1. You’re not going to be a professional athlete. There are so few of us that have the talent, resources and support necessary to become professional in any sport. I spent hours and hours working at becoming the best soccer player I could be. I was convinced that soccer was my ticked to free or reduced college tuition. Eventually there were some scholarship offers, but they were very limited. It was part of my tuition, or only one semester, etc. When it came down to it I had to use a lot of my own money to pay for school, and a lot of the academic scholarships I was able to earn. I put tremendous pressure on myself in my sport and it turns out the main purpose of youth sports was for making friends and staying in shape, not paying for college.
2. You will not marry him. I took my high school dating relationships far too seriously. It seemed to me that having a long-term boyfriend was some kind of sign that I was worthy. I dropped friends for him, ignored morals for him, changed hobbies for him, etc. It is extremely uncommon to marry your high school sweetheart. Though you’ve heard it before, really and truly, just have fun and don’t take the opposite sex too seriously yet.
3. Get more sleep. It was so normal to practice sports until dinner, eat, and then do homework until midnight. Sleep was considered a low priority. It’s not surprising then that sometimes immunity was low and exhaustion was high. I now understand that a full night of sleep has more to do with happiness and productivity than almost any other factor.
4. You look how you look. Yes, it is a good thing to groom, keep up with styles to some extent, and care about physical appearance. However, in many high school age teens it goes way too far. Teenagers (I was one of them) are overly self-conscious about their skin and their weight. Unless it’s recommended by your pediatrician, don’t start dieting and trying to be thinner. Don’t let yourself believe the world is coming to an end because you have a zit. These things happen to everyone in the school. If you look at the adolescents who have a lot of friends, they all have their flaws. It truly is what’s on the inside that counts.
5. The most prestigious college isn’t necessarily the best college for you. Like so many, I was caught up in the belief that I had to be accepted to the best school possible. If I fell short of one of the top universities then I would be forever at a disadvantage. What a bunch of crap! The best college is the one that is the best fit for each individual student’s life and personality. That varies tremendously based on finances, personal circumstances, preferences and academic ability. Harvard (even if I had been accepted) would have been a horrible school for me because it is too far from my family. Seeing my family a few times per month is essential to my mental health and quality of life. If I’d moved to Boston for college I would’ve wilted. It is better to spend your time attending to all the facets of life (physical, emotional, spiritual, familial, etc.) than just your academic future. Otherwise, you might end up like I did. I was Miss AP class, straight-A student. However, I missed out on a lot of personal growing opportunities and a lot of fun because I was doing homework. In hindsight the brand name of the university has had absolutely nothing to do with my professional success. With rare exceptions, this is true for you too.
At the end of the day, what is most important is that you responsibly enjoy your time while attending to your growth as a person in all areas of life. Work hard in school, but even this can be taken too far.
Helping teens grow and families improve connection,
Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT