When I was a pre-teen, I thought being 17 would be glamorous. But here's the reality: 17 is that awkward in-between age where you can have a driver's license but you can't vote, where you're neither a child nor an adult... you're just awkward. Birthdays never claimed a significant importance in my mind, but this year was different. Turning 17 this summer brutally revitalized the inevitable conclusion that in one year, I'll be starting a new chapter in my life. I'll be adorning that graduation gown, saying goodbyes and getting butterflies in my stomach the first day of class.
But romanticizing about the future aside, for right now, everything is still uncertain. These next few months will be marked with cramming for college applications while juggling school work and extracurricular activities. It won't be easy. We will be stressed out and weary. Here are 17 reminders I've written to myself to keep in mind throughout this year:
1. Not everything will happen "according to plan." You love planning each step, but keep an open heart and think over all of your options. Sometimes things won't work out. You will be disappointed. Being bitter or regretful is a waste of energy. Snuggle in bed and drink some tea, then go to sleep. Tomorrow, believe everything is possible again.
2. Sign out of Facebook. Also Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube, while you're at it. Out of sight, out of mind... (well for now). You know why.
3. Keep in touch with as many friends as possible. Do not, do NOT forget this. Call, write, Skype or text, it doesn't matter. Something good happens to someone? Show your love. Tell them congratulations. Don't let friendships slip through your fingers because you didn't make enough time to reciprocate; you'll regret it.
4. Don't lose your fire. Keep doin' what you're doin'. You're passionate about so many things -- remember why.
5. Bring a camera wherever you go. You think you'll remember everything, but you're wrong. You'll have photos of every "important" event like graduation and prom, but those are events you will remember. How about those seemingly insignificant trips to the park or hanging out after school? Most likely, you'll forget those memories with time. Document everything. Your friends will get used to a camera being shoved in their faces.
6. Do not consume copious amounts of coffee again. It's become an addiction. Motivation: calculate how much money you spend on coffee each year... for the rest of your life. Also, your teeth will be really happy for once.
7. If you haven't been outside in more than 2 days, it's a problem. Walking to the car in the morning does not count. Walking back to the car after school does not count. Staring out the window during math class does not count. Your butt isn't supposed to be molded to a chair all day. Take your puppy out for a walk. She misses you.
8. Stay focused on your goals, and make new ones as you go. If you get into your dream school, great. If you write a blog every month as planned, great. If you're awarded scholarships, great. Don't let success distract you from what you still need to accomplish. Assess, evaluate, go.
9. Thank everyone you can, as much as you can. You did not get here on your own. Teachers, guidance counselors, mentors, friends, and loved ones have helped you this entire way. They helped you put in 100 percent all those times when you thought you only had 80 percent. Saying "thank you" will let them know that you don't take them for granted. They'll remember.
10. Listen before you speak. Really, it doesn't matter who's speaking. You can have opinions; that's fine. Just don't be foolish and think you know everything because you don't. Make the effort to be thoughtful. Make your words count.
11. College Applications: get them done ASAP. Check deadlines, stay organized, don't psych yourself out. As you learned in high school, procrastination never really did anything for anyone. You won't suddenly get a profound idea for the Common App essay the night before.
12. Also, your worth isn't defined by what colleges you're accepted into.
13. Make art. Remember? You love that a lot. You aren't the most skilled or the most talented, but that doesn't matter. It makes you happy. Keep painting, creating, and envisioning.
14. Remember that this is the last impression you make on many people. You're about to make many new "firsts," but think about what you want to leave behind. Go out of your way to be kind. Inspire underclassmen to take on leadership roles. Be helpful. Smile.
15. Be patient with your parents. They don't understand everything about the college application process, and you'll have to explain and re-explain things. Don't be a brat. You don't understand everything the first time either. Make them proud.
16. Sleep. No, seriously. You'll feel refreshed and your body will thank you. You've worked hard. Staying up late cramming isn't worth having a tired and drowsy next day. Shut off your laptop.
17. Celebrate the victories, but don't dwell in pride. Cherish your hard-earned achievements, and then get over yourself. Stay humble. You're only 17. You have so much yet to accomplish; keep going. You got this.
Best of luck to us, Class of 2014!
What are your 17 pieces of advice? I'd love to hear them! Tweet me at @thekatykat.