What I’d Tell My 16 Year Old Self

I am pretty happy with how my life is right now. There are absolutely things I’d like to change (like the fact I cry about everything, and didn’t pursue playing guitar), but overall, I’m happy with where I am. So while I’m okay with where I ended up, this is some advice I could have used, and could hopefully end up helping someone else:

Photo 230

ft. a picture of 16 year old me with my love as a baby

  • School isn’t as important as you think it is. I was an overachiever at school. I wanted top grades, and I worked hard for them. I was super proud of my grades once I got them, but that feeling fizzled away within a couple of hours. I put myself through way too much stress for too little reward. In NZ at least, you don’t need top grades in every class to have a good future.
  • Get a job. Technically I did have a job during high school, but it offered minimal time commitment and money. Considering how much free time I had, I could have handled working more than 4 hours a week. It would’ve been great to get a head-start on saving money – maybe then I could have afforded to buy a Ravenclaw jumper at the Harry Potter studios
  • Take a year off once you finish high school. At least. Considering how expensive tertiary education is, I suggest waiting until you actually know what you want to do. I was lucky enough to find subjects I loved at uni, but that was essentially a complete accident*. Not to mention that getting experience in the real world is invaluable. Get a job, learn how to save (and spend!) money, see what it’s like to look after yourself. I went to uni straight from high school, and while I don’t necessarily regret it, I think I could have given myself a break before leaping into tertiary study.
  • Don’t think university is the only option. It’s not. All the people I know who didn’t do the uni thing now boast either very impressive savings accounts or own houses. Obviously money shouldn’t be your sole motivator, but do keep in mind that getting your Bachelors isn’t the only way to earn a living. Plus student loans take a long time to pay off.
  • It’s really not a big deal if you’re not dating anyone. I spent way too long thinking there was something wrong with me because I spent much of my youth single. Way more people than you think spent their teenage years without a significant other. Plenty of people don’t start dating til they’re well into their 20s (or even later!) and it’s not because there’s something wrong with them. I feel like relationships are really down to chance** and timing. And while every relationship (romantic or otherwise) teaches you something, it’s no big deal if you didn’t get to experience a tumultuous 3 month relationship with that guy from that party and you were sure he liked you but then inexplicably stopped replying to your texts. On a related note…
  • If they don’t text back, move on. If they can’t muster the effort to reply to you, they aren’t worth your time.
  • Take more photos. When my 21st birthday rolled around, I wanted to have a photo-board showing different parts of my life, but I noticed that there were basically no pictures from ages 14-18. I wish I could have had a reminder of where I was at during that time, even just so I could laugh at my eyebrows and experience that weird feeling I get when I see myself with my natural hair colour.
  • Chill out with your weirdly strong opinions about irrelevant things. Your extreme music snobbery will embarrass you one day. Not drinking alcohol doesn’t make you anything except sober. Being good at spelling doesn’t mean you’re super smart, it just means you had access to education.
  • Cherish your passions – even if they aren’t “sensible”. I know so many people who had a burning passion for something during high school, only to abandon it in favour of focusing on something more “sensible”. You don’t have to go on to be a professional artist, but if you love drawing, you should keep drawing. My initial choice to study law was built on the idea that “it’s not what I’m interested in, but it’ll probably get me a good job”. And I was utterly miserable. Sure, a lot of the ~real world~ is built around being ~sensible, but the real world is made up of artists, musicians, and dreamers too. Who says you can’t be one of them?

*I needed to pick up an extra class after I quit studying law and I thought LING101 sounded okay. Fast-forward four years – I now have a degree in Linguistics.
**fun fact: I briefly met Lox one night in 2013, and again when I returned from exchange in mid-2014. Several months into our relationship, we recounted things we did in the past and realised we had almost met so many times. I’m beyond thankful we met when we did, after we’d both had a chance to grow up and have our own adventures first. If I’d actually met him at that gig in 2010, I doubt we’d be together now.

