Life is funny. And by that statement I mean both that life can be amusing and it can be downright weird. Often there seems to be more of the latter, especially if you have the poor luck to be born with your mother’s pessimism. And so, read on, my dear, for some nuggets of wisdom that I have managed to glean from my 31 and 3/4 years on this funny, funny earth.
Being kind is more important than being clever/right/rich/powerful/beautiful. You probably won’t believe this until you’re at least 30 but it really is true.
Your teenage years are NOT the best years of your life. That’s not to say that they will be terrible, or fantastic, or even mediocre. But they’re just more years, just a handful (I hope) of many that you will be lucky enough to experience.
Your parents don’t know the answers to everything, and they are not always right. I vividly remember the moment that I realised that my parents were in fact just people and consequently didn’t have all the answers all of life’s burning questions (or even, sometimes, the more simple ones). This came as quite a shock, having spent my previous years taking every answer they gave as gospel. Granted, these were usually not the answers to the most pressing of questions. We’re talking more “Where does lightning come from?” rather than “What is the meaning of our existence?” but as a child if you can be bothered to ask the question in the first place then chances are the answer’s going to be pretty important to you.
How people make you feel is more important than what they do for you. They may shower you with gifts and swanky beach holidays, but if they leave you with an empty feeling in your stomach they’re probably not people you want to hang onto. Material goods are well and good, but that’s not what really lasts, that’s not the legacy that is left behind by people.
You really will feel better if you eat more fruit, more vegetables, drink more water and get more sleep. No, we’re not just nagging you about these things for the hell of it. Science and medicine is on our side. So listen.
Travel to new and interesting places. Don’t just stay where you were born. It’s a big, beautiful, multicultural world and how are you going to know any of that if the closest you get to any of it is staring at a TV screen? It’s there for you to experience as much of as you can and frankly you owe it to yourself to do just that. Sure, you probably won’t have the time or the money to see everything and go everywhere but that’s no reason not to try. Also on your travels you’ll discover that there are infinite different types of people. Some you will love, others you will no doubt despise, but it’s so important to know that these different types of people exist. Just as you can’t have a well-rounded view of the world if you’re stuck in one place, you simply cannot have a well-rounded view of the human race if you don’t get out there and meet some of them.
Speaking of the human race, people can be mean. Girls can be especially so, particularly in their teenage years and en mass. Boys tend to be a little more straight forward in their meanness and a lot less bitchy. And words can hurt. Really, really sting. Try to remember this when you speak to other people and be conscious that what you’re saying and the actions you take can (and most probably will) have a profound effect on them. It’s perfectly ok to get mad, to shout, to tell people that they’ve pissed you off, but remember that it’s impossible to take words back once you have spoken them.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are how we learn, how we grow, how we vow to ourselves to be different next time. Sometimes you’ll have to make these mistakes for yourself before you’ll listen (certainly if you’re anything like me).
Keep regrets to a minimum. If at the end of your life you had the time and inclination to sit down and tally up all of your regrets, you would most likely find that you will regret more the chances you didn’t take than all those times you did or said something only to later think “that was not my finest moment”. Trust me on this one, the dreaded ‘if only…..’ will be the death of you if you let it, and where’s the fun in that?
I hope that you are never afraid to dream, even if your dreams seem ridiculous. Sure, some dreams are just unachievable but don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s not ok to dream them.
I wish for you a circle of family and true friends. Don’t worry if you find that most of the family you choose for yourself are not blood relations, it doesn’t matter. Blood doesn’t mean much without love (remember my earlier observation about how people make you feel). Choose these people well and once you have found them do everything you can to keep them in your life. The people who really love and care for you will want you to be the best version of yourself you can be, but they won’t judge you when you do something that’s more indicative of the worst version of yourself, and they’ll help you to pick yourself back up in the aftermath.
I pray that whatever you decide you want to ‘be’ in your life that you do so with passion, regardless of whether this is passionately working at KFC or passionately working to cure cancer. Don’t do anything half-assed – there are too many mediocre things in life.
Which leads me to my final piece of advice – matters of the heart. Oh, the heart. Love is the best and the worst aspect of life. Nothing will bring you more searing pain or exquisite joy. Some say you can’t appreciate one without experiencing the other, but I hope with all that I have that you experience so much more of the latter. Try to have an open heart. This doesn’t have to mean that you leave yourself more vulnerable, it can mean simply that you let more of the good stuff in. Treat it kindly though, and if it gets bruised, take the time to tend to it as you would a broken friend. It will thank you in the long run.
Remember – you are unique. You are an undefinable wonder. And you are so loved.