I had the realisation last week that I am officially an oldie. I commented about ‘those days’ and was mocked because it was, in fact, the good old 90’s! Before social media, before the internet and when you could get your older looking ‘mate’ to buy alcohol because they looked 18! I thought I’d share my experience of 20 things I have learnt in the 20 years since leaving school!
What Have I Learnt since leaving school?
It then dawned on me that it’s been 20 years since I left school. It got me thinking. What exactly have I learnt in my time away from compulsory education? We all think we know ‘shit’ as teenagers. We strut around acting like we know how the world works, like we will have this perfect life while life likes to trip you up! With that in mind, I thought I’d share 20 things I’ve learnt since leaving school!
20. Don’t be in a rush to grow up – remember to enjoy the moments as you never know when they will be the only memories you have left!
19. Things change, people change, and yes, you change – Just because you spent most of your high school education wanting to be a teacher doesn’t mean that you will always want to be a teacher! (I never wanted to be a teacher, just using it as a narrative).
18. Never let your school experience hold you back. We aren’t all lucky enough to be popular or pretty or a straight-A student (I was a C student, if you are interested), but that being said, never let your school experience hold you back from living life, from being who you want to be. High school is five years of your life! That’s five short years in the scheme of the rest of your life!
17. Remember the teachers that inspired you – Teachers are weird creatures, they spend five years trying to educate you, and we often remember the ones that were the angry ones or the difficult ones. Teachers are still humans!
16. You can’t excel at everything (but you can try) – We often spend our school experience competing against others whether it be sport, drama, music, most popular etc. This often extends well into adulthood, and we spend our 20s, and even 30’s believing that we need to compete for everything! That’s a lie; we don’t!
15. Work/Life Balance – Find a job that you enjoy and which makes you excited to get out of bed in the morning! But remember, all work and no play will only bring you down!
14. No one said you have to have it all planned out – We have this mentality that we have to conform to what society tells us, 9-5 job, house, marriage, kids, travel, it is okay not to go plan. It is okay to have all of those things, some of the things and none of those things!
13. Friends – During your school years, you will ultimately have some great friends, some will extend beyond those years, and others will not. That is not to say that the friendship wasn’t worth it, but we grow up, change, and live different lives, and suddenly your best friend since primary school is just a friend on your Facebook page. You will meet so many different people; some will become friends for years; others will come and go. Learn to treasure the ones that stick around!
12. Travel – Don’t put it off; if you want to backpack across Asia, do it! Whether you are 18 or 55, experience everything! Life is short, and we are all terrible at putting things off, saying we will do it ‘one day’, but not everyone gets that ‘one day’.
11. Not everyone will like you – It’s hard when we all want social acceptance, but over the years, I’ve learnt that we aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Sometimes you will meet people who won’t appreciate you, and do you know what, it’s okay.
10. You can’t please everyone, so please yourself – It’s harder now when we watch our lives viewed on Facebook or Instagram or for the very brave YouTube. There will always be people who want to bring you down or make you feel bad. If you enjoy doing it, don’t let others tell you otherwise because, for the one negative comment, there will be a positive.
9. That Night Out is long forgotten, or so it used to be – I’ve been a teenager, I’ve spent many nights out with my friends having a great time, and there is no record of it anywhere, not one photo! However, that drunken night is now available to any future employer, employee or contact who decides to go looking!
8. Social Media is not your friend – I have friends who embrace social media, are early adopters of all platforms, and have friends who don’t even have messenger. A friend of mine had been out on a Sunday night for a few drinks (nothing wrong with that); however, she sat on the train to work, she wrote on Facebook, ‘What a great night, feeling a little hungover this morning, lots of coffee needed!’ She’d been at work 20 minutes when HR and her direct manager called her into the office. She was accused of arriving at work ‘drunk’, she wasn’t drunk, but HR bought up the post. The evidence spoke for itself. Sadly she was used as an example for other employees and was fired after an investigation. At the time, Facebook was new; no one knew how to deal with this new ‘social media’ policy. It was a harsh lesson for her!
7. Never be afraid to say ‘No’ – I’m one of those people who don’t like saying ‘no’. However, in the last few years, I have learned that we shouldn’t be afraid of the word. I was offered the perfect job last summer, it was everything I wanted and more, but my family circumstances made me realise that it just wasn’t ‘right’ at that moment. So I made the painful decision to turn it down. Another opportunity came along months later.
6. Do you need that coffee? – I am going to have to mention money/finances. I am the world’s worst person when it comes to spending, and it’s like it burns a hole in my pocket. I have, however, learnt to be more aware of what I’m spending. I have a couple of apps on my phone. One manages my income and expenditure; the other is a savings app. It has helped me save what I can afford and see what I spend my money on.
5. Office Politics – There will always be’ Office’ politics depending on where you decide to spend your career. It will always be one rule for one and a rule for everyone else. No manager is ever the same, and it doesn’t have to be an office for you to feel on the outside. I told myself daily that ‘it was the money’ that kept me from just walking out there and then!
4. No one ever knows what the hell is going on (It’s a myth) – I’ve been a girlfriend, a wife, a best friend, an employee and a mother, and in all honesty, there is no science to doing any of it right. You get on with it and hope that it makes a difference. So don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day or feel like you are failing because you are not!
3. I’ve learnt to take it as it comes – My life hasn’t exactly turned out the way I pictured my beautiful life at 15. College, university, and a career travelling the world was how I imagined my 20s and early 30s before settling down and having a couple of kids, moving to the country, and relaxing. Instead, I got married at 22, had my 1st kid at 25 and my 2nd at 28, and nothing can prepare you for the special needs child; no planning will make that right. It’s okay to hit a few changes in life; everything happens for a reason.
2. Mental & Physical Health – In this journey, we call life, we often forget to take care of ‘us’ as in ‘you and me’. We spend so much time working, socialising, caring or living that we forget to take time out and ‘self-care’. When was the last time you did something for ‘you’ and either didn’t feel guilty or didn’t rush! Sometimes we need a little time out, so enjoy that walk in the park, enjoy that extra coffee with a friend; it’s good for zen.
1. Lastly, 20 years…a lot can change in 20 years, and at the same time, nothing can change at all. Remember to take time to smell the roses, enjoy the little things and take lots of photos! You never know when those photos will be all you have left!
Has it been a while since you left school? Have you learnt some things you’d like to share? Perhaps you’ve left school recently, and you still don’t know where you want to be? Please click like, share it around and maybe leave a little comment. I know I’d appreciate it! If you are interested, Cosmopolitan magazine ran a similar article back in 2018!
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