Image via WikipediaI’m nearing the end of the first semester of my last year of high school, and the other day I had an existential crisis, which is just business as usual for me. That particular nonsense is over now, but it did give me an opportunity to look back on the past few months, and reflect on what I’ve learned. The big secret key to high school success still stands. You must balance your life to be truly happy. Work some, play some. Study some, watch cartoons some. But there’s a little more to add to the list of overall “Things to keep in mind to retain your sanity.” In fact, I have 10 more things to add to the list! This is everything I wish someone had sat me down to tell me way back in September, exactly how I wish they would have told me. This isn’t another how to guide. It’s a literary pick-me-up.
Know thyself. This is the “big picture” stuff- all the questions you never stop answering. But it will help you one thousand-fold if you at least have a vague idea. What do you want to be when you grow up? What do you want out of your life? Why do you want it? What is your definition of happiness? What is your definition of success? What are your values and principles? What do you refuse to compromise on? (Your integrity, hopefully!) In fact, knowing what you don’t want can actually be just as helpful as knowing what you do want, because it can help you figure out what to avoid. And if you avoid all the “icky” stuff, you can often land right in the good stuff! Is knowing thyself easy? Most certainly not. But the fun part of life is figuring it out!
Your accomplishments mean nothing if you’re too sleep deprived to enjoy them. This goes back to the Big Secret Key. Balance my friends, balance. If you’re really, truly honest with yourself, are you a) only taking on as much as you can handle and b) using your time wisely? No? Well then that’s a chance to improve! The amount of information out on the Internet on how to improve your personal productivity is exhaustive. But they all basically say the same 3 things. 1) Slow down. 2) Relax. 3) Only do what’s essential, ie focus. Am I simplifying it by huge amounts? Yes. But that’s because I’m only saying the essential!
Get involved. To a certain point. You are much more useful to others, and at peace with yourself if you are really good at one thing, rather than sort of okay/mediocre at fifty things. Quality over quantity.
Volunteer outside of school. Why? Because volunteering is good for your health, and it’s important to give back. I don’t really need to explain the importance of community service, do I? It’s just good citizenship! Giving back is a way to renew yourself, or “Sharpen the saw” as Stephen Covey would say.
Know your priorities. This is a lot like know thyself, but a little more focused. What is most important to you? Figure that out, and drop the unimportant stuff. Life’s too short to waste it on nonsense that means nothing to you. Yes, you will disappoint some people, but you know what? At the end of the day, it’s your life we’re talking about here. You know-the one you only get one of? If you don’t enjoy it because you were so busy worrying about others that you forgot about yourself, what good have you really done? The alternative to prioritizing and focusing on your goals (and possibly disappointing a few people) is not prioritizing, failing, and then disappointing everyone. There is a serious opportunity cost in trying to do it all. And that opportunity cost is your happiness.
Keep your room clean. As above, so below. Your surroundings are a reflection of what’s going on inside your head. It’s much less stressful to walk into a clean, tidy and well organized room than it is to walk into a dirty, smelly room. This is especially important if your bedroom is your primary place of study. An organized study space is crucial if you want to maximize your ability to focus on your work. Vacuum. Swifer. Dust. Open a window and get a little air circulating. In fact, just making your bed in the morning is often enough to be able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Your worries are not unique. Don’t feel so alone. Everyone else is just as confused as you are. Everyone else is worrying about whether or not they’ve made the right decisions as well. Everyone else is worrying about whether or not they’re good enough too. Everyone else is trying to know themselves, sort out their priorities, and find time to clean their rooms. You are not alone. You are unique, but your worries are not. Everyone else is going through life as well, it’s just that some people are better at hiding the worry lines better than others. Take a deep breath. We’re all in this together. Go hug someone.
Don’t forget to smile. I don’t know if I’ve said this enough already, but enjoy yourself. Smile dammit. Even if you don’t feel like smiling, do it anyway. Fake your joy till you make it. Smile at the sky, your friends, your professors, your teachers, the lady who handed you your coffee at Starbucks this morning. But most of all, smile at yourself. You’re okay. You are enough. You have enough. You’re good enough…
You’re going to be OK. I promise.
So, I really hope this at least brightened someone’s day. This advice wasn’t meant to be as practical as it was meant to be calming, and hopefully inspiring. But tell me now, what do you wish someone had told you before you embarked upon life?