At 16 I was positive that I had it all figured out. I knew then that I was destined to be a healer. I wanted nothing more than to be able to see the world in terms of figures and numbers, because I had to be good at math and science if I wanted to be successful in life. Everyday I tried to suppress my desire to write and create imaginary places in my mind. I had been writing stories since I was able to write, but I had wanted to be a doctor just as long. 
If there was one thing that I was even more sure of, it was that I needed to have it all figured out then. People told me that I had time to decide, but those same people had been asking what I wanted to do since I was old enough to understand that grown-ups went to work. Looking back I realize how much pressure I put on myself. To some degree, it is normal. People often hold themselves to higher standards than necessary, and those standards can cause a lot of anxiety.

1. You don’t need to know what you are going to do with the rest of your life.

Some people change their career two or three times in their lives. They go back to school or decide to start their own business, or they try something completely different. It’s okay to change your mind. It took my dad telling me one day that it was okay if I decided not to be a doctor for me to realize that. I had been telling people I wanted to be a doctor for so many years; it had become a part of me. And everyone was so proud. Maybe I didn’t realize they could be proud of me if I chose to do something else.

2. Stop punishing yourself when you don’t get the grade. 

I spent way too many nights doing homework from time I got home from school until I went to bed. My grades were always on my mind. I wanted to go to a good college, and in order to do that I knew that I had to get good grades. But I always pushed myself harder than I needed to. Now, I would tell myself not to be so hard on myself, because in the end the grades didn’t matter as much as I thought they would.

3. Don’t compare yourself to your classmates.

My class was over 800 people. I’m pretty sure we had some of the best and the brightest in the state. Senior year, our “Top Ten” comprised of something like 21 students. One of my friends was retaking the SAT with me, because she had gotten a couple wrong and wanted a perfect score. She had gotten a couple wrong. Needless to say she is now at Harvard, and I am certain she will change the world. But among students this focused, it was hard not to be competitive. It was as if there was an unspoken competition about how many AP classes you were taking, how many extra curricular activities you were involved in, and how many leadership positions you held. Comparing yourself to other people isn’t fair. You come from different backgrounds. You had different opportunities, and you think differently. Please know, that is okay.

4. Dress for yourself.

I would tell myself to make sure that every day I got up and got ready for me. Don’t compare your sense of style or clothes to anyone else. Your curly hair doesn’t have to be straightened to be pretty, and don’t let anyone else make you think otherwise.

5. Write more.

The only way to improve is to keep writing. The world isn’t meant to only be seen one way, and it needs more people who are willing to go after what they want. Write stories. Write poems. Write, because you can.

6. Stop stressing about college.

You will get into college. And you will love it. All of your hard work is going to pay off, and it won’t all be for nothing. It won’t be an easy decision, because nothing that really matters ever is. But you will end up where you are meant to be, and you will wonder why you spent all that time worrying about it.

7. Don’t worry about boys–especially the older ones.

Boys are great. But in high school, there are so many other things to be concerned with. My dad once said that it was better to just have friends that were boys, because then I could have as many as I wanted and they couldn’t be jealous of each other. Maybe he was only trying to make me feel better, and I didn’t end up actually having that many guy friends until college, but I would say it was pretty good advice.

8. Keep an open mind. 

You don’t have to be A or B. There are so many possibilities of what you can do in this world, and you don’t always have to stick with your plans. I think some of the best experiences come from trying out something you wouldn’t normally do or choosing a path that you never considered before.

9.  Take more risks. 

 Try out new things–even when you don’t want to. Walking on the right side of the road might seem like the right thing to do, but then you will never know what you are missing on the other side.

10. I am proud of you.  

I will never be able to change the past, and I am okay with that. I am proud of the person I was in high school. Looking back, I could have cut myself some slack every once in a while, but overall I am pretty happy with the way things turned out. Most importantly, I have grown since then. I am able to look back and know now that it is okay to relax, because the world is not going to end if I don’t figure it all out tomorrow. 

What would you tell your younger self? Would you have done anything differently?

Today’s post was inspired by The College Prepster.