What I Wish I Knew

Group of teenagers sitting in classroom with raised hands.

Is there anything you wish you knew before you graduated high school? Anything you wish the grown folks would have shared with you before they let you loose? If you’ve made countless mistakes that you followed up with an exasperated “Well, it’s not like anyone ever told me…”, I encourage you to add to this list and prevent some other naive teenager from falling prey to the harsh realities of our cold cruel world.

  1. There is life after high school. In 2012, the average life expectancy in the USA was 78 years old. The 4 years of high school do not even register on the scale of all the living you have to do. Don’t get overly consumed by high school happenings or do things in that short period that will negatively impact your future.
  2. Be nice to your teachers. You’ll need letters of recommendation.
  3. Most high school relationships don’t survive high school. Of those that do, most don’t survive past the first semester of college. So don’t sweat it if your crush doesn’t like you back.
  4. Have an idea of what you’re interested in. College is too expensive for you to explore and experiment.
  5. If you don’t know what you want to do, take some time off. You’ll be better of having a gap year that costs you very little rather than have a $35,000 10 month party freshman year.
  6. Hold on to your friends. The older you get, the harder it is to form long lasting meaningful relationships.
  7. Save while you’re young. Whether it’s student loans, paying for your own health insurance, weddings, having kids, friend’s bridal showers, getting older also gets more expensive, thus making it harder to save.
  8. Work as hard as you can. The older you get, the less energy you’ll have. You will also want to spend time with your significant other and your kids. If you want to be a workaholic, now is the time. Get a second job, go to grad school, put in the extra hours at the office to get a promotion. You’ll never have this much time on your hands again.
  9. Live at home as long as your parents will allow it. What you’re losing out in “freedom” (read, being out late, never cleaning your room and not having boys over), you’ll make up for in killer retirement savings, a nice down payment for a starter home, bonding with your parents at a different level and having a better quality of life (home cooked meals v. ramen).
  10. Don’t drink as much as your friends. Your liver and your wallet will thank you. You’ll also like having better skin than they do.
  11. 1 in 4 STD diagnoses are in people aged 15 to 24 (CDC). Think about that next time someone you don’t know gets a little too touchy feely at a party.
  12. Get internships; ideally, paid ones. The more people go to college, the hard it is to get a job without experience. Internships will give you a competitive edge.
  13. Work while you go to school. You will need money saved up in the event that you can’t get a paid internship. It will also give your parents a break from your constant nagging about not having any money.
  14. Understand your student loan package. Don’t let the word “aid” in term “financial aid” confuse you. Not every line item is free. Know what you have to pay back.
  15. Stay away from private loans if possible. You do not have the same protection as federal student loans.
  16. If you go to college, be vocal. It’s your last chance to express yourself in a safe environment without being punished for your opinion. Once you start your career, you’ll never be allowed an opinion again. You can, and will likely get fired for saying something someone didn’t like.
  17. College is school, not an experience. College may have been an experience 30 years ago when tuition was one-eighty-seventh of what it is today. You’re in school to learn and get a degree. If you want an experience, don’t waste your parents’ money or take on debt for that. Volunteer at your local  soup kitchen.
  18. Grades don’t matter. If you have 5 years of managerial experience and a track record of increasing company profitability and efficiency by at least 10% annually. Otherwise, prepare to excel.
  19. Exercise. Your metabolism will slow and bad habits die hard. By the time you realize you don’t fit in your favorite jeans, you’ll be be out of shape and will have to work twice as hard to lose the weight.
  20. Learn to cook. Eating out is ridiculously expensive and can be bad for you. Eliminate the temptation by learning to make some of your favorite, tastiest dishes.
  21. Financial ignorance is costly. Take a financial education class. There’s so much to learn.
  22. Take a self-defense class. Especially if you plan on living in the city. Even more so if you’re a woman.
  23. You don’t have the benefit of growing up without social media in the 90s. Be careful what you share. The internet unforgivably immortalizes everything.
  24. Visit a doctor regularly. The longer problems go undetected, the more harmful they become.
  25. Learn to let go of toxic people, even if you’re related to them. Your well-being is more important than people’s hurt feelings.

What do you think of the list? Do you have any advice of your own to add? That’s it for now, but I certainly will add to it as I run into more “I wish I knew” moments.

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