I’ve had the awesome privilege to give talks at The School for Student Leadership in Victoria, Australia – the same program I was a part of 5 years ago. My best mate and I get to spend a day hanging out with the leaders of tomorrow. Although there are far too many to get to know in such a short amount of time (45 in fact) we do get to hear most of their stories.
Where are they from? What do they want to do? What do they want to learn? What do they want to be?
Through spending time with and giving talks to some of the most awesome and capable young people, I’ve had a solid chance to reflect on myself when I was their age. I’ve gotten to combine my own knowledge with the wealth of information that these students share with me to come up with 5 things I wish someone told me in high school.
1. It’s okay not to be okay.
This is something I really wish someone would have told me. It’s something I genuinely believe more young people need to hear.
The mental health of young people is something that could be addressed a lot better. It’s often overlooked, but the rise of the internet and awesome resources like Headspace really give young people an opportunity to discuss their mental health anonymously.
There seems to be a stigma among young people (young men especially, trust me, I fit that demographic) that struggling with and then talking about your mental health isn’t okay. That it’s uncool, or that people will judge you or even worse that you shouldn’t feel the way you feel and this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Let’s look at it this way: Imagine you’re moving to a new house, and the last thing to go on the loading truck is your couch. You try lifting it yourself but it is way too heavy. What do you do?
You ask your mate for help.
I ask you, why is mental health any different? If you’re not ashamed to ask your mate to help you lift a couch that’s too heavy, there’s no reason to be ashamed of asking them to help you with talking about your mental health.
I wish someone told me that it’s okay not to be okay.
2. It’s cool to be uncool
Remembering my high school days often makes me cringe. The sheer extent I went to, and others too, just to fit in. Just to be part of the ‘in-crowd’.
Let me tell you right now, in a few years’ time, no one will care if your hair was cut a certain way, or if you owned a certain pair of sneakers. In years to come, you will really value the fact that you were true to yourself. Don’t go out of your way to impress others, just be you.
Be weird, be quirky, be different! But most of all, be yourself. I promise you won’t regret it.
3. The grass is greener where you water it
This is the main message I gave throughout my speech at the School for Student Leadership. I’m pretty sure it’s a quote by Neil Barringham, but I first remember seeing it on a friend’s Facebook wall. It has stuck with me ever since.
If you have a goal, or something you want to achieve no matter how improbable or even impossible it seems, you can do it. If you take your time to practice, nurture and care for your goals, there is no reason why you can’t achieve them. Put in the hard yards, push harder than everyone around you. If you fall down, get back up and keep working at your goals.
There’s nothing better than accomplishing your goals and having something you can look at and say “I did that.”
4. It’s okay to not know what you want to do
All the way through Year 12 I was being pressured and pushed to decide if I was going to go to university or not. Which university I was going to go to, in which city, and what I was going to study.
As it turns out, I got to university and then changed my mind completely after I got there!
You don’t have to know what you want to do yet – I know adults that still don’t know what they want to do with their lives and that is awesome.
If you already know what you want to do in high school, that’s equally as awesome, and refer to point number 3 on this list if that’s the case. It is alright to take your time. It’s alright to figure out what you want to do, and it’s alright to change your mind. It’s also okay if you have no idea what you want to do, and it’s okay if you don’t even know where to start.
If that’s you, my advice is just start doing things. Try new things and go new places. Follow what makes you happy, and do things that you love to do. You’ll figure it out, I promise.
5. It’s okay to make mistakes
You are going make your fair share of mistakes throughout life. Some will be small, and others won’t be. It’s okay to make mistakes if you learn from them.
Something the School for Student Leadership taught me, and was reinforced over years of analysing my performance in sport, is reflection. What did I do well? What didn’t I do well? What can I improve on? What would I do next time this situation arises?
Reflection is one of the best things you can do to help yourself learn from experiences. Whether it’s through keeping a diary and writing stuff down, or whether you simply ask yourself these questions mentally. Maybe you find it best to talk things through with another person? I personally find talking to someone helps me clarify and understand my own thoughts, but you should try your best to find what works for you and use it to reflect upon your mistakes.
If and when you make a mistake, acknowledge it, reflect on it, learn from it and move on. Nothing will ever be accomplished from dwelling on things.
Life is really long, and you’re going to do some really awesome things, but from time to time just ask yourself: What would you tell your 15 year old self?
Featured photo credit: Anna Tesar via flickr.com