17 Lessons I Learned at 17

By: Malena Esposito

So, as most of you probably don’t know, I’ll be turning 18 on January 29th. Or, I turned 18, because it’ll probably be February 29th by the time this gets posted. Nonetheless, I thought I’d give an ode to a milestoneless age and say hello to adulthood, because, to be honest, the last year of my life was quite an important one, to say the least. Here’s 17 lessons I learned at 17 years old, in no particular order.

  1. Never be afraid to do your own thing

If you’ve only seen me in passing, you might recognize me as the girl with the colorful eyebrows. Yes, that’s me. For about a month straight, I would do my eyebrows a different color every single day. Not only have I ROY G BIVed the frick out of my face, but I’ve also tried ombre, sparkly, and rainbow brows. It even got to a point where I had multiple people asking me if I could do their eyebrows, and a large majority of my classmates told me they were looking forward to whatever color I did next. Needless to say, this is a perfect example of “not being afraid to do my own thing,” yet so many people are. I can’t even count the amount of times someone said that “they could never do it themselves” or that “I was the only possible person that could pull it off,” but why? It was just eyeshadow, just not where one would expect eyeshadow to be.

Seventeen taught me that not everyone is going to like you or what you’re doing, but as you do, then why does it matter? In fact, my co-worker even told me that “what other people think of you is none of your business,” and how true is that? At the end of the day, it’s me, myself, and I, as it will be for as long as I live, so why not break the box of conformity and do what I want to do. As long as you’re not hurting yourself or others, I don’t see a problem.

  1. Push yourself, but not too much

Unfortunately, I kind of had to learn this one the hard way. Back in November, I sustained two injuries that I’m honestly still recovering from. The first was a strain in my right wrist and the second was a strain in both knees. Long story short, both were caused by overloading out the gym. At this point, I had been going to the gym for quite some time, keeping a consistent 6-day schedule for months. I was extremely serious about my passion, as any of my friends can tell you. Yet sadly, by December, I had to stop going entirely, and still haven’t returned with the intention of preventing future damage. But regardless of how much I miss my daily hobby, I feel as though it taught me an important lesson that I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. Although my example of pushing myself is physical, it can definitely be applied on a mental and emotional aspect. So many students pull all-nighters when it comes to studying for tests, completing projects, and finishing homework assignments. While it’s good to motivate yourself to be the best you can be, you don’t want to motivate yourself the point where it becomes an obsession which can turn into exhaustion.

  1. Not every grade is going to be a good one

Let’s say you do pull an all-nighter and study for a test for hours. The next morning, you get a Venti iced coffee at Starbucks, but even that can’t prevent your eyes from burning with fatigue. Once you get to class, your nerves increase, and it’s not just because of the caffeine. By the time the test is over, you don’t know what to think of your results; all you know is that you’re about to crash. About a week later, or a day later if you’re in Ms. Stachowitz’s class, you get your grade back. It’s a 59. Literal failing. Are you kidding me? You ask yourself. I stayed up all night for this? Unfortunately, yes, yes you did.

This has happened to all of us, in one way or another. We put so much effort into a number, only for it to be lower than the last round of limbo. It’s heartbreaking, but it happens. Thankfully, there are so many opportunities to boost that grade up, whether it be before or after school, Husky Help, remediation and retests, or future assignments.

  1. The way they treat you is the way they feel

Sorry to burst your bubble, but this one is more true than Khloe Kardashian’s baby. It’s 2019, and there’s no excuse for excuses anymore. No matter how busy you are, you make time for who and what you want to make time for. Oh, sorry, I had practice. Oh, sorry, my mom asked me to do some things around the house. Oh, sorry, I totally forgot, that was today? Oh sorry, I just got a really awful migraine. Yeah…okay…. While these might be genuine answers, if someone wants to spend time with you, they will make time for you. Don’t let them blame their hectic schedule for blowing you off. But it’s a two-way-street, too. Although I have been the butt of these reasons, I’ve also been the mouth that spoke them. Yeah, I should be free then! Yeah, I’d love to! Yeah, that sounds like fun! Yeah, I’ll let you know ASAP! Moral of the story: Don’t make plans if you already know you have no intention of following through with them. There’s no problem with saying no, and I think everyone should just cut the crap when it comes to this sort of thing. I especially see it before long breaks from school. Summer, winter, snow days, teacher workdays, you name it. We have to hang out! Let me know when you’re available! How’s next Tuesday sound? Well, for starters, no, no, and no.

