As I approach the 20th (yes, you read that correct) anniversary of my graduation from that awesomely terrible social experiment we know as high school, I want to share some nuggets of wisdom that helped me thrive during those post-high school years. So here it is: my top 20 tips for the graduating girl in your life:
1) Learn from your mistakes — even better — learn from the mistakes of others. (Less mess to clean up!)
2) Be kind. Be kind to the chubby girl, be kind to the pretty girl, to the girl with blue hair. Just be kind.
3) Life is too short for catfights; you’re done with high school so be done with the drama. Surround yourself with friends who build you up and have your back, then ditch the rest.
4) Stop depending on mom and dad. Cut the money strings. Yes, it’s scary. It’s difficult. It’s called being a grown up. But I’ll tell you what: nothing is more liberating, more exhilarating, than having total independence from the parental figures.
5) Call those parental figures once a week. Just for funsies and so they know you’re still alive. And bonus, when you’re not dependent on them financially, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your relationship transforms into a friendship. (Spoiler alert, they were right about everything.)
6) Move away of your hometown. Maybe not forever, I know every good country song laments about getting back to your roots. (I don’t think Kenny Chesney can sing about anything else.) But you’re not there yet. Go explore, even if just for a summer. Leaving your comfort zone and seeing the world (or the next county) can bring some serious perspective not found on a screen.
7) Travel! (This is different than #6.) People can move to a new locale and never truly experience it. Have you visited the touristy spots in your area? Have you even made it past the borders of your country? Go on adventures! To the coast, the mountains, the neighboring state, just make it a point to leave your bubble. (Pssst, you can do this for cheap.) Nothing forced me to grow-up more than seeing the world beyond my zip code.
8) Set goals. Have a plan. Make a schedule. But be flexible and forgiving.
9) Get up early more than you sleep in.
10) Invest while you’re young and healthy. Just trust me on this one. Also, insurance is complicated; even after 20 years, I still don’t get it. Find someone who does and have them teach you.
11) Don’t be afraid to make friends with people different than you. Some of the most treasured relationships I’ve had were with folks from all walks of life; completely opposite my own – and it’s beautiful.
12) Be the kind of person who says you will do something – and people know you’re gonna do it.
13) Embrace your flaws and at the same time, strive to improve yourself and grow. It is possible to strike this balance, and when you do, it’s zen-like how confident you feel.
14) Be compassionate. Everyone is struggling with something.
15) Don’t worry what mean people say about you. Chances are they’re miserable and more deserving of your sympathies than your stress. (See tip 14.) Just let it roll off the ole vertebrae and take the high road.
16) Date around but maintain your standards; if you wouldn’t bring him home to mom, he’s probably not worth the time (or heartache).
17) Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Being kind doesn’t mean being a pushover: It is possible to be respectful and hold true to your beliefs at the same time. Don’t be a people pleaser; do things because you want to do them.
18) Be grateful! Yes there will be tough times, lots of them. In fact, they never stop. But there is also so much beauty. Look for it; in yourself, in your circumstance, in others. It helps to verbalize what you’re thankful for, whether that be in a journal, in prayer, or to a friend; there’s something about listing your blessings out loud that lifts the heart.
19) Social media is not real life. Repeat that to yourself, five times. Now turn it off and go enjoy the real stuff — it’s so much better anyways.
20) Savor these years .Life is meant to be enjoyed, and if you play your cards right, young adulthood can be the most intensely fabulous growing pains you’ll ever have.