Advice to our 17-year-old selves

Every Friday, we pose a voluntary “Social Question” to everyone at Collegewise, something non-work related to help us all learn more about each other. Last week we asked, “If you could give advice to the 17-year-old version of yourself, what would you say?” I decided to share many of the responses here (anonymously) for two reasons:

First, as adults, it’s easy (and often a relief) to forget what high school was really like, before we’d come into our own, found our way, and made sense of everything with the benefit of hindsight. But transporting ourselves back to this time, and imagining how we’d advise our 17-year-old selves, conjured up all those memories of a period that often felt both uncertain and uncomfortable. Occasionally reconnecting with that feeling makes us better at our jobs as we try to help teenagers get where they want to go next.

And I thought high school readers might appreciate and benefit from the responses, especially given they come from confident, happy, successful professionals who really do understand what it’s like to be where you are today.

Here are the responses:

It’s okay not to know who you are yet. You’ll find your people in about ten years and it’s okay to wait.

Don’t worry. Relax. You don’t have to be great at everything. College and life beyond are going to be better than you ever imagined.

RELAX. And don’t be so mean to your parents. They actually do know what they are talking about, and in a few short years you’ll completely respect them for all of their sacrifices. Also, that Marilyn Monroe style prom dress you fought with your mom about actually looks awful on you!

Stop stressing so damn much. You don’t have to be perfect. You’re going to screw up sometimes, but it’s all going to turn out fine.

Ask people/grownups who are doing things I might want to do how they got there, whether they think the same thing might work for me. And be skeptical of those selling you a dream.

Take risks, be smart, but have fun!

It’ll all be OK. Also, stop saying you’re “bad at math and science.”

Hang in there. Your people are out there, and you’ll find a lot of them in college! You won’t ever be cool, and that will always be okay. Don’t spend so much time stressing and “efforting” over things–nobody has as much control as they’d like to think, and that includes you. And keep doing things that bring you joy, not following “shoulds” from other people. Those “shoulds” will rarely be along the right path for you.

That was a painful time of my life, so I would tell the younger me that life is so very much better after high school and that I would develop the ability to connect in very real ways with other people as I got older.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Chill out. You’ll figure it out eventually and you don’t need to stress as much. Also, double major and join the equestrian team in college.

High school might feel like trying to fit into one (or, if you’re lucky, two) of a handful of predetermined boxes. But college will be alllllll about creating a mold just for yourself.

You are smart and learning can be fun. You will one day master pre-calc, but then forget everything about it five years later and it won’t matter. Also, you should eat more pizza.