  1. Don’t always be the first one to reach out

Ugh, this one speaks to me on a personal level. I cannot count the amount of times where I’ve asked someone what was wrong, said I was there for them, or that I was always here to lend a hand without the other person ever saying anything like that to me themselves. It’s honestly so annoying being the one to constantly reach out and check in with everyone, only to have a fourth of those people return the same kindness. Maybe I’m too nice, or too giving…I don’t know. If I see someone struggling, I always want to help them in any way I can, but I’d love for that energy and effort to come my way just the same. However, don’t think I’m saying that you shouldn’t reach out if you don’t think they’d do it for you, because I’m not. I’m saying that it’s good to keep an eye out for one another, kind of a “you get what you give” scenario. And if you are like me, this case, then maybe it’s time for both of us to take a step back and see who really wants us around.

  1. Don’t do things you know you’ll regret

Well, I feel attacked. Not gonna lie, I made a lot of dumb decisions as a 17-year-old. Not necessarily bad decisions, just “you know better” decisions. I like to think I have a decent amount of common sense, but for whatever reason, a lot of it went out the window this past year. There’s a lot of things I wish I did differently, but I can’t. Feeling guilty over your past actions is absolutely pointless, but as Bob Ross said, there’s “no mistakes, just happy accidents.” Listen to your gut…please. I knew most of my dumb decisions were just that, but I actively chose to ignore my instinct and act in the moment, tossing aside any concern for future consequences. Don’t be me. Whether it’s texting that guy, sending that picture, asking that question, starting that argument, or posting that tweet, if you know you’re going to regret something, DON’T DO IT! Give yourself some credit.

  1. If they like you, they’ll let you know

This lesson kind of relates to #4, but not entirely. As a teenage girl, it’s easy to question how much you mean to someone. Does he like me? Is this going to go somewhere? Am I wasting my time? What did that mean? Are we friends, or best friends? What level of closeness are we on? In today’s age, it’s “cool” to be confusing. Why tell someone how you feel when you can lead them on for weeks? Why be direct when you can drop hints every now and then, treating whatever the relationship is as a puzzle with missing pieces? First off, let’s stop doing this. Second off, if someone is doing this, don’t let them. If a guy wants to be with you or if a girl wants to get closer, they will let you know. You’re not going to have to guess because they’re going to tell you. And if they have trouble telling you, they’re going to show you. Making plans, texting back quickly, asking questions about yourself, letting you know if something comes up, and validating your feelings are all signs that a person cares about you. If it takes them a day to respond to a simple text, only to say “sorry I was busy, wyd?” then they aren’t for you. We aren’t wasting our time in 2019.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of junk food

While this is probably the most obvious addition to the list, it took another turn around the sun for me to realize what I was missing out on. Though I was already vegan for quite some time before turning 17, I only ate “nutritionally dense” foods, depriving myself of the pure joy that is plant-based garbage. Cookies, muffins, candy, chips, popcorn, ice cream, Oreo’s, Girl Scout cookies, burgers, fries, pizza…you name it, I ate it, and I was living. I spent so much time worrying about being healthy that I couldn’t enjoy some of my favorite foods today. Everything in moderation of course, but vegan junk food has been a lifesaver, and I don’t know who I’d be without this astounding taste of reality and sugar.