It’s not the end of the world

IMG_7317Sometimes my head gets too full and I find myself mentally falling into a hole that I don’t know how to escape from. Negative thoughts will start swirling around my head and I’ll panic, thinking for sure that there is no way I can deal with all of my problems. When I fall into one these stress-spirals, it’s hard for me to think straight. Everything seems huge and everything seems terrible. Sometimes the only thing that can get me out of it is to sleep it off. Usually peace comes with the sunrise, but it’s not exactly a quick fix or something that actually solves the problem in the first place. After experiencing a couple of those episodes recently, I’ve realised that the most useful thing I can do for myself in those situations is to breathe deeply and tell myself over and over again – it’s not the end of the world.

Years ago, I remember my mother saying those words when I was distraught over something that seemed huge at the time. It didn’t change the fact that I was upset or that I had to deal with whatever consequences ensued. But it gave me the reminder that I could cope with whatever happened. Because even though losing a friend or failing a test or getting rejected hurts, it’s not the end of the world. My problems aren’t inconsequential or irrelevant, but they aren’t so powerful as to ruin everything that exists. It may seem obvious, but when I’m in that negative place it’s hard to see anything else. This mantra helps me put things into perspective and talk myself down. And I hope next time a stress-spiral attacks me, I can starve it of its power with those words.

Unless you’re performing risky experiments that could potentially start the inevitable zombie apocalypse – relax. It’ll be okay. It’s not the end of the world.

Things to remember

  • It’s called your comfort zone for a reason: it’s safe and cozy and predictable. Few good stories come from sitting comfortably. Do more things that scare you.
  • Write more. Even if it’s bad. Especially if it’s bad. Get the bad out of your system to make way for something good.
  • Ice cream is never wrong.
  • People who make fun of you for your food choices are not people you want to spend time with.
  • Spend more time on your hobbies. If you don’t have any hobbies, find some.
  • You don’t need to justify things you like to anyone. Consume movies, music, books, food that you actually enjoy, regardless of anyone else’s opinion. After all, you’re the one who has to live with it.
  • Wish on 11:11, search for shooting stars, hold your breath in tunnels. There is power in knowing what you want.

How to survive school stress

I have been in educational institutions for a straight 16 years now and I’ve definitely had my fair share of crazy stress*, but I’m surviving okay! So I’m passing on my bountiful wisdom to you because I love you all and wish you serenity:

  • Have a playlist of calming songs to listen to when you’re studying/stressing out, like this one. Pretty much all the advice I give has something to do with music, but that’s because music makes literally everything better**.
  • To-do lists. I have entire notebooks dedicated to my to-do lists and I live my life through those lists.
  • Reward yourself. When studying, I read one section and then, for example, watch a few youtube videos. If you spend all your time purely studying, you will lose it.
  • If you’ve hit the study-brick-wall, just stop. You won’t take anything in at this stage and would be better off sleeping or eating.
  • Have a standing event with friends. If every week you have something to look forward to, like a lunch date or movie night, it helps keep your insanity in check. And along those lines –
  • Make Mondays enjoyable. Every Monday I buy myself a coffee from the nicer, more expensive coffee shop on campus. My caffeine addiction is so strong that the thought of it really helps get me through the morning, and the caffeine itself gets me through the rest of the day. Having something to look forward to on an otherwise crappy day makes it bearable.
  • Sleep is your friend. All nighters just make you miserable and incoherent. Try to limit them.
  • Remember: it doesn’t matter. This may seem slightly contradictory to everything ever, but it’s true. If you do badly, if you fail, if you don’t finish – the world will continue turning. If you do well, awesome! If you don’t, learn your lesson and move on to the next thing. And if you don’t learn your lesson, that’s okay too, coz you’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn it again.

*read: middle-of-the-night hysterical sobbing at assignments that refuse to complete themselves.
**seriously, name one thing that good music does not improve.

How to not suck at being an ex

Technically, I am still a teenager while also technically being an adult. I would have thought that the adult part was getting stronger everyday but clearly not in a lot of my peers. It almost hurts to look at how some people act when their relationships end*. This is my take on how to not be an asshole when your affair is over**.

