There was something significant about the year that I turned 20 in which a lot of things clicked and finally made sense. I realized that I actually don’t know everything, and things could have gone a bit easier for me had I listened to those with my best interests in mind. Learning from one’s mistakes is a big part of life, which is why I have made a list of 10 lessons that I have already learned for you:
!. It is O.K. to ask for what you believe that you deserve.
It is easy to get taken advantage of when you are young and naïve. If you have a feeling that you are being treated unfairly, speak up. Whether it is by a teacher, parent, boss, friends or whoever, do not hesitate to calmly say, “I feel like I am receiving the recognition or treatment that I deserve, and here are the reasons why.” People are not always going to have your feelings or interests in mind, so do not be afraid to remind them to be considerate of you.
2. What is on your resume is important.
Now, colleges definitely take your GPA and standardized test scores into consideration during the application process, but your resume is what makes you stand out from the thousands of other kids that are just as much or more qualified as you are. You will have a resume that will be continuously updated for the rest of your working life. Therefore, do not hesitate to start getting involved and take advantage of the activities your school and community provide. Even if you spend your free time working, that reflects your time commitment and work ethic on your resume. College admission and jobs want to see how YOU utilize your talents and time other than schoolwork.
3. Take care of your vehicle. Just do it.
This may seem like a lame piece of advice, and hopefully you will not stop reading after this, but if you own a car… please take care of it. Keep up with scheduled oil changes and know what kind of gas your car uses. Little things like that will keep your car running for much longer and save you a lot of money and tears. I destroyed the transmission on my first car because I did not know that diesel fuel was only for special vehicles like semi-trucks. It was expensive and embarrassing.
You are so lucky to even be able to own a vehicle as a teenager, so do not take it for granted ladies.
4. Save money… seriously.
What is obvious to some people is a lesson for the rest of us. I may have had a job of some sort since I was 16 years old, but I never saved a dime of those paychecks. Understanding monetary value came late for me, and for years I would just spend my money on every whim without thinking about how it could benefit me in the future. People are not lying when they say hindsight is 20/20. In fact, go to a bank as soon as you can and open a savings account. It takes about 20 minutes to open one and you can begin by saving 25% of every check or allowance you receive. You will thank yourself one day.
5. Friends and family are more important than boyfriends/girlfriends. Period.
Your first love is a great thing. Whether or not you have your first love interest during your teenage years, it is critical to remember what is actually important. Your first serious boyfriend/girlfriend/love interest is probably not going to last. Anything can happen, and who will you turn to when things go sour and you have neglected everyone else important in your life? Friends and family are the most consistent forms of relationships, even if the people who fill those roles change. Hopefully, you will always have a support system, but you are not always going to have a significant other.
6. Remember that you are not the center of the universe.
Yes, it is necessary to set goals and strive towards whatever form of self-actualization you desire for yourself. Still, don’t forget that you are sharing this planet with billions of other people. Being courteous and kind to others will always set you apart from the masses. Remind yourself to ask other people how they are doing and make an effort to remember names. Send a thank you note after birthdays or holidays. Show people that you care.
7. Don’t forget about personal hygiene please.
Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to avoid those who knock me off of my feet every time I’m within a 3-foot radius of them. Dirty fingernails, stinky sweat and evil breath should disappear as soon as playground days are over. There is just simply no excuse anymore unless you are being active or doing manual labor. Cleaning yourself up when you go in public is just good practice. If I am too lazy to shower (which happens more than I would like to admit) I spray in some dry shampoo in my hair, put deodorant on, brush my teeth and spritz on some perfume before walking out of the door.
8. Now is better than later when it comes to failure.
It is inevitable that you are going to make mistakes and experience failure. However, the way you go about these experiences is what determines self-improvement. Very few people are just handed success and happiness, and adolescence is the best time to start figuring out what you are able to do. It will benefit you more in the future if you go ahead and discover your limitations and talents. Go try out for the debate team. Who knows- maybe you are a natural-born lawyer, or maybe your talents lie elsewhere.
9. Don’t sweat the small stuff- life is all about ups and downs.
Every person on this planet has problems that are relevant to their own circumstances and individualism. However, try not to dwell too much on the negative. Life is supposed to suck sometimes, because that is what makes it feel so great when things are actually going right. A wise Delta agent once approached me while I was crying at the airport after a terrible day and said that “life likes to kick you in the butt one day so you can wake up stronger the next”. Then she proceeded to waive my bag fee. Even small acts of kindness like that show that good still exists in the world. Just don’t forget that life really does have a way of working out sometimes, despite how grim it may seem in the moment.
10. Learn when it is your fault and how to admit it.
Some people never learn how to recognize their own fault in a situation. Growth as a person stems from self-awareness. Therefore, learning from one’s own mistakes is a part of that process. People tend to blame others because it is easier than experiencing the consequences of their actions. Next time you receive a bad grade or hurt someone’s feelings, maybe stop and think about what you could have done to avoid that reaction instead of making up excuses. Once I started telling myself that I could have tried more or that joke was too far, I began to stop repeating those mistakes. Acknowledging your faults and weaknesses is the foundation of self-improvement.