  1. If you want something, go for it

I know you’ve heard this saying a hundred times, but that’s only because of how applicable it is. Don’t be the person that sits around dreaming of who they’ll be and what they’ll do. Don’t be the person whose phone background is their goals with no way plan of obtaining them. You want change? Make it happen. You want a job? Go look for one. You want to lose weight? Stop eating out. Want to learn something new? Start practicing. You’re in control of your own life, so why not use that control in a positive light? After all, at the end of the day, you’re the only one that will be by your side forever.

  1. If it’s meant to be, it’ll be

After lesson #9, nothing screams hypocrite more than lesson #10. Although this quote is just as repetitive, it’s also just as relevant as the previous. And going back to lesson #7, we live in a society where we’re constantly analyzing the actions of another, wondering what this means and doesn’t mean. We spend so much time organizing our lives that we forget they’re already being arranged for us. Regardless of your religious beliefs, I’d say that most people agree in some sort of superior power, and it’s this force that dictates our outcomes. There comes a point where it’s just not up to you, no matter how much you try to win someone over or how much you try to make something happen. So many people forget what it’s like to “hang loose” and let things go their own course.

  1. Keep your friends close and your teachers closer

Although most upperclassman know this by now, this lesson can definitely be helpful to the freshman and sophomores. Come senior and even junior year, you’re going to have to start asking your teachers to write your recommendations and references. Depending on the type of student you are, this will either be really easy or really hard for you. Not every students connects to their instructors very well, and not every student stands out. Don’t let this discourage you, though. I feel as though most teachers would rather have a class full of kids that tried and got Cs, Ds, and Fs as opposed to a class that didn’t try and got As and Bs. As long as you put forth that effort and gave it your all, the number hardly matters. When it comes to applying for colleges, sure, grades matter, but getting a good letter of recommendation can be even more of a deal breaker.

  1. You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take

– Wayne Gretzky – Michael Scott

Well, it doesn’t get more mathematically accurate than this. If you don’t apply for that school, you’re not going to get accepted. If you don’t apply for that job, you’re not going to get hired. If you don’t apply for that scholarship, you’re not going to get the money. If you don’t retake that test, you’re not going get a better grade. Now, of course, those things aren’t promised. Any pessimist can tell you that, but can any pessimist know for sure what’s going to happen? Odds are, they have just as good of a guess as you do. So…why not try? What’s the worst that can happen? And don’t tell me that everyone is just going to laugh at you, because you have no clue what the end result would be. I’d rather swallow a bit of my pride to do something I really want to do than be miserable because nothing’s working out. Opportunities will come, but they’re only going to go if you chase them away. And let’s say you don’t get into that school or get that job or scholarship. Well, luckily for you, there’s going to be more chances down the road. Maybe not how or when you want them to, but they’ll be there. You just have to trust the process, because, as cliche as it sounds, everything does work out in the end.

  1. Don’t be afraid to blast your awful music

It’s 2019…can song-shaming be cancelled already? I’m sick of it. I don’t care if you have the best music taste in the world—it’s YOURS, not mine. It’s honestly so annoying and frustrating to watch people get MADE FUN OF for what they like to listen to. Music is an art, it’s a form of expression that many might not be able to deliver themselves. It’s sounds that can make you feel a certain type of way…what’s it matter to you that those sounds come from Ariana Grande or One Direction? Exactly, it shouldn’t. Yet, time and time again, I see people being bashed for how their own individual ears react to other’s own individual noises. At the end of the day, music is just an abundance of combinations of vibrations, so people should really disregard whether or not someone likes said vibrations.

  1. Take a picture, it’ll last longer

When you think of this saying, it’s often because someone’s staring at someone else in a derogatory way, but not today. As rapper Logic said in his song, “Killing Spree”, “everybody [is] looking for the meaning of life through a cell phone screen,” forgetting what’s really around them. I do it, you do it, we all do it. We’re on our phones as we have dinner with our family. We’re checking our texts as our friend is in the driver’s seat. We’re looking at our social in between sets at the gym. Nowadays, as necessary as cell phones may be, they’re also extremely overused, and I know that most people can agree with that. “Yeah, I spend too much time on my phone.” “I really need to stop snapchatting so much.” “We’re all addicted to our phones.” …Well, if we know this, why aren’t doing anything about it? Because we’re scared. Scared that we’re missing an important text, comment, like—you name it. We want to be in the know immediately, and connecting to our physical reality doesn’t allow for that, which is why I feel as though taking a picture would help tremendously.

In the beginning of the year, I downloaded an app called “One Second Everyday.” It’s pretty self-explanatory, but you have to take a video or photo every day and upload it to the app. By the end of the year, you can save it and watch 365 seconds worth of memories. Great idea, right? I thought so, too. I’m currently at about 30 seconds, and this app has encouraged me to think about now what I want to think about later. Do I want to remember this moment? I’m taking my phone out. Do I want to laugh about this later? I’m taking my phone out. It’s not hard to remember, and you don’t even need the app to capture something important. You don’t even have to take a good picture as long as it’ll help jog that noggin. I know I’m completely contradicting myself, because you can’t really do this without a phone, but trust me on this. Social media apps bad, camera app good.

  1. Don’t take your parents for granted

(Or whatever guardian is actively in your life.)  The older I get, the more I realize how much my mom and dad do for me. Every single day, my parents and countless others go to great lengths to give me what I have now and will have in the future. Being a parent is full of sacrifices, and I don’t know how I could ever repay mine for what they’ve done for me. But although I realize this, I’m not sure how many others of my peers do. Those older than me have even said they appreciated their parents too late without any effective way to thank them. Don’t let this be you. Whether it’s something as small as making dinner or as large as paying for your car, show your gratitude. Your “blessings on blessings” are really someone else’s sacrifices on sacrifices.

  1. Don’t underestimate the power of a good workout If yowu know me at all, then you definitely know how much I love the gym. It doesn’t matter what kind of day I’m having, I’m going. For me and so many others, working out is an escape. As soon as we get in the gym, we leave our problems at the door and devote that next hour to improving ourselves. Whether you’re a weightlifter or a runner or a soccer player or a yogi or a lax bro, I truly believe that exercise is an amazing solution to any problem that comes your way. While working out probably isn’t going to erase the problem, it gives you a clear mind the next time you try to attack it. It’s not just about “losing weight” or “being healthy,” moving your body one day or another is clinically proven to reduce stress and improve moods. Sure, I love the gym, but I also love having the excuse to focus on something other than my life problems, regardless of where they came from.
  1. It’s okay if your walk is another’s run

I know I said this list would be in no particular order, but “best for last” does apply here. If you haven’t paid attention to anything I’ve said thus far, I suggest this be your time to tune in.

The older you get, the more opportunities there are. However, with these opportunities come an array of decisions to make, and not everyone is going to make them at the same time. Not everyone is going to get their license when they turn 18. Not everyone knows where they want to go to college. Not everyone is going to have a job. Not everyone is going to retake the SAT and ACT until they get a perfect score. Not everyone is going to take AP classes as a freshman. Not everyone participates in a school sport. And that is okay.

We’re all embarking on a different walk of life, and with those walks come different destinations. Just because someone has, does, or knows something before you doesn’t mean you’re behind. It just means it’s not your time, and timing is everything. For whatever reason, you weren’t ready, and you might never be ready. Just because a lot of people are doing the same thing doesn’t mean you should join in. Focus on yourself. Focus on where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Don’t waste your time worrying about others, because at the end of the day, how you view yourself is infinitely more important than how others view you.

So, there you have it. 17 lessons I learned at 17 years old. I know it’s long, but hopefully you gained something reading this, because I sure did by writing it. This article not only made me realize how much I’ve been taught over the past year, but how much I’ve grown from this. Maybe you’re shook. Maybe you’re woke. Regardless, I wrote this in anticipation that everyone could take away at least one thing from this list, even if it was to eat more junk food.

 

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