20 Things I Have Learned in My Last Year of Being a Teenager

One year ago, on my 19th birthday, I made a post listing the 19 things I had learned in my first year of being an adult. I wanted to do it again, so this year, I posted 20 things I have learned in my second year of being an adult, or my last year of being a teenager. I have included personal experiences in each post.

1. Family members are the most important people in life and you should do all that you can to defend their honor and build them up, encourage them, and make them feel loved at all times.

I have had some really hard times with family members in the past couple of years, and I’m sad to say that a lot of the conflict was because of my own stubbornness or being unforgiving. After going through one of the hardest things in my life, which happened to be a breakup, I realized just how much my family cares for me and loves me. Also, I realized I have said some hurtful things to or about family that did not build them up or encourage them, and that is the opposite of what a good sister, daughter, niece, and granddaughter should do. This is my big “I love you” and “I’m sorry” to my family, who has supported me through thick and thin and has been my solid foundation for my entire life.

2. Never keep a secret for someone, especially when that secret involves an action that hurt you deeply. If something happens to you that is not okay, tell someone. Seek help.

I know what you’re thinking- and no, I am not a victim of sexual assault. I have been, however, the victim of manipulative people who want to protect themselves at all costs. I have been cheated on, lied to, and told my feelings and emotions and struggles were not important. I have been told my depression is not real and that I could not possibly be experiencing it because I had a “good life”.

Once I finally let go of this situation, the secret came out, and I realized I was putting myself through unnecessary torture. People encouraged me and fought by my side, and I learned that keeping a secret about someone abusing you is NOT OKAY.

3. Back up all pictures, videos, and media that you deem valuable. Do it often, and keep them safe. Memories are so valuable, and pictures are such a wonderful way of documenting those memories for later reflection and nostalgia.

Recently, my phone stopped working. I promptly brought it to a Verizon store and had a friend try doing a factory reset, only to find out the actual problem was the battery and I had lost all my pictures for no reason. I learned that day to stick to my guns- I had a suspicion that the battery was the issue, and I learned that pictures are precious, valuable, and priceless, and I NEED to back up all my devices 100%. Verizon Cloud kept some pictures, but they were pictures that I had DELETED from my phone and did not want. Technology is great, but it is not completely reliable and you have got to be responsible and protect your pictures or you will regret it.

4. Ladies, have the highest standards. The minute you feel like you’re settling, get out of the relationship. There are at least 5 men out there who you would go with perfectly; don’t settle with someone else’s idea of perfect, because you will NOT be happy.

I learned not to stay with someone solely for the reason that I am in love with them. If you don’t click with someone, stop trying to make it work. Relationships take work and effort, but they do not make you feel exhausted and spent and done with life. They are not meant to make you feel like crap, they are meant to edify you and build you up and make you happy. Do not settle for someone who makes you any less than happy, and do not be someone that another person settles for. Be equal in your relationships. If you are in a healthy relationship, you will make each other better, not worse. Be mindful of that.

5. Forgiveness benefits you more than the person who committed the crime. Practice forgiveness, no matter how horrible the transgression. Forgive, but DON’T let people take advantage of your forgiveness, and do not spend your time around toxic people. Forgiving someone does not give them license to treat you like garbage.

Recently I made the mistake of forgiving someone and not leaving the situation. I thought total forgiveness was forgiving AND forgetting. I believe you are worse off if you forget. History repeats itself that way.  Remember the experiences that have caused you heartache or pain, but do not dwell on them and let them control you or your present happiness in any way. As Rafiki the monkey says in Lion King, “It doesn’t mattah, it’s in da past!”

6. Never envy someone for having something you do not have. Chances are, you have something they don’t have. Admire people for their differences, instead of distancing yourself from others because you are worried they are better or more well liked than you.

This is more of a general statement than a specific experience. Girls especially, if we just stopped judging one another and scrutinizing every other woman’s body and behavior, we might be able to have really close, awesome friendships with those women. Girls are supposed to support each other, not turn on one another because she has better hair or a perfect-looking family or relationship.

7. Do not give someone life advice unless they ask for it. If they do ask for it, be sure to disclaim your advice by saying they have to make their own decisions and this is simply your personal opinion.

My beautiful, wonderful friend just made an incredible life decision, ON HER OWN! She asked for help and for encouragement, but my advice did not get her where she is. This “life-advice” thing is more geared towards people who have seen fit to give me life advice when I did not want it (I am quite independent). It has caused many of my friendships to be strained or even ruined, and it was as simple as them letting me figure things out on my own. It goes both ways, too. I have given advice when it was not needed or wanted, and it has caused issues. Basically, don’t tell people what they want to hear, but ONLY speak when they ask you to or if they’re in a dangerous position. Be smart and tactful.

8. Trust yourself. Trust your gut feelings. You know yourself better than anyone else on this planet.

Oh if I had a nickel for every time I felt off about something and did not do anything about it. There are always consequences for not trusting yourself. It can be as small as “Don’t purchase those shoes Elise, they don’t fit you comfortably” or “I don’t want to get a teaching certificate.” Either way, trust what you feel is right, and if it turns out to be wrong, you still have plenty of time to learn from it and try something else.

9. STOP being scared! If you have an opportunity to change something you are not happy with, GO FOR IT! If you want to do something but you’re scared of what people will think, that is the BEST reason to do it. You will realize that people’s opinions come in second after your own happiness.

I am moving to Boston. I am getting an English degree instead of an Engineering degree. I am finishing school early and I am going to pursue what I want to do and I do not care about what anyone thinks about it. If I want to wear overalls, I am going to wear overalls, regardless of how many people look at me funny. Not everything I say or do is 100% acceptable to everyone else, but that’s why I am ME and nobody else gets to be Elise Katherine Freeland.

10. Call people out on their BS. If you see something that’s not right, say something. It doesn’t matter if people decide to change based on you calling them out, you should feel comfortable speaking up if someone is being a jerk. Who knows, it may turn out to be a great learning experience for both people.

Recently, a friend said something that was super condescending and inappropriate. I called her out on it, and she explained herself. No harm, no foul. Now she knows my stance on the topic and might be a little more careful with repeating that same thing in the future. If she doesn’t, that’s okay. At least I am not stewing over it and not doing anything about it.

11. Do everything you can to make it to big events like weddings and birthdays. People may not remember if you do make it, but they certainly will remember if you don’t make it.

I have been to 3 weddings in the past year, and there were a few birthdays and things I made it to, but I definitely have missed some important occasions in the past, and I know I am much better off going to a wedding or birthday party and facing social anxiety rather than staying at home and regretting my decision to not go.

12. Cherish your pets, and take good care of them. They are loyal creatures and you never know when they will pass.

My baby boy, Sweet Pea, died about a month ago. My heart was broken, because he was the most loyal, loving dog in the whole world. Unfortunately, towards the end we were a little more negligent of him, because he smelled like poop all the time and wasn’t very playful. I loved that dog a whole lot, and I wish I could’ve been better to him near the end of his little Yorkie life. Lesson learned for the next pet, though. RIP Sweet Pea! ❤

13. Never say never. Don’t limit yourself by saying “I’ll never be this” or “I’ll never do that” or “That’s impossible”. Be willing to try new things, willing to strive for more, willing to fail- failure is a huge step on the road to success, and you ‘never’ know what you’re going to love in the future!

I used to say I would never like alcohol, but I tried some wine that I enjoyed a couple weeks ago! Also, I have hated seafood my whole life, but I recently tried fried calamari and can now say that I am a fan. Don’t rule things out, guys. If you do that with little things, you’ll do it with big things like jobs or school. I have been telling myself, “I’ll never get a freelance writing job”, but I don’t know that for sure. If I am not positive about it and if I do not keep an open mind, I will never know!

14. To those of you who struggle with anxiety and panic disorder like I do, do NOT blame yourself. These are illnesses that can be dealt with or coped with. Seek help, and find a trustworthy friend to talk to, sometimes getting to know the root of the problem or the cause of the attack is enough to give you peace and help you work through it. Sometimes there is no reason for panic, and that is part of panic disorder. YOU are not the reason for your panic or anxiety. Do not let people tell you it’s all in your head; it is a real affliction that many people deal with.

I never shared with my Dad that I have anxiety attacks until about 2 months ago when I started crying for no reason at the breakfast table in Hawaii. He asked me what was wrong, and I shared with him that I had anxiety. He told me he started having panic attacks in high school, and even would pass out because of his fear of “impending doom” that anxiety and panic attacks cause. I told him that I have experienced really similar things, and now I know that something I have dealt with my whole life is not my fault- it is an illness that I have to struggle through and fight every single day. I never thought my dad would have understood or had similar feelings, but now we can connect and I can talk to him about it when I am feeling a panic attack or anxiety attack coming on. Also, my sweet, wonderful boyfriend is very supportive and always is there to help calm me or soothe my worries during a panic attack. I am surrounded by awesome people who do not tell me my problems are “all in my head”.

15. Write reviews, write emails, call people, do SOMETHING about good or bad customer service. Best case scenario, you receive GREAT customer service, and you leave an awesome review. Worst case scenario, you receive horrible customer service. In the worst case, usually if you contact someone higher up in the company, they are more than eager to make amends. Don’t be afraid to say something, if you are paying money for something, you shouldn’t leave feeling mistreated. I think it goes without saying, but be as POLITE as you can be to customer service professionals- sometimes this means the difference between good and bad service.

As a customer service employee, it is difficult to see that people only leave comments when they have complaints. Instead of only complaining, find ways to appreciate people who work everyday as a customer service worker, because they deal with a lot of verbal abuse and their work is thankless. If you receive excellent customer service, spread the word. Tell your friends, at the very least. Treating customer service people well is a must, though- treat people how you want to be treated, right?

16. Get your finances in order while you’re young. It will benefit you greatly in the future and give you maturity and responsibility that will help you be disciplined in other aspects of life. (still definitely working on this one)

Money is the single most stressful thing that people have to deal with, in my honest opinion. I believe that every young person needs to be prepared with a budget, a plan for repaying student loans, and a strong motivation to avoid accruing piles of debt. This is the hardest thing to do, but it is soooo worth it in the long run!

17. COMMUNICATION is literally the foundation of every relationship. Everything depends on it. Be honest, be open, be vulnerable with the people you love. Tell them things you’re thinking (if appropriate); from the smallest little concerns to the really big things. Be honest, and be willing to discuss things and agree on a solution or a compromise. Your relationship will be greatly enriched by solid communication.

I am in a relationship where the communication is close to perfect. We tell each other everything that we are thinking, obviously in the realm of thoughts that are beneficial to share and work through, even if it is tough. We share fears, struggles, bad dreams, thoughts about the future, questions, doubts… literally everything that couples should work through together, especially in the baby stages of your relationship before you start making binding commitments to each other.

18. Reconnect with old friends. Forget past differences. You were friends at some point for a reason, why not be friends now if you have the opportunity? If you miss someone from your past who is not an unhealthy person for you to be around, contact them and have lunch or share one of your favorite pastimes!

I recently reconnected with my friend from middle school Kylie and I am so grateful for that opportunity and the hope of renewed friendship! I am also hoping to reconnect with another friend who I unintentionally hurt in the past.. and I am so excited to rekindle old friendships that broke apart or faded away.

19. Treat yourself. Don’t feel guilty about spending some money on yourself once in awhile. Get a pedicure, buy that new video game. Be smart about how you treat yourself, but do not be so uptight that you feel bad about getting yourself something nice.

Treat yoself! Enough said.

20. LOVE fully and unconditionally. Especially the people who treat you awfully. There really is no better response to hate than love. This is something that only the most mature and humble people can accomplish. (difficult!)

This is a recurring theme and the most important thing in life. People will use you, abuse you, kick you when you’re down, hate you, spit on you, and make you feel like you’re insignificant. The LAST thing they are expecting is for you to turn the other cheek, or show them love. Do the unexpected. Take the road less traveled. It will make all the difference!

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