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10 Things Being a Teen Has Taught Me

Op-ed

When I turned 13 almost 5 years ago, one of the first things my mum said to me was that these are the best years of my life, and I should treasure them. I must say, she was right. I had fun growing up, making new memories, meeting new people, tackling new challenges, trying new things, and starting new projects.

I've always been one to take pauses, reflect on how things are, where I've come from, who I am now, and where I want to go. And what better time to do that than 2 months before my 18th birthday? Being a teen has honestly been the greatest experience— I've succeeded, I've learnt, I've cried, I've struggled, but most importantly, I've grown. So, I'm going to share some lessons I’ve learnt these past 5 years.

1. No one cares

It sounds brutal, but it’s the reality. And I mean this in two ways— hear me out.

Firstly, like it or not, we’re all in our own lanes, pursuing our own dreams and dealing with our personal problems. Of course, there’ll be people around to help you in any way they can, but largely, it’s your situation to deal with. No one will feel the way you feel. You'll often have to go through things by yourself. People will come, and the same people will throw you off guard and hurt you. And you’ve got to deal with it. It's sometimes sad for me to reflect on past friendships and be upset by how they turned out. But if anything, they toughened me up. They showed me how strong I am as an individual, that I don’t need anyone to be incredible. And I'd rather learn important lessons sooner than later.

Second is the fact that we’re all so preoccupied by ourselves that we don’t care enough to pay attention to what other people are doing. I remember (then embarrassing, now hilarious) situations back in secondary school where I'd fall over in front of everyone or trip over my own feet, and I'd be mortified for days. Growing up, I realised that I don’t care enough to remember when people embarrass themselves, so they definitely wouldn’t care for me. Now, you’ll see me confidently being goofy in the streets because a) I’m here to satisfy myself, and b) no-one cares.

2. Satisfy yourself

Living for others, always considering other people’s feelings above your own, is exhausting— you forget your worth and prioritise all thoughts over your own. I would know.

3 years ago, I'd feel the need to answer everyone’s call whether or not it was necessary. Now, I remember that no one is entitled to anything of mine— anything that they wish to obtain from me must be earnt, not just granted. And don’t mind the reactions of people— for one, those who judge you should be denied access to you, and secondly, other people’s opinions of you are none of your business. The only thing you should be concerned with is being the best version of yourself, for yourself.

3. Learn to forgive yourself

Guilt is so corrosive to the soul. I've often found myself overthinking situations, and not letting go of past wrongs not only makes you doubt yourself but also subconsciously sets a standard that you can’t make mistakes. We're all human. Messing up is inevitable— but remember, it doesn’t make you a bad person; it makes you like everyone else.

And likewise, learn to forgive others. Holding grudges is exhausting, and the only person it hurts is yourself.

4. Dream big

If anything, make your dream seem impossible, so that when you achieve it, you’ll have proven doubters wrong. I know that if there’s anything that I want for myself, I just have to be brave enough to give it a shot.

Over the summer holidays, for example, I started a podcast. I honestly don’t know how it’ll go, but I'll put my all into it, seek out any opportunity I can, satisfy myself, and live with no regrets. I'd rather try something and it fail than not try at all and wonder what could have been. Focus on achieving whatever it is you want. And focus on becoming the best you.

5. Learn to deal with rejection

I mean this in two ways.

Firstly, if you're like me, you’ll constantly be seeking opportunities to improve. Be it an internship, a job, a programme— anything of the sort. In my time, I’ve faced a substantial number of rejections from things that I've sought out, and I understand the downwards spiral that succeeds— you start questioning your ability and worth. But you must pick yourself back up and keep trying. You'll get there one day.

The second way I mean this is that some relationships aren’t going to work out. If you’ve tried hard to make a friendship or potential relationship work out and they evidently don’t want you, don’t drain your energy by forcing it to work. They rejected you? Fine. Find others who treasure you.

6. Find inner peace

I look back on my past friendships, and as much as they weren’t the right people for me, on a personal level, they didn’t work out because I was in constant conflict with myself. I didn’t trust myself or my decisions enough. I didn’t have a set of established boundaries; I merely knew what I liked and disliked. My inability to make peace with myself meant that I wasn’t getting anything out of my friendships.

More than anything, you and your mental health matter. Life is too short to spend it doubting yourself, especially in a world where everyone is concerned with themselves. Let the past go, and hold onto its lessons. But never hurt yourself over it again.

7. Be willing to learn

You're never going to know everything, but more than anything, seek out knowledge. Knowledge is such a beautiful tool in this world— it breaks down barriers and allows us to understand other people. It reminds us that there's no one way to be human. That we all have varying experiences and difference doesn't invalidate any of them. Become a well-rounded individual who knows a lot about a lot. Let people teach you. And be willing to pass on the knowledge you’ve obtained.

8. Be honest with yourself

No one will be honest with you like you are with yourself. Know who you are and live your truth. Be honest in accepting when things aren't working. Be honest and open enough to acknowledge that you’re struggling and you need help. Be brave enough to embark on something new. Don’t be afraid to admit your shortcomings— it's fine. It’s normal. It's human.

9. Nothing lasts forever

Our lives are transient— the passing of Queen Elizabeth II emphasised that to me. No bad situation remains such. Looking back, my hardest times, whilst they were undoubtably difficult to get through, did come to an end.

And likewise, no good in life is eternal. All must come to an end at some point, so spend your life in happiness, in wonder, in adventure, and in growth instead.

10. Be thankful

We always have things to appreciate, and some things you may have, others could only dream of. Show gratitude for that which you may take for granted with a smile.

These past 5 years have been truly incredible; I've accomplished and been through so much, and if anything, I hope you can take some of these lessons and apply them in your own lives.

I think that there are many things to be cherished in the lives of all, but most importantly, you. Cherish yourself. The people you love. Your experiences. They're unique to you and will aid you in carving your path and making your mark. Enjoy these years— they're some of the best of your life!

Olaronke Bamiduro
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Olaronke "Ronke" Bamiduro is an 18 year old sixth-form student from London, UK and is in her senior year at sixth form. She is passionate about the power of the voice and the importance of expression. Olaronke enjoys reading, writing, yoga, cooking, netball, sharing her experiences and self-reflection.