  • Don’t talk to your ex at all unless it’s necessary or until you’ve been broken up long enough that all romantic feelings are long dead.
  • Harassing your ex with crude or explicit text messages is never a good idea. It’s annoying, immature and can be considered cyber-bullying, so just don’t. Write an angry letter and burn it instead.
  • Delete your ex’s number so you’re not tempted to do something stupid, like drunkenly call them to tell them you still love them/never loved them/hate them/they ruined your life/they are your life.
  • Don’t claim to still be “in love” with someone you dated six months ago for two weeks. I assure you it’s not love; it’s obsession. And it’s creepy as hell.
  • Don’t add your ex’s new partner as a Facebook friend. That’s just weird.
  • On the topic of Facebook, change your profile picture to one that doesn’t have your ex in it. Seriously, I have seen someone who just got broken up with change their display picture to one of him and his ex. No. Don’t.
  • If you see your ex, don’t act like a crazy person. If you ignore them or stay to chat for too long, it’s awkward. Acknowledge their presence and move on.
  • Moving on is the best thing you can do for yourself. Even if you’re still angry and hurt. Living well is the best revenge, and all that motivational jazz.

*I should point out that I’m not perfect either. It’s just much more fun talking about other people’s shortcomings rather than my own.
**Another thing I should point out – I’m talking about those teenage relationships that didn’t mean much and weren’t long term. Clearly this is not meant for people with more serious relationship problems.

(By the way, hey wordpress! It’s been awhile, I missed you <3)

Ways to feel better when everything sucks

  • Put on loud, questionable music and dance like a crazy person. I recommend your guilty pleasure songs (hello “Beating Heart Baby”, “Welcome to the Black Parade” and “I Write Sins Not Tragedies”).
  • If you play an instrument, get it out and play everything you know how to. Loudly.
  • If playing an instrument isn’t your thing, sing said guilty pleasure songs. Loudly.
  • Seriously, loud music solves most problems.
  • If you have to be quiet, put headphones on and lip sync. “Hall Of Fame” is amazing for this.
  • Listen to these happy songs
  • Talk to people you actually like.
  • Indulge in something you don’t often give yourself time for.
  • Writing is very therapeutic, even if you’re terrible.
  • Clean your room. Or any room. Or just a space. Anything manageable that then makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something.
  • Write a manageable to-do list, with things like: “Have shower | Wash hair | Get dressed.” Little tasks are less overwhelming.
  • Have a hot shower.
  • Make a cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate/indulgent hot drink.
  • Do nothing for a while. The world won’t end if you take a time out. Sometimes all you need to calm your head is just to stop and breathe.

How to have a positive concert experience

I love seeing live music more than almost anything. However, concerts can totally suck if you don’t play them right. These are some things I’ve picked up from thus-far concert experiences:

  • Listen to the artist’s newest album first. It doesn’t have to be an extensive listen, just enough so that you’ll recognise the songs. The thing all my favourite concerts* have had in common is that I knew every song they played. Great musicianship is important, but knowing the songs will make it so much better.
  • Bring earplugs. It doesn’t affect the way the music sounds at all; it just takes the ‘bang’ out of it and means you won’t leave with your ears ringing. People make fun of me for wearing earplugs, but I’m the happy one at the end of the night when my ears feel fabulous and their ears hurt like a mofo.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Concerts make me feel torn because I love live music, but I also love sitting still and not moving. The transition to standing for several hours is made easier by wearing shoes that don’t suck the life force from your soles.
  • If you want to be at the front, arrive way before gates open. Don’t be the wanker who arrives late and pushes their way to the front.
  • If you do arrive late, don’t be that pushy wanker. If you see a space open up around you, by all means, take it, but pushing through people to get closer to the stage is a douchebag move. Is it really worth being a few metres closer to the band when you know that everyone around you hates you?
  • If that pushy wanker is jostling you, stand your ground. I channel my days as a netballer playing GD and shove them right back**. If they are going to try steal your place, don’t make it comfortable for them. You earned your place in the crowd. Don’t let them take it from you.
  • Don’t take the last point too seriously. If someone has managed to squeeze in front of you and there’s nothing you can do, move on and focus on the show.
  • Take one photo of the band. JUST ONE. Concerts are an amazing experience, but you actually have to EXPERIENCE them. Take one picture so you have a physical memento and then…
  • Spend the concert actually engaging and enjoying the music.

Anything I missed? Let me know!

*In case you’re interested, my favourite concerts have been: The Horrors (both times I saw them), Mumford & Sons, Gotye and Bon Iver.
**Whoever said netball is a non-contact sport was a filthy liar.