1. It’s OK to not know what you want to be when you grow up.
It’s crazy the way we expect young people at the age of 17 or 18 to know exactly what they want to do, or be, with their lives. Our experiences have a way of shaping our ideals, our worldviews, and our passions. It’s OK to not have it all figured out right now. Focus on experiencing and learning new things. Your passions will make room for themselves.
2. College isn’t for everyone.
I’m not saying that college is a bad idea. I’m not trying to discount the benefits of continued education. I’m not even suggesting that college isn’t the right choice for most students. Just keep an open mind about your education. College isn’t the only option. You might want to consider a tech school, internship, apprenticeship, or any number of other options. However, if you know that college is for you, be careful about putting it off. Once you get used to life sans college, it can be hard to get back!
3. Debt: Avoid it.
If you decide to go to college, do what you can to secure as many scholarships as possible. Check out sites like FastWeb.com for help with this. If you don’t secure any, it wouldn’t hurt to write a letter to potential colleges or universities explaining why you’d be a good candidate for extra financial aid. Also, pay off your credit card balance every month!
4. Spend your money… wisely.
Some folks might advocate hyper-frugality (SAVE ALL THE MONEY!!). But, you’re working hard, so don’t feel bad about spending some of that hard-earned cash! Consider your hobbies, and invest in quality equipment for the things you enjoy. Also, spend money on experiences! Go ahead and register for that 5K with their friends, take a road trip, travel abroad, donate to your favorite charities – nothing beats the gratification of doing something meaningful with or for someone else.
5. Get out and do it!
Go. Do. So much of what we value later in life involves experiences. The vacations, community events, late nights, theme parks, beach picnics, snowmobile rides that we look back on are all things that we’ve done. Life has a crazy way of sneaking up on us with its responsibilities; so this time right after high school can be a very valuable space that will allow you to make memories you’ll cherish for a very long time.
6. She might not be the one.
She, he, whatever. The point here is this: That person you think you just can’t live without might not be the one you decide to do your life with. This is important to realize for two reasons. First, when she breaks your heart, it’s nice to know that your whole life isn’t ruined. Secondly, as you make decisions about your physical relationships, it’s a good idea to consider the implications for your future relationships.
7. Relationships matter.
Form them. Build them. Invest in them. Relationships are the only things that truly last. Appreciate the folks that have contributed to your successes, and who have stuck it out with you even when you don’t feel successful. Focus on your relationship with your family especially. These are perhaps the most important, and generally the longest-term relationships we’ll have. Don’t take that lightly. As crazy as it sounds, it’s a great thing to have a good relationship with your parents. Also, do right by your siblings. When the going gets tough, these are the ones that will be there for you.
8. You won’t be able to avoid conflict, so learn how to resolve it.
You’re never going to agree with anyone on everything. It’s just not going to happen. You won’t be able to avoid conflict all of the time, so it’s important to know how to resolve it. You’ve heard the adage about two ears and one mouth; there’s some weight to that. One key to resolving differences is to learn how to listen in order to understand the person you’re at odds with rather than just thinking about what you’re going to say next.
9. What matters today might not matter tomorrow.
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the little things of everyday life, to forget the bigger picture. But, there is a bigger picture than what’s possible to see at any given moment. Don’t forget to enjoy each moment, and live in it fully – but as you experience the now, know that life is about a series of moments, not just one in particular.
10. It’s OK to ask for help.
This might be the single most important thing to remember: people need other people, and that’s OK. In fact, it’s more than OK; it’s what makes us human. We’re all in this together. So, if you’ve got questions – ask ’em! Talk with people that you respect, and ask them how they got to where they are. Teachers, parents, pastors, counselors, they’ve all been where you’re at and might be able to offer some insight that will make your journey a little less rocky – or at least offer the comfort of knowing that you’re not the only one who doesn’t have it all figured out yet.