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10 lessons I've taken from my teen years

Hello again and welcome to another blog post :)

Today is a bit of a self-reflection because I was in the reflecting mood. I'm now six months distant from my teen years and with all the dramatic power of 6 months of hindsight I thought I'd reflect on the 10 lessons I've taken away from my teen years.

I had a unbalanced teen period. I went to three schools from Year 7 to 12 across three states. I made and lost friends, made bad choices, made good choices, ran with the wrong crowd and made lifelong friends. I also battled depression and anxiety and constantly tried to reinvent who I was to make myself happy, despite falling short a number of times.

For what is supposed to be some pretty formative years I think I learnt more from 18-20 then I did from 13-18. That's saying something.

Here at the top 10 lessons I've taken away from my teen years.

Emotions are unpredictable

People's emotions are difficult to manage at the best of times let alone when you're going through puberty and your emotions are bouncing off the walls constantly. I changed moods faster than the weather in Melbourne switched from sunshine to rain. I thought I was in love with every person I had a crush on. I thought the smallest joke was an attack on my character. I thought that being asked to do a chore was reason enough to turn into the Hulk and I was so angry all the time.

Being a teenager means losing your mental stability for a bit and that can have a damning affect on you and your parents and really anyone around you and sometimes controlling those emotions feels impossible. But it's supposed to be hard.

How you react to a situation is often emotional and sometimes the emotions you feel surprise you. Ask any adult about arguments they've had or how they've taken bad news and good news. Emotions are a part of being human. Don't shove them down until you're bursting. Talk about how you feel with people you trust even if it feels painful to do so.

It is worth it in the end.

Never make a big decision without giving it at least a weeks thought

This is specifically targeted at my 17 year old self who thought moving out of home was a fantastic idea. My father, my sister and some of my friends questioned the decision. They asked me to make a pros and cons list, to really think about it, to weigh up whether it was the right thing to do. But I, ever the stubborn girl, ignored them all and made my decision in a matter of hours.

Once the decision was made I began furiously preparing and within the month I was in a share house trying to balance Year 12 with paying rent and bills and feeding myself. I quadrupled my stress and made my life far more difficult than it needed to be. All because I made a decision and then refused to think it through.

Although I learnt a lot in that time, it was too much too soon in my life and as every adult will attest to, adulthood sucks. We should be in no rush to get there.

So now I endeavour to give it a weeks serious thought before going through with a decision, especially one that has far reaching consequences. Although, I'm sure my Dad would disagree that I've actually learnt this lesson completely yet.

Allow people to give you advice - with the knowledge they are

smarter than you

Growing up I was determined to be older. Every year I would wish I was older before I wished for anything else. I specifically wanted to be 30. I wanted to be married with children, a perfect job, a perfect house and my whole life basically finished and on auto pilot.

This desperation meant that I often walked into a room thinking I was the smartest person there. Why would I want to behave like a boring fourteen year old when I could be pretending I was thirty with my whole life sorted. This attitude meant that I refused to take other peoples advice, even when it was the most logical option. I knew best.

But I'm not the smartest person in a room. I'm still young and if I live everyday wishing I was older I'll forget to enjoy being young. I'll never get to be a teenager again and because of that I wish I had enjoyed it more. I didn't have any responsibilities although I constantly tried to force myself to take on as much as possible to appear responsible.

If I had listened to the advice that was offered to me I think I would've been a happier teen. And I would've behaved like one and enjoyed it a little more. Sorry Mum and Dad!

It's ok to fail

I'll admit this is a lesson I'm still trying to implement even as an adult.

I spent a lot of my teen years trying to be perfect. I wanted everything to work out exactly the way I wanted every single time. I wanted perfect grades, a perfect body, perfect skin and a perfect future ahead of me.

Because of this I held myself to a very high standard. A standard that was pretty much unattainable.

Sure my grades were pretty great, but my mental health wasn't and getting a B on an assignment left me crying at night because I felt like I had failed. Staying fit was always a problem even with lots of little exercise routines in my room and when I missed a day or ate poorly I would throw myself into a pit of self-depreciation about my failure to be consistent.

I wish I could go back and remind myself that I didn't need to be perfect. That no one other than myself cared whether I had a pimple or whether I got perfect grades or not. Failure does not need to result in a tirade of negativity. Sometimes failure can teach you more about yourself. Maybe you're approaching the problem the wrong way, or trying to fit a cube into a triangular hole.

Life is meant to be enjoyed and if you're suffering trying to always succeed, you're going about it the wrong way.

Don't be embarrassed about your passions

If there is one thing I absolutely look for in the people I surround myself with, it is passion. Whether that is for a book, a hobby, a movie or tv show or a particular musical artist the way people talk about what they love is my favourite thing in the world.

Even if I don't understand the thing itself I understand the drive behind it. And that drive should never be something to be embarrassed about.

When I was a teenager I was so ashamed of the things I was passionate about. I tried so hard to be trendy and fit in with the passions of others while hiding my own. I loved to sing and play piano but I rarely shared that with anyone. I loved to write but so few saw what I wrote. I spent hours listening to One Direction and Taylor Swift because I connected with their songs but I tried not to tell many people because I didn't want to be made fun of for being "basic".

I actively try everyday as an adult to embrace my passions because they make me who I am. My obsession for Harry Potter, my love of Taylor Swift, my passion for writing, my hopes and my dreams are all a part of what makes me me and I don't see any logical reason to hide it.

I love the quirky things my friends are passionate about. I love hearing about something new they've discovered that they're excited about.

I wouldn't have my best friends if we didn't bond over our love for One Direction fanfiction in our teens. It's a part of our history and I am so proud of it.

Don't force friendships or relationships

A lesson I learnt the hard way was that you can't force people to like you, but that doesn't mean people don't like you. I wasted a lot of time chasing boys who weren't interested or focusing my interests on one-sided friendships that took more from me than I got in return.

Some of those friendships and relationships were painful. I put myself out in the firing line and begged people to want me back and then felt frustrated when they didn't.

But you can't force people to do anything they don’t want to do. I tried to change myself over and over again to fit into what people would like and almost always came up short.

The best friendships I formed in my teen years were with people I could be my complete true self around. People who called me out when I was being stupid or fake. Bethany and Acacia came out of that period of my life with the knowledge that we would be friends for life simply because our friendships are built on a history of being ourselves.

There's no pressure to be anything else, to lie or only tell half the story. They know everything about me and I know about them because we trust each other.

No forceful interaction required!

It's OK to ask for help

You are not alone in the world. Even if sometimes you feel like you're the only person who knows what it's like to feel the way you do or what it's like to struggle, you're not alone. Everyone in the world has at least one other person they can rely on, a person who would look after them and come running if you asked them to. Some people are lucky enough to have more than one.

But everyone has one, even if they're sometimes hard to find.

When I was in my early teens I experienced depression for the first time. I didn't understand what it was and I thought it must just be a personality trait to fall asleep crying and fake being sick so you could stay in bed alone all day.

But it wasn't normal. I was unhappy and I felt that I was the only person in the world who would understand the struggle I was going through. So I refused to reach out. I self-diagnosed myself as weak and emotionally abused myself for not getting over it.

But help was there. It was Acacia who noticed first and it was Acacia who made me open up about how I was feeling. Then, over the years as I had good times and very dark times it was my family and closest friends who tried to understand and who stood by me no matter how many times I tried to push them away.

I wish I had asked for help sooner. Because everyone struggles, but no one needs to struggle alone.

People that care about you will make it known - you shouldn't have to ask them

As a bit of a perpetual loner I was scarred from my experiences in Primary School when I finally stepped out into the scary world of "high school". Because of this scarring I found myself distancing myself from people. In Year 7 I started at Darwin Middle School, a newbie from Canberra who didn't know anyone.

I knew it wasn't a permanent home and I told myself that meant there weren't any permanent friends for me there. So I distanced myself, I closed off and tried to stick my head down and get through it. This isn't to say I didn't have surface level friendships. I did! But they were often superficial and 95% I no longer speak to.

But on day one, along came Acacia. A bright speck who forced herself into my life and deemed us best friends at first site. At first I was sceptical, I told her point blank I didn't think I would find any serious friends in Darwin. But the girl was persistent.

And I'm glad she was. She reminded me everyday that she cared about me and my happiness. She was my 3am phone call when my world was falling apart and I know she would drop everything if I asked her to come because I needed her. And I would do the same for her. Which she knows because I remind her how much I care about her too.

People that care about you will make the effort. Don't waste time wondering if people care about you. You'll know.

You don't need to know what you're doing

If I had a dollar for every career path I considered through my teen years I would probably have enough to pay off my HECS debt. I wanted to be a vet, an army officer, a doctor, an engineer, a writer, a singer and so many more. I wanted to be everything and yet I had no idea what I really wanted to be.

And I didn't need to know. Most adults don't even know what they're doing now and they're so far beyond being a teenager.

If I had only realised this at sixteen I would've saved myself the existential stress of thinking I needed to plan out my life for the next twenty years to make sure I knew exactly what I was doing and exactly what I was working towards. Instead I blindly stumbled around feeling disappointed all the time or overexcited about a career path I probably would've never enjoyed.

Take life as it comes, work it out as you go. I never would have picked being a public servant at fifteen and yet, here I am. Where I end up is up to me and I hope it works out, but I don't need to know the end result right this second, and that's OK too.

You will never have as many holidays as you do now - enjoy them!!

This final lesson is honestly one of the most valuable. I had like 12 weeks of holidays every year!! 12 whole weeks away from school. I get four now. FOUR! This should be explained in school and repeated frequently. Becoming an adult means so many wonderful things but it also means hard work and less play time.

Enjoy the holidays you get, because you won't ever have that much freedom given to you so easily again.

That's it for today - hope you enjoyed and found yourself reflecting as well.

Till next time,

Rhi xx

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