Yesterday my sister graduated high school. I watched her walk across the stage with her honors tassel, get her diploma from our dad (the School Board President) and toss her cap in the air with the rest of her small class. It was weird thinking that she’s grown up now. Just two years ago, I was the one graduating and she was still learning how to be a student, not an adult.
It really had me reflecting on what all has happened to me in the past two years since I received my diploma. I’ve learned a lot in those two short years and it has shaped me into a completely different person. So what has happened?
1. I got my first job.
I wrote about this before, but I worked for the Boys and Girls Club Association in my hometown. I got to work with kids, which I absolutely love. Teaching them and showing them that not everyone is a bad guy was amazing. Being a role model to kids who not always had the best home lives is rewarding in and of itself, but getting paid to do it made it even better. I met so many different people who loved helping children and it was inspiring. At the time, I was an early childhood education major so it was a great experience for me.
2. I quit my first job.
Damn right I did. Five months later and I was out of that hell hole. To this day, I miss my little kiddos that never failed to put a smile on my face. But the other employees from top to bottom were not the crowd for me. After a while, I learned that I had to do what was best for myself and I turned in my resignation. I remember telling the kids I was leaving. It was torture. But now I’m out of a toxic workplace and I’m feeling so much better. No job is worth my sanity, dignity, and time.
3. I fell in love.
I fell in love with my best friend almost instantly. We met 10 months before we started dating. I had graduated high school already and he was at the beginning of his senior year. My friends and I supported him at every Friday night football game. We slowly got closer and closer and then we started dating. When we started dating I felt something different about him. You know how kids feel safe whenever they have a certain teddy bear or blanket with them? He’s my teddy bear/blanket. He’s helped me come out of my shell a lot. I’ve been much better with my anxiety since he’s been there to help me. I’ve never met someone so patient and kind. He really is the best boyfriend ever- although I might be a bit biased- and I love him more and more each day.
4. I went to college.
In the fall after I graduated high school I attended a community college but it just wasn’t for me. I was looking into switching majors and they didn’t have my major, so I made the switch to a bigger university. It was the best decision of my life. I was so much happier. I took a semester off between schools to recalibrate and dedicate more time to that job I mentioned earlier. Once I got to move out on my own and get out of my suffocating hometown, I flourished. I made new friends, learned new things about myself, and got to grow into who I was supposed to be. Being in a big city was super different but with the help of my boyfriend and my new friends, it was manageable.
5. I made the Dean’s List.
After a stressful semester and a lot of hard work, I made the Dean’s list in the spring. I surprised myself with that one. I got roughly 28 hours of sleep a week and the only thing keeping me awake most days was coffee. I was constantly studying or planning time to study. It was an endless cycle of stress for me so getting the news that I made the Dean’s list was really rewarding. Now that I’ve found a major that I like, I’m excited to see how it impacts my grades in the future.
After thinking about all the things that went on after graduation, I’ve thought of a lot of advice I would give people in the position I was in two years ago. I know a lot of it is cliche but I genuinely mean every word I say. If even one piece of advice helps one person, all this Hallmark channel bullshit will be worth it.
1. Don’t let other people influence you.
I did this a lot in high school and once I was out, I realized how much control I really had over my life that I had never known before. When you’re chasing the trends or following the crowds, it’s easy to lose control of yourself without noticing it. Use this time to sit down by yourself and make a loose plan for the future. Don’t let yourself think one time about other people’s plans or interests. Think about where you want to be in five years, ten years, etc. Make it your goal to get there.
2. Make memories
Don’t let anything stop you from enjoying these years of your life while they last. Eventually you won’t be able to do these things anymore. The life you live now is what the younger you dreamt of, so you have to make it something he/she would be proud of. The life you’ll live in 10 or 20 plus years will not be like how it is now, I promise you. Make the best of life now so you can look back at it and say you lived it right.
3. Don’t dwell.
Guilty as charged. But please, whatever you do, don’t dwell on the negatives. Bad things happen to everyone. But the way you recover from them says more about you. Don’t waste your time thinking about the bad things that have happened to you in the past. Spend your time making sure the good things are coming your way. We always remember all the little things that go wrong instead of the little things that go right. We need to fix that.
4. Be open to change.
You have to realize that you won’t be the same person forever. The environment around you will change, your friends and family will change, you will change. Be open to it. Be welcoming to change. I had to teach myself that growing up and achieving my goals required alterations to my life. It was hard at first and I was definitely guarded. With time it got easier and now I cross my fingers every day hoping for more changes because that means I’m one step closer to being the best version of myself.
A county over, a state over, a country over- who cares? Just travel. Meet new people and visit new places. Remind yourself that this world is bigger than your hometown. You could end up anywhere in the future and that’s really helped me open up my eyes. I didn’t go too far from home, but it was just far enough to give me a taste of diversity.
6. Love with your whole heart.
No half-assed love here. If you love someone, prove it. Nobody is required to stay in your life forever. You need to show them what they mean to you. Give them attention, support, and stability. And if you aren’t willing to do that, let them go. Don’t be selfish. Love wholeheartedly or not at all.
7. Leave your judgment behind.
If you think you can leave high school and keep being a judgmental prick, you have another thing coming. It’s not cool dude. I was that person who judged every book by its cover. Once I went off to college I got to know people for who they really were- their interests, stories, and personalities. Life outside of high school isn’t cliquey and I don’t think I want that to change. So don’t bring that shit into the real world, please and thank you.