It’s been nine years since I was seventeen, and a lot has happened since then. I graduated high school, graduated college (twice), had two apartments and bought my first house, had several jobs and began my teaching career, published two books, made and lost friends, said hello and goodbye to family members and beloved pets. I’ve been in and out of serious and not-so-serious relationships. I’ve made a ton of mistakes, but I’ve always succeeded at many things. It certainly has been a journey, a journey in which I don’t wish to carry any regrets. I like to think of my mistakes as learning experience, and try to wholeheartedly believe that everything happens for a reason, no matter how difficult that may prove at times. Despite this, I’ve constructed a list of advice that I would give my teenage self if we were to sit down and have a conversation over coffee (although 17-years-old Steph would probably be drinking a milkshake since she hated coffee at the time).
First up: Don’t do things half-assed. You will never get to where you want to get in life if you don’t approach every challenge or project with the intent to exert as much effort as possible. If you find yourself only doing the minimum to get by, then cut that out of your life. It isn’t worth wasting your time. If you spend time on things that you don’t genuinely care about, it will show in the outcome.
Next: That boy is not the end of you. Do not place your self-worth in the hands of a temporary boys. They come and go. Some will show you how to love, and others will remind you exactly how you don’t deserve to be treated. These boys are important in shaping who you are, but that’s all they are--lessons to take with you moving forward. Do not place your happiness solely in the hands of those not strong enough to support it.
If you don’t like it, quit it. Come on, Steph, you literally hate physical activities. Why are you in sports? Focus your energy on the musicals, the drama club productions, the writing club projects. Read more books and write more of the things you’re passionate about. You’ve had the chance to experience sportsmanship with your teams, but there comes a time where you need to quit the things that are stressful and focus on the things you truly enjoy doing. Those are the memories and experiences that will stick with you through your adult life!
Here’s a big one: Chill out. Getting a “B” on an essay is not the end of the world. Friend drama is not the end of the world. Not making the team is not the end of the world. You can get so easily side-tracked by frivolous things without even attempting to look at the bigger picture. Some of your high school experiences truly will not matter in the long run, and you need to try to distinguish between these things better! Some things are worth getting hyped up about, and some are not.
Write! Your love of writing does not waver throughout the years. In fact, your drive to become the best writer you can be only grows stronger. Keep working towards your goals because you WILL achieve them. I’m so proud of you for finding what you love and sticking to it even if it isn’t easy, even if it isn’t popular. Even if you’ve got no one else to relate to when it comes to what drives you. You determined long ago that this is your absolute dream and you continue to work harder at it every day. I admire that about you. I teach students your age now and I couldn’t imagine them sitting down and writing a book, and at this point, you’ve done just that several times. In two short years you’ll be published and it will be one of the best years of your life. Your dedication and talent continues to inspire the person I am today. Thank you for never giving up on your goals.