17 Things I’ve Learned in 17 Years

Thoughts from an almost 18 year old

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As I round the corner on 18, I’ve been reflecting on the lessons life has thrown my way over the past 17 years. And let me tell you, I’ve learned a lot.

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Here, I list the top 17 things I’ve learned in my lifetime, including the real definition self-care, and what it’s like to cry in front of a DMV employee.

1. Caring about stuff is actually cool.

It took me way too long to learn that apathy kind of sucks. You get out of life what you put into it. Caring about things and dedicating time to them, whatever they may be, is such a gratifying way to live. It’s also infectious – your positive energy spreads when you share the things you love. Don’t forget that.

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2. Dance in public (and other things of that nature).

I used to be absolutely mortified if my friends or family did embarrassing things in public like singing or dancing. Around 15, though, I realized that those moments where you’re standing out in a crowd of people all doing the same thing are empowering. That’s why you’ll catch me dancing in the supermarket or scream-singing “Fight Song” at the Women’s March. Life’s too short not to enjoy it.

3. Practice self-care.

Self-care does not just mean face masks, fancy chocolates, and soaking in a hot bubble bath. Self-care is consistently listening to your body’s needs — and providing.

It’s getting off your phone 10 minutes earlier so you can get one more hour of sleep a week. It’s turning down a night out with your friends because you know you need some alone time. It’s eating when you feel hungry, and stopping when you don’t.

All of these things are way easier said than done, and self-care is definitely a work in progress for me. But I think the first step is accepting that.

4. Sitting through the “Happy Birthday” song never gets less awkward.

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You will never know what to do when people sing “Happy Birthday” to you. You will never get better at it, you will never develop a routine. Just accept it and smile awkwardly.

5. When it comes to friends, quality is way more important than quantity.

I don’t think I could have survived high school without my core group of friends. And while the size of my girl gang isn’t huge, I know that I can trust them with anything. In transitioning from middle to high school, I learned it’s better to have three close friends instead of 10 who you don’t feel you can talk to. And oh yeah, hundreds of followers on Instagram are meaningless if they’re not people you can call at 3am for advice.

6. Take off your makeup before bed.

It’s that simple. The extra two minutes it takes to use micellar water or a face wipe are beyond worth it. Sincerely, a girl with irritated skin who’s woken up with regret too many times.

7. Honesty is the best policy.

I dedicated 2017 to telling people how I really felt… and it was incredible. I learned that people respect you so much more if you are open and honest about who you are and what you want.

Especially as a young woman, I initially found that challenging because I was so used to accommodating other’s feelings before my own. When I learned to ask for what I wanted, I was much better off. This year was filled with love, heartbreak, happiness, sadness, and gratitude, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

8. Trust your gut.

It’s been a tough lesson to learn, but generally my intuition is right — and yours is, too. Try to listen to yourself and then let others weigh in — you’ll most likely end up with less regret. Also, it’s the literal worst feeling when you had the right answer on a test and you second-guessed yourself and got it wrong. Don’t let that happen. Listen to your gut.

9. Be present (and put your phone down).

It is so difficult for me to remember to put down my phone and actually enjoy the moment. We’re in this time where everything needs to be documented, but I learned throughout high school that the best moments happen when your phone is off and you’re not worried about what filter to pick.

10. Take initiative.

If there’s something you’re dissatisfied with in your life, you have to be the one to change it. For me, that was working on my mental and physical health, as well as working to better my friendships. The road to satisfaction is long, but worth it.

11. It’s okay to fail your driver’s test.

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I promise. It took me three tries to get my license, and at the time it felt like the end of the world. Spoiler alert: it’s not. My only suggestion is to wait until the examiner leaves the car to start crying. But now I’m a really good driver. I think.

12. Give one compliment every day.

I have discovered that I really enjoy giving compliments to others. Whenever I meet someone new, I try to find at least one thing to compliment about them. With friends, I try to compliment something about their personality, because those thoughtful observations can help them see themselves as the rest of the world does. By the same token, don’t forget to compliment yourself. Try to find one thing you love about yourself each day.

13. Ask for help.

There is absolutely no shame in reaching out for help when you feel like you need it. In fact, it takes a special strength to admit you can’t do something alone. Harness that strength. You won’t regret it.

14. Listen to records.

Music sounds better on vinyl. Trust me! Record players are cheap(ish) on Amazon and are worth the investment. Personal favorite albums include Rumors by Fleetwood Mac and Songs For Swingin’ Lovers by Frank Sinatra.

15. Take pride in yourself.

There’s a difference between confidence and cockiness. Don’t be afraid to be confident in who you are and what you’ve done. Let it empower you. Balancing confidence and humbleness is key.

16. Take risks.

Ask your crush out! Just do it! Better to be rejected than to wonder what could have been. Trust me.

17. Know that you’ll always be a work in progress.

There’s not going to be an age you hit where you suddenly feel like you know what you’re doing. Everyone — and I mean everyone — is winging it and hoping that it turns out okay. You’re allowed to make mistakes and grow. You are a work in progress.

Alexandra Miller
Alexandra Miller

Alexandra is a student who has a passion for writing, acting, filmmaking, and social activism. She loves working on her online publication ForthWrite Magazine and rewatching The Office for the thousandth time.