Listen up 18 year-old me ...

I was very honoured and surprised this week to be asked to be a guest speaker at my old high school’s Year 12 graduation presentation this year. It’s been 16 years since I finished high school, which feels like both yesterday and an eternity ago all at once.

I’m not one for regrets, but when I think back to 18 year old Sam, I remember her as anxious and insecure and a little timid. And whilst I wouldn’t want her to do anything differently, because I think she’s ended up in an okay place, perhaps if 34 year-old Sam could tell 18 year-old Sam the following things, some parts might have been a little bit easier.

  1. 3 Unit Maths is a really unimportant and impractical skill for you in the greater world.
  2. You are going to be blessed by the generosity of your parents in a multitude of ways. One of these ways is that they will financially support you to live at college during your undergraduate degree. Initially you will find it terrifying. If you hang in there, you will never want to leave. You will form the closest, strongest and most authentic connections with others whilst you are there and when you leave. It will also be filled with misogyny and elitism. Try not to get too sucked into that. It would also be really worthwhile if you delay your initiation and infatuation with binge drinking.
  3. Your younger sister may still seem quite annoying, but maybe it is time to be less condescending towards her. She will become your best friend. I don’t know how it will happen. It just will.
  4. Stop worrying about how you look. And your body. You’re not fat now. Parts of you will spread. Pretty soon actually. And then you’ll shrink again. And then fatten up. Etc. Etc. It really doesn’t matter. People seem to like you regardless. There is nothing more boring than a person lamenting their round tummy or cellulited thighs.
  5. These big exams you’ve got coming up. Stop stressing about them. You’ve done all the work by now. Take it easy. As you’ll find out soon enough, the marks mean so very little on anything.
  6. Be curious. Ask more questions. I know they’re in your head. Take the leap – ask them! Learn stuff.
  7. Sometimes your Mum is actually right. Manage your money wisely. Now. Yes, those dollars from KFC. They may come in handy further down the track. Seriously, where is your money going?
  8. It’s okay to say ‘No’. Practice it more.
  9. Always try not to make assumptions. Don’t be quick to judge someone’s actions or their beliefs against your own. We are the product of our experiences. Something that seems obvious to you may not be to someone else. Take a few minutes, step in their shoes, and thinking about how you can help instead of just being condescending.
  10. This might be hard, but you don’t have to be defined by others. You don’t have to meet the perceived expectations of society or your family or your friends to be successful. Or happy. You might actually find that when you start meeting these expectations you feel misuerable. It’ll be okay. There is nothing wrong with finding happiness when you are single and living with your parents in your mid-30s. Find success and joy by living in line with your own values.
  11. You will fall in love, more than once. And each time it will be terrifying and beautiful and nothing like what you imagined.
  12. Heartbreak does heal. That person/s you think you can’t live without. You can.
  13. You will never be able to change anyone else’s behaviours. They will never be able to change yours. Accept this. Sooner, rather than later.
  14. You don’t know everything. Actually you know very, very little. And the older you get, the more you realise how little you know. It’s actually okay. Pretty much everything is grey area. Best not to be so arrogant about what you think you do know now.
  15. You will watch people you love go through terrible things. Sometimes you’ll know what to say, and your words will fill pages, but sometimes you won’t. And this is okay. Just be a comfort. Just be there. That’s all you can do.
  16. You will be broken way more than you’ve ever felt before. You world will shift upside-down and you won’t know exactly how to get back up, but you will.
  17. Just because you might be feeling a bit smart right now, having won a few smart person awards, this does not make you any more special than anyone else.
  18. Having said that, you may want to use those smarts at a later stage in life. Like for a job. Or for money. So try not to fuck it up too much with all that adolescent binge drinking and risky partying into your late 20s.
  19. Look around you. You are going to be truly blessed to grow older with some of the people you are sitting in the hall with right now. In 16 years time you will be even closer friends. You will be the world parent to their children. The bridesmaid at their weddings. You will know their in-laws and extended families. Cherish these people always. They will become some of your truest friends.
  20. Be kinder. You can always be more kind.

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