Over the past few months, I’ve begun to realise something terrifying. I’m a grown up.
I’m 22 – I graduated university this summer, and now I’ve dived into full-fledged adulthood: I’m working my first jobs, renting a flat, driving my first car, trying to remember what my hobbies were before uni took over; Im paying bills, paying tax, paying for everything. I’m trying to balance work, sleep, social life, and hobbies, while still trying to grab a lie-in every now and then.
Being an adult is hard. But do you know what’s really hard? Being a teenager. Being in school or sixth form, trying to work out what you’re doing and the person that you want to be. You’re dealing with school work, families, friends, relationships, bullying, peer pressure…
Someone once said that this age is kind of like when you’re first playing a video game. You’ve finished the tutorial mode, so now you’re just stumbling around, bumping into things and trying to work out what you’re meant to be doing.
School particularly is all about what you can do. You go through lessons, revision, tests, exams. You do the right things and you get the grades – and then you move on to the next stage. Make friends with the right people, and you’ll be accepted. Say the right things, and they’ll think you’re cool. Don’t mess up, don’t step out of line – just stick to the status quo.
I wasn’t very good at that. I didn’t fit into the system, of being the right kind of person, doing the right things, knowing the right people. I didn’t enjoy school, and didn’t plan on going on to college, and definitely not university. I wanted to be free of it all.
But now I’m sitting here as a 22 year old, semi-adult, and I’m glad that I went through that. I’m glad that I learnt who I do not want to be, and what I do not want to do. I’m glad I made the mistakes, and didn’t quite fit, and didn’t just go with everyone else.
There’s something I want you to know, if that is where you are right now:
You get through it.
You’re not stuck in that place for the rest of your life. As a person, you are constantly changing and transforming. You’re always learning about the world and your place in it. And while school might seem like your whole world right now, your life is going to be so much bigger than your experiences as a teenager.
Three things that I wish that someone had told me ten years ago:
You Are Enough.
You do not need to change who you are to make other people like you. When we’re young (and when we’re old), it’s so easy for us to just become junkies for other peoples’ approval. And it seems like everyone else has got their life together, but you. So we put on a face that says “I’ve got this sorted” – and we squash the person that we really are.
But you’re not the only one to feel that way. In fact, everyone feels that way at some point. We look at the people around us, who have got their life so sorted, and we live, act and treat people in a way that will make us more like them – because then, we’ll look like we have our life together, too.
I’ve realised in the past few years, that we’re all making this up as we go along a bit – even the people that you’re trying to follow. And by following them, you’ll just end up fumbling around, lost, too.
You’re always learning – but that isn’t failure.
When we compare ourselves to others like that, we make them seem perfect in our heads, and we make ourselves feel like a mess. And we’re our harshest critics – when we mess up, when we make mistakes – we hold ourselves to standards that we wouldn’t put on other people.
Give yourself a bit of slack. Nobody is perfect. Your weaknesses, instead of holding you back, give you the opportunity to work with someone who has strength in those areas. And when you find friendships that value each others strengths and weaknesses, see each others’ hearts, and know who you really are, that stuff won’t stop people from loving you.
Instead of failures, those moments are opportunities to learn a bit more about yourself and the world around you.
Forgive – and give other people space to learn, too.
You’re learning – but they are too. We’re human, and sometimes we hurt each other as part of the process: let them make mistakes, too.
If you hold on to the hurt when someone hurts you, that is going to have zero effect on the person who hurt you, but it’s going to change the way that you live, act and treat people. You might think that they don’t deserve forgiveness – but they don’t care.
And most of the time, we don’t mean to hurt each other. We’re all just stumbling around, bumping into things and trying to work out what we’re meant to be doing.