Things I Wish I Could Have Skipped Learning the Hard Way

In no particular order…cause life just isn’t that neat.

1. Take time to get to know you. High school is a marvelous crap factory that does its best to strip you of all personal insight. No one leaves there having a clue of who they truly are. A little time spent now will save you years of pain later.

2. Do something. It need not be the thing you are going to be or do forever. Just tackle something…anything. Do it before you learn to be afraid of trying. Build momentum, and keep doing ‘somethings’.

3. Travel. (This one really goes with the other two, but adds a smidge of meaning.) The travel doesn’t need to be to some far off land, just out of your comfort zone. Use is to get to know how you feel about uncomfortable things, and if there is something you can do about it.

4. Find new friends. I’m not saying you should abandon all of your high school friends, just that you should broaden your horizons. High school friends have a way of keeping you in high school.

5. Write stuff down. There are approximately 658,243 life lessons that will be knocking on your door over the next 10-15 years. Sometimes, you are going to fail. Keep track of how you respond, what you learn, and how to handle it better next time. The act of writing helps you work it out. (It also provides hours of entertainment when you’re thirty and stumble across your 18-year-old version of life.)

6. Take self-portraits. You will only spend a decade being 20-something. You may spend several decades reminiscing about the glory of being 20-something. Take pictures to remind you, and to keep it real.

7. Run marathons. Not to be all doom and gloom, but most of you are biologically in your prime. Take advantage of this point in life when (for many) it is easier to lose weight, gain muscle, and you are likely injury free. That changes much sooner than you think. Add fitness now while your body makes it easy.

8. Ponder long before adding a pet. I love my dog. Many, many landlords do not. Many lifestyle changes do not. If you just must get that cute little ball of fur, have a solid backup plan or backup home and save both you and the pet the heartache.

9. Get the degree YOU want. Views toward college degrees have changed from the time I graduated high school. I read articles every day questioning their true value. The internet has opened the flood gates to new and different education opportunities. Be smart about it.  If you really want an art history degree…go get an art history degree. (If you are worried about job prospects, double major…or, just figure it out.) This is the only time in your life where it is okay for you to be in school, living off ramen, and being, well, ‘stupid’. LOL Take advantage and gobble up the knowledge that fires YOU up.

10. Build a relationship with money. Do all those things you are supposed to do (balance a checkbook, set up savings, blah, blah, blah) and, while you are doing that, figure how you will interact with your money. I know this sounds weird, but money is a huge part of our life and most of us take our relationship with it for granted. We race to earn as much as possible, only to build a lifestyle that forces us to race to earn more. One day you may realize (insert bad Obi Wan voice) this is not the lifestyle you were looking for. Set the ground rules with your money, before it imposes its rules on you.

Your turn. What advice do you have for the new grads?


  1. All sound advice and all things I wished I had heard when I was in my 20′s. I would like to add one thing that might not apply to every one but, did certainly apply to me and many of my friends. If you had an usually traumatic childhood for any reason, seek professional help as soon as you can. I did not and much of my early adult decision making was more reactionary than anything else. Because I never dealt with the effect of having extremely neglectful parents until I was older, I had to correct a great many mistakes I made as a young adult.

    • So true. I grew up with a ton of foster brothers and sisters – all loaded to the hilt with issues – and have since watched many of them slip into trouble because they refused help. I am glad that the stigma toward seeking/needing help is lessening. I just wish it would do it faster.

  2. Just to add on what you have already said, I will advice grads to discover their talents and make good use of it. If you can sing, dance,write etc make good use of that. That may turn out to be your moneymaker in this era where getting jobs is a little bit hard.

    • Brilliant! And perfectly timed. The interwebs has opened up so many opportunities for creatives and artist, now is the time to seize that chance.


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