My mind cannot grasp the idea that it’s been over half a decade since I was 16. Even now, a month from turning 23, I still feel like I am a teenager.
However, when I sit down to reflect on my past years, I realize that I’ve actually discovered and experienced a lot. From learning to be stricter with my work habits to pushing myself to try new things, there are many ways in which I approach situations differently from how I used to. Lessons are usually learned the hard way, but hopefully, some of my tips can help you out.
1. Financial Independence
Being financially independent was one of the most intimidating things to me about growing up. When I first moved out, I completely fell face-first onto the ground because of my horrible spending. I no longer had my mother to limit me or to judge me for splurging on frilly things. I had to have a serious talk with myself about budgeting, and began tracking how much I earned and spent. There were some things I had to give up, like one of my many streaming service subscriptions, in order to be able to cover some necessities.
When I first moved to the city, before I had made any friends and started any classes, I spent a long time shopping. It wasn’t even because I needed something to buy— I was just bored and a bit lonely. But I’ve learned to keep myself busy with projects and hobbies so that I don’t use it as an escape. Now, I can’t even remember the last time I went shopping, and don’t constantly feel the need to.
Part of what keeps me busy is all the part-time jobs I’ve taken on. My parents never let me get a job when I was younger; they wanted me to focus on school. Needless to say, I never had the discipline of going to work a few times a week, being on my feet for hours on end, and having to obey authority. Being financially independent meant putting on my girl pants and finding a job. I was actually excited about doing it because it felt like a rite of passage (and also a means of getting my hands on some cash).
2. Making Good Friends
My social life and my perspective on it changed once I hit my 20s. I think growing up, especially in high school, we have this need to make as many friends as we can. We pressure ourselves to go to parties, try things we don’t want to, and put up with toxic company. One of the biggest life lessons I've learned is to value the quality, rather than the quantity, of the people I surround myself with.
In order to live by this rule, I let myself be completely free when it comes to my social life. If I don’t feel like going to an event or gathering, I don’t, and refuse to allow myself to feel bad about it. I take my time getting to know someone when I first meet them; I don’t instantly pour my heart out to them, and I watch what I say because we never know people’s true intentions. If someone chooses to tell me personal things, I simply listen. And if I don’t "vibe" with someone, I keep my distance (while still being nice and friendly, of course).
Because of this, I have made the best, most genuine friends anyone could ever have. I know I can count on them whenever I need to.
3. My Love Life Evolution
One of the things that falls under social life is romantic life. Maybe, to no one’s surprise, I have struggled a bit with this one. Though I’ve never lived my younger years wishing for the day I got a boyfriend, there was always someone special I longed for. I have learned so many lessons the hard way in this regard. I could make a whole post dedicated solely to that.
Before, I used to only focus on one option. Now that I’ve grown and matured, I’ve learned to never put all your eggs in one basket, meaning there’s so many people out there. Especially at a young age, it's important to remember that the first person you meet most likely won’t be “the one”. Until someone is fully ready to commit to you (and you want that as well), it's actually fine to continue dating others to see who is the best fit. It takes time to truly get to know a person and judge the type of relationship you could have with them.
In my experience, it's best not to overinvest in someone until they prove themselves. There will be a lot of heartbreak, and it will hurt. But time will always heal that, and one day, you’ll realize you haven’t thought about that person in a while.
4. Bettering Myself
I definitely went through a “glow up” in my transition between teenager and young adult. I don’t mean physically, but mentally. I learned to be self-focused, as well as to see the difference between that and selfishness. I always prioritize myself and my needs.
Sometimes, when I observe my peers, the people I graduated high school with, or anyone my age, I compare their journey with mine. I try to remind myself that everyone is on their own path, regardless of how long it takes. It’s not a race. I am not in competition with anyone other than my past self. I also struggled to realize that it is more than okay to start over.
I’ve overcome the insecurities that came with being a teenager. I think understanding that everyone is also dealing with their own made me realize that we aren’t paying attention to each other. How often were you worried about how you looked at an event? Did you focus on someone else’s appearance in a negative light?
During a conversation with a friend one day in high school, she told me that she didn’t even realize I had a giant pimple until I brought it up. And I had spent the entire morning before then feeling like I was walking around with a giant lump on my face.
The change I am most grateful for, however, is how fearless I’ve become. Before, I was afraid of trying new things for some reason or another. If I didn’t have a friend to come with me, I wouldn't go. If I wasn’t spoken to, I wouldn’t give my opinion. I slowly realized that if I don’t put myself out there a little more, I will never have any memories to look back upon.
I’ve definitely become independent in more aspects of life than one. I’ve learned to value being alone, because it helps me learn about myself and get in tune with my thoughts. That, in turn, enhances my self-confidence. It helps me attract good, honest people into my life and establish boundaries and limits, so I know just how far to push myself.
If there’s any advice I can give anyone in their teen years, it’s to fully absorb everything. Every moment, good or bad, will help shape you into who you are and will be. These years go by incredibly fast, and before you know it, you’ll be faced with taxes, debt, and more long-lasting consequences. This is not to scare you, of course, but to motivate you to fully enjoy your years and not spend them wishing to be older. Good luck!