It’s always the thing that you hear adults tell you and you never believe them: “Your School Years are the best years of your life”. Until it’s too late, that is.
You’re always in such a hurry to grow up. Experimenting with makeup from a young age. Dressing in skirts too short and heels too high for a school dance. Drinking cheap alcohol in the local park. You’re too busy trying to appear older to get into Student Night in your local club without being asked for ID to actually appreciate what you had whilst you still had it.
What you don’t realise that life is a path of twists and turns, with mountains to climb and oceans to explore. A journey full of good times and happy times and sad times and stressful times. And that when you’re a child, those twists and turns are relatively small and less worrying than they are when you are an adult. And that journey will go by quicker than anything you’ve ever experienced before, and you can’t just turn around and walk the same way back.
What nobody tells you are all the things that come along with growing up. All those little niggly things, the surprises, embarrassments, that stop you living your dream adult life and force you to plant both feet on the ground and pay those bills.
Most adults don’t have a good imagination. Those hours that you used to spend with your brothers or sisters imagining up games are gone for good. You’re always too busy or too tired to spend time imagining up stories and games. Sometimes, after a stressful week at work, the most imaginative I can get is with ordering something different from the local takeaway. I have a great imagination; I read thousands of books, I’m creative, I always thought I would one day write a book. But I just don’t get the time to sit and devote hours to anything anymore. My life simply consists of moving from one task to the next. And I’m OK with that, for now. But one day, I would still like to write that book.
Friendships are just as fleeting as they were when you were a child. You always think that you and your childhood school friends will be friends forever, and will grow up and get married and have kids that hang out together, etc etc. But that just isn’t the case. I don’t keep in touch with any of my old school friends. We just went our separate ways after college. I went onto Uni, whereas they all went and found jobs. They all had boyfriends (whom they’re not with now) and turned down places at Uni for them, whilst I focused on the bigger picture. And I’m OK with that. I have new friendships, adult friendships, that mean a lot more to me now in different ways. I still sometimes miss my old school friends, and wish I’d have maybe tried harder to keep those friendships going, but I’m happy with staying in touch via social media, and seeing the different paths our lives took from a distance.
People can be just as nasty and manipulative as they were when you were a teenager. This goes without saying, really, that the phrase ‘You find out who your real friends are‘ is as true at 28 as it was at 15. I used to be a little pit of a pushover – not in a bad way – but I liked to keep the peace and just go with the flow of things, even if it wasn’t something I necessarily wanted to do. And people do take advantage of you when you have that mindset. I’ve known people who did exactly that when I was younger. They weren’t bad people – far from it – but I didn’t stand up for myself and what I wanted. All that changed when I met my now-Husband, and learned to prioritise my own happiness over keeping the peace. I’m happier than I’ve ever been, with relationships that are based on mutual respect. And that is all that matters to me. The older I get, the more I prioritise my own happiness over keeping others happy.
The older I get, the more confident I become. I used to really suffer with confidence issues. Still do, in fact. And it got to the point where my confidence issues was affecting my relationships with people, my weight, my ability to do my job properly. I was so overly consumed with what other people used to think of me, that I never actually thought about what I could do, but obsessed over what I couldn’t do or wasn’t doing. I don’t know what it is with aging, but I genuinely start to care less and less about other people opinions as I get older. And I don’t hold back with voicing mine, either. I simply can’t remain quiet now, if someone does or says something that annoys me. It’s simply better to get everything out in the open, than keep it bottled up. I’m not letting anything stop my new found confidence, and certainly not letting others get the better of me again.
Success is only relative to those who put a value on it. Seriously, what does success even look like? You’re told as a teenager that success is doing well in your exams, going to college, getting a good job etc. But now as an adult, I class my successes in a completely different way; getting my son to eat all his food is a success, managing to sleep the entirety of one night is a success. To some people success is earning more than everyone else and then bragging about it. We sometimes need to remember that you can’t measure success by the size of your bank balance or having the best house on the street but in terms of how happy your successes make you. I don’t earn as much as other people may, but I have far more ‘wealth’ in terms of the love of my Husband and son, than those people will know.
The only person you need to face up to is yourself. Seriously, why worry about the opinions of other people? When you’re younger, it feels like you need to try and please everyone around you. You don’t. The only person you should be aiming to please is yourself. Worry about what makes you and those closest to you happy, and don’t waste time on the rest. My sister always says ‘Lions don’t lose sleep over the opinions of sheep‘ and this is something I try to live my life by. Aim to create the life you want to live for yourself, and not one you think people expect of you.
You’ll spend a lot of time trying to work things out before finding you know nothing. You’re always going to be trying new things, and as you get older there will be a lot of ‘first times’. It doesn’t matter how much you research/prepare/Google, just resign yourself to the fact that something will always crop up that you weren’t prepared for. This doesn’t mean completely wing it, but don’t get bogged down on all the finite details.
You are a reflection of the people you spend the most time around. Someone once told me that the 5 people you spend the most time with are the ones that you are most similar to, and that we are sculpted by the reflections of others. I’ve always remembered this, and now try to surround myself with the people I wish to be like, and hope to carry the things I admire in them around in myself.
Other people’s problems shouldn’t be your priority. Sure, you want to help your best friend through her latest breakup, or you want to help your work colleague prepare for their new interview, but don’t put their issues ahead of your own. It isn’t good for your own mental health to constantly disregard your own needs. You need to make sure you take time for yourself, and can work through your own problems before tackling everyone else. Don’t get involved in any drama; it’s too draining and time consuming to worry about, especially if you weren’t involved to begin with. Be supportive, of course, but don’t get consumed by other peoples issues.
In the end, all it comes down to is your own happiness. Life is a continual work in progress, and everyone is in the same boat. Try to be kind, patient, understanding and caring. Look after yourself, and surround yourself with people who will support rather than hinder. Continue to grow and develop the way you want to, progressing forward and not backwards. And just remember; the worries that you have as a teenager don’t go away as an adult; you just find better ways of dealing with them.