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This is the first post from our new segment featuring letters millennials have written to their younger selves.
Dear 17-Year-Old Me,
I see you there, lying on a blanket in the open field, staring up at the stars. I know what you’re thinking – or dreaming – about. You can’t wait for the future to get here. (We really need to get better at this whole having patience thing). You can’t wait to move away from home, away from the small town where everyone knows you by name. You look forward to disappearing in the crowd. But let me tell you, it’s a whole other world out there. And you’re going to get a little lost in it.
Some people look back on their high school experience and say it was the best four years of their lives. I think they must be romanticizing. Their memories have been edited to reflect only the laughter shared by the lockers in the hall, or the freedom of skipping class to go for a long drive with the windows down. They don’t think about the struggle – how hard it was trying to figure out who that person really was behind the honey brown hair and name brand clothing. The girl who gets high on the thrill of a buzzer shot hitting nothing but net. The girl who leaves her heart on the page, usually in the form of bad poetry (yes, it’s true… but just keep writing it anyway). The girl who feels over-valiant when the sun goes down and she’s standing shoulder to shoulder with her teenage friends.
Funny how with age, we lose that fearlessness… Or maybe we just grow more accepting of our flaws.
The good news is: you have time to figure it all out. In fact, you have a pretty incredible ride ahead of you. Life is going to do its best to knock you down, but I’m here to tell you that you always find a way to get back up. So you don’t need to worry so much about the future. Just enjoy today. And keep the following advice in mind as you weave your way through the next 10 years:
1. Learn to let go.
People change and so do relationships. Those who want to stay in your life will find a way to do so. Some relationships will fade away quietly, others will go out with a bang. But don’t waste your energy on negative emotions like anger and resentment. Instead, focus on the people still standing next to you – they’re the ones who deserve your attention.
2. Don’t be so distracted with “finding the right guy.”
He’ll find you, and it will happen when you least expect it. It happens when you’re being yourself, when you’re doing what you love. And it is more wonderful than you could ever imagine.
3. Pay attention in class (but don’t feel guilty about having fun).
You pay a lot of money to attend those university lectures, so listen closely. Believe it or not, some of those readings really do come in handy in the “real world.” I’m not saying you have to go to every single lecture. (You end up learning quite a lot about yourself beyond the walls of the university campus). Keep absorbing and experiencing everything you can. Graduation will be here before you know it. And everything changes so quickly.
4. Ignore the “six-month grace period.”
You know how OSAP tries to be all considerate in giving you six months after graduating before demanding repayments on your loan? It’s an act. You’re still accumulating interest, so start putting as much of your paycheck as possible towards bringing down the principal of your loan. You’ll pay off your debt much faster that way.
And stop wasting your loan on booze! You know how you can feel a buzz off of two or three drinks? You can ride that shit out for most of the night. All of that other money you spend at the bar? You’re literally flushing it down the toilet. Quit while you’re ahead.
5. Be kind to your parents.
They really do mean well. They’ve worked incredibly hard to give you the life you live (and it’s a pretty great life). So cut your mom some slack. Also, call your dad more. Even when he’s being stubborn.
6. Don’t worry so much about what other people think.
Focus on being the best version of yourself, and don’t be concerned about how other people judge you for it. At the end of the day, the only person who truly cares about how you live your life is you. Also, stop comparing yourself to others. The only comparisons you should be making are the ones with yourself – where you are now versus where you were yesterday, or last month, or five years ago.
7. Stop buying unnecessary things.
Sometimes a new outfit feels like just the confidence boost you need, and buying décor for your new apartment makes you feel like a grown up. But most of that stuff is just adding clutter to your life that you’re going to have to clear out later. Money spent on dresses you only wear once or gadgets that distract you from having real conversations is much more valuable when put towards experiences you will always remember. Also, you have no idea how amazing compound interest is yet, but figure it out and start investing that extra cash – the future you will be forever grateful.
8. Keep following your passion.
You’re going to face a lot of self-doubt, but keep pushing forward. Focus on taking small steps, one day at a time. Eventually, they’ll lead to something big. Most importantly, don’t take no for an answer. If you believe in yourself, you’ll find a way to convince others to believe in you too.
What advice would you share if you could travel back in time 10 years from now? Be a part of Project: #YoungerMe. Check out our terms and style guide, then submit your letter here. Or simply share your thoughts in the comments below! (And be sure to use the hashtag when tweeting us @reply_mag and sharing on Facebook).