Two months ago I turned 20 and it was very anti-climatic to say the least. I didn't have any sort of life-changing epiphany and I still can't relate to any of the TV shows that claim to realistically depict the lives of 20-something women. I feel like I'm standing in the door of adulthood while Britney Spears' 'I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman' plays in the background and it's just a whole new level of confusing for me. But then I realised that I am now [somewhat] qualified to share all the lessons I learned throughout my insufferable teenage years, even though I internally feel perpetually stuck at 15 years old.
These are some of the lessons I learned in between all the other useless stuff I did.
1. It's okay to say no.
To people, to plans, to cute surf-lifesavers who want you to donate money you can't afford. This may come as a shock to those of you who, like me, have a compulsive need to please people but saying no doesn't make you a bad person. If anything, it just makes you a happier one. When you realise this, it will become very obvious to you that, contrary to popular belief, you will not lose all your friends simply because you said no to going to a party or doing someone a favour.
2. Don't worry about figuring out what you want to do just yet.
I admit, this is the easiest thing to say and the hardest to put into practice. It seems as though once you hit High School you're kind of just expected to figure out your entire life overnight. And that's stressful because you can't even figure out what you want for lunch, let alone what job you want to do every day for the next 40 or so years of your life. And then your school might make you do that career test where you answer a bunch of questions and the computer tells you what jobs you might be suited to. And that's stressful because you've never even heard of most of the jobs but they all just sound like a lifetime prison sentence in the form of a 6 year degree and $50,000 worth of University loans. Basically what I'm saying is that thinking about the future is just one big anxiety attack.
However, what they don't tell you is that not knowing where you're headed when you're a teenager is pretty much a pre-requisite for being a teenager. Trust me, even the kids who claim they know exactly what they want to do have no idea, and I can say that with authority because I was one of those kids. Try new things, go out of your comfort zone and just enjoy yourself as much as you can. The only way you can figure out what job you might want to do when you're older is by stumbling across something you enjoy doing and also have a mild talent at executing.
3. If you have figured out what you want to do, do it as much as you can.
As I mentioned before, I've known that I wanted to be a writer since I was pretty young but I was so characteristically ridden with self-doubt that I refused to actually write anything until I was about 15. Looking back, this was the most illogical thing to do because I couldn't possibly get any better at writing or discover what exactly I liked writing about if I never actually did it. So, the lesson goes that if you want to paint, draw, dance, act, sew or do any of the other myriad of things that can form a career in this wonderful world of ours, do them*. You don't even need to show other people if you're unsure about it. Although, chances are, as you start to indulge in your chosen craft more and more, you'll want to share it with others who may also appreciate it.
*The only exception to this rule is for people who want to be nurses or doctors or anything else that requires a license to perform. Please don't cut people open until you are medically qualified to do so.
4. Leggings aren't pants.
What can I say? Some rules are just made to be comfortably, unfashionably broken.
5. People change, and that's okay.
Teenage years are nothing but change, so it's to be expected that sometimes you just don't have as much to say to someone who you once shared everything with. Drifting apart from a friend is never easy, and perhaps there is nothing to really make you feel anything other than sad about it, but it's something that you gradually learn to understand over time. Sometimes it's messy and angry and other times it's quiet and subtle, but it happens even when you don't want it to. If possible, remember that it's no ones fault, you can't blame people for growing and perhaps you will drift back together in the future if things decide to change once again.
6. Going out to nightclubs is not really that much fun 85% of the time.
I did the research and that number is statistically valid. Most nightclubs are equal parts sweat, bad music, uncomfortable heels and a waste of money and I can avoid all those things if I sit at home in bed watching YouTube videos all night. It's just science, people. I didn't make the rules.
7. It's good to do things that frighten you.
Because it keeps you on your toes. Staying in your comfort zone is more often than not boring and uneventful and, worst of all, you miss out on dozens of potentially great new experiences simply because you're feeling what has to be one of the most common human emotions. The best way I've found to overcome this is to make yourself do little things that make you a bit nervous, and eventually you'll have worked your confidence up enough to overcome the big hurdles. A lot of the time we shackle ourselves to negative emotions and stand in the way of our own freedom without even realising it. Going against your self-taught instinct to avoid certain harmless situations is terrifying and liberating and wonderful, and the sooner you realise that the better off you will be.