My ten year high school reunion was last weekend (does this mean I’m officially old now?). Unfortunately I was traveling for work and couldn’t attend, but it got me thinking about how much I have changed over the last ten years. An entire decade has gone by since I last stepped through the halls of my youth with a plaid skirt and a desire to stretch my wings wide. In honor of my ten year reunion, I would like to share ten things I’ve learned since high school (besides how to actually use the quadratic equation. Okay, I’m still working on that one… maybe in the next ten years):
1. It’s okay to change your mind. In high school, I was sometimes afraid to speak up or say, “Wait, scratch what I just said.” Once something was out of my mouth, it was there to stay; even something as silly as not wanting to change my order at a restaurant immediately after giving it for fear that I would be considered “difficult.” Nowadays, I guess I just don’t care because I change things up all the time: “Actually, I don’t want my burger medium rare.” “I think I’d rather be a history major.” “Nope, I’ve decided not to become a lawyer.” Having a better sense of self and knowing what I truly want in life has made it a lot easier to unapologetically speak up.
2. Most people are idiots. No offense, but if you’ve ever seen a Youtube comment, you have to agree with me. A large swath of the general population should never be allowed to influence the minds or opinions of others. In the past, I would genuinely believe that someone spouting opinions about something or other really knew what they were talking about without bothering to ask for credentials. But I am not the same gullible young girl who took opinion for fact. Now, you better be able to back up what you’re preaching or get off my cloud.
3. Personal style is a process. Oh, high school style… I really had no clue what I was doing, guys. My area of expertise was coordinating matching colored bands on my braces. I wasn’t exactly a budding fashionista. Sometimes I would feel bad that I didn’t straighten my hair or know how to do makeup like some of the other girls. I certainly know more about fashion and makeup than I did ten years ago, but I still find myself caught up in the comparison game from time to time. However, as long as I stay away from the black plastic neck choker that I used to own (anyone who grew up in the early 90s knows what I’m talking about), I should be doing just fine.
4. I am a feminist. In high school and even well into college, I was one of those girls who wouldn’t have identified as a feminist. I was always “one of the guys” (having three brothers will do that to a girl) and wanting to maintain my image as “the cool chick,” would never ever ever ever have wanted to be the wet blanket at a party calling someone out for their rape joke or the fact that they think women shouldn’t be able to play sports (an argument I’ve actually had with someone… cue eye roll). Thankfully I’m not a complete moron anymore, and I’d rather be vocal about how messed up it is that women aren’t paid equally or have a staggering array of double standards to deal with on the daily than worry about whether or not I’m upsetting the male patriarchy. Call me shrill all you want; I’d rather be considered a crazy b**** than one of the guys at this point in my life.
5. Say Yes. I know there’s a large segment of the population who disagrees with me on this one; that you should say no to most activities and requests for the sake of not overbooking yourself. But I have found that whenever I’ve been on the fence about doing something, I never regret saying yes. Usually I’m opened up to a wonderful new experience. Even the less than best activities end up with some redeeming quality–meeting someone new, getting out of my comfort zone, providing fodder for an excellent story, etc.
6. Say No. Wait, isn’t this a complete contradiction of what you just said? Yes… and no. Say yes to new experiences and activities and people, but absolutely say no to anything you know is bad for you. Say no to drama, to people who don’t have your best interests at heart, and to all of the horrible negativity in the world. I used to be so bad at saying no; I’d let people get away with their antics and wouldn’t speak up for others because I was afraid of stirring the pot. Not anymore. If you’re doing something I think is wrong, I’m absolutely going to speak up. Just… no.
7. Travel as far and as often as you can. My love affair with traveling has been pretty well-documented on this blog, but it wasn’t until the very end of high school that I caught the travel bug. It stewed under the surface for a while and didn’t truly explode onto the scene until I decided to spend a semester in Chile my senior year of college. After that, I was officially hooked. I never feel more alive than when I sit back in my seat and feel a plane take off underneath me, billowing and creaking with adventure. This is one of my favorite discoveries of the past decade, and I look forward to exploring it even more in the next ten years.
8. I’m funny. Like, I can be really funny sometimes. I’ve always appreciated a good sense of humor, but over the last ten years, I have been able to grow into mine a bit more. If you want to get into my good graces, laugh at my jokes. Just do it.
9. Quality over quantity, always. A few quality friends are always better than a bunch of surface level acquaintances. One quality conversation a month is hands down better than a daily dose of small talk. Buy the more expensive blazer instead of five cheap ones; it’s going to last you forever. It’s taken me a while to realize this, but now that I do, I feel so much more fulfilled and energized.
10. Family is the beginning and end of everything. When you’re in high school, it’s easy to view your parents and siblings as the WORST. Everything your parents do is the most embarrassing and they’re certainly always out to make your life miserable. Maybe getting older allowed me to relate more to them, or maybe I just lost my teen angst and moved on, but whatever it was, at some point in the ten years between high school and now, I realized that my family is the one thing that I can absolutely always count on. I don’t just mean my traditional nuclear family either. My family is more than my brothers and parents; it is now my husband, my dearest friends and mentors. Knowing that there are people who absolutely have your back, no matter what, is one of the most liberating moments in life. We are all going to screw up, but that’s okay because your family is always going to love and respect you anyway. That’s a beautiful thing.
I’ve grown a lot over the past ten years. I’ve met wonderful people, learned monumental things about myself and have been able to have just a little bit of fun while doing it. Plus, I have a strong suspicion that even better things are in store for the next ten years and beyond.
What have you learned about yourself over the past ten years?
Photo (Flickr CC) by John Walker