DISCLAIMER- This is going to be preachy (kind of my specialty) and positive, so if you think a 17 year old shouldn’t be giving you life advice, then don’t read?
- Trust your gut.
It’s very hard to follow your instincts when people offer logical arguments as to why you shouldn’t, but at the end of the day you’re the one who has to live with the consequences of your choice, so do what you feel like doing. A lot of people will try to “help” you but if you listen to them and screw up, are you going to blame them forever? The only person you should blame or thank profusely, at the end of the day, is you. Make your own mistakes, learn your own lessons. You might be surprised at how well things turn out.
Not because you look pretty when you do (or so they say), Not because you feel obligated to, or because everyone else is or even because you were told to, by a relative or a friend or even your own mother (because why aren’t you smiling? Is everything okay? Don’t make that face).
Smile because you want to. Because you’re feeling an emotion too powerful to contain and you just have to show it. Smile because it’s contagious and you want the world to feel your joy. Smile because you just feel like it. Because things are looking up, because it’s the weekend because you crush smiled at you.
- Say your thank yous.
I think saying thank you doesn’t require too much effort from your side, but it can make a world of a difference to someone’s day or mood. Especially when they aren’t expecting it or they don’t usually get thanked. Try thanking your cab driver/lift man/ watchman/maid/peons etc if you don’t already, because it feels nice to be appreciated and also it makes them smile (and they have the best smiles). Thank your mom on days that aren’t her birthday or Mother’s Day. Thank her for dumb things, because, why not? If you feel like someone already knows how much you appreciate them, tell them again anyway, just to be sure. As my best friend says, “It’s nobody’s job to make you happy. So when they do, appreciate it.”
- Be a friend.
I know this seems perfectly obvious, but it’s really important. I mean, be a friend in the real sense of the word. Don’t call someone up only when you need them and then ignore them for the rest of the week. Don’t drop a person from your life as per your convenience. Really be there for people, let them know they are free to call you up whenever, for whatever. It sounds awful but we all have moments when we just don’t feel like dealing with someone else’s problems. Fight that feeling, because what’s the point if you aren’t there when someone needs you the most?
- Find time for family.
I am failing so hard at this. I feel like this is something we all know we should do, and in our heads we try to tell ourselves today will be that day, but then work/social media/general laziness happens, and we forget. This applies mainly to people my age- I know scrolling through instagram is very tempting, but maybe call your grandma and ask how her week is going. It’s a 5 minute job for you but she’ll be smiling for the next 5 hours, guaranteed. Make the effort, switch off the tv at meal times, ask your parents about work, tell them about your life before they can ask.
- Don’t dumb yourself down.
Ever. For anyone. And do not apologize for having an opinion. In fact say what you need to say to the people who need to hear it without a trace of fear. And if you’re worried about losing friends then don’t. They’re going to have to take you as you are. I can’t emphasize on this enough, but if you see bigotry or ