hard way, as is so typical of me). Not that I’m particularly qualified to but hey, here goes:
Friends pop up in the most unexpected places… expect it!
I wasn’t exactly a social butterfly while I was at school (definitely more of a caterpillar), so I spent more than my fair share of lunchtimes alone in the library. But the few close friends I did make, I didn’t actually have to go out of my way to find. We kind of fell together. In fact, I only met my three best friends when they moved to my school in Year 11 and we were put on the same workstation during Biology. I’d never thought of myself being part of the loveable nerdy crowd, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. I met one of my other closest friends on the bus in primary school, just because the seat next to her was the only empty one, and then bumped into her again when we were in Year 9. All four of those girls stayed through the utter insanity and hilarity that came with being my friend and were always more than willing to be there when I needed them. So keep an open mind and an open heart and be prepared to bond with anyone and everyone. You never know where you might find a real gem!
Being nice is, like, so underrated
This is a big one. It’s so easy to give into the stereotype of the asshole student and we’ve definitely lost sight of how far a smile or a polite ‘thank you’ can go. You are not somehow automatically superior or exempt from being a decent human being so thank your bus driver, give up your seat on the train for the person who needs it more, actually say hello to girl or guy behind the counter of your regular supermarket and sit next to the kid on their own in the lunch room. Pay attention to the people around you (yes, even the ones you really don’t like), and do what you can to love them both practically and emotionally. Don’t gossip, don’t exclude, don’t retaliate when something goes wrong and keep your mouth shut when you know you’re only going to say something hurtful. There’s enough crap going on in the world without you adding to it. Believe me.
Heartbreak happens but you’ll be okay
Here’s the thing (and I’m not pulling any punches here), love is nothing like the movies. It’s incredibly messy and complicated and painful and unpredictable and a lot of the time it sucks. Sometimes it works out and when it does you walk around grinning like an idiot for weeks on end but often it doesn’t and you end up alone in your room with the ice cream and a weepy movie, which you know will only make you worse but you watch anyway. Believe me; been there done that, got the massive, slouchy t-shirt to prove it. Then there are awkward encounters (of which there will be many) and days when getting out of bed is literally impossible. You might even have to see them with someone else and it’ll hurt more than you ever thought possible. But here’s the other thing; those days pass. Little by little, sometimes so slowly it feels like complete agony, they pass and you find yourself feeling something close to normal again. It takes time but you will be okay, I promise. And the real thing? Real, deep, unconditional love? It’s out there and it makes all the heartbreak worth it.
Embrace the spontaneous
Hands down one of the best things about the tail end of teenage-dom is having the freedom to do things like jump in a car with your friends and drive halfway down the coast just because you feel like it. Say yes to any and every adventure that comes your way and, for the love of all that is good on this earth, don’t worry about your untamed mop of hair or that breakout on your chin. Just go. Jump off rocks into freezing cold water, go on late night ice cream expeditions, dance around your best friend’s bedroom til your feet get sore and buy a last minute ticket to that gig just because you can. Those experiences will last the rest of your life and they’re a million times more important than being cool. Some of the best memories I’ve made over the last couple of years have started with a text saying “Hey, what are you doing today?” Fight fear and hesitation whenever you can and go for it. Do things you love with people you love just for the sake of it and, though it’s so much easier said than done, don’t overthink them.
… But don’t rush the big stuff
At the risk of sounding old and jaded, we seem to be growing up faster and faster and are in such a hurry to be adults before we actually need to. So while I definitely don’t encourage becoming the unemployed 30-year-old still crashing on their parents’ couch, take your time in making the important decisions you’ll face during the next few years. If you know you’re not ready for something, don’t do it. That goes for school, uni, jobs and even relationships (especially relationships). Chances are, many of the big choices you make will have some sort of impact on your life for a long time to come so don’t be afraid to wait until you’re sure. It took me a whole year after I graduated school to feel ready to start uni. Taking the time to do some growing up and get to know a whole new version of myself was one of the best things I could’ve done. Once you’ve decided on a course of action, it’s also important to remember that you do have the power to change your mind if something isn’t right for you. Again, realising that takes time but trust your gut, it’s usually right.
So there you go. Some (hopefully) helpful words of advice for anyone else who feels like they’re just plain winging everything. – Ariana Norton
Photo from Public Domain Pictures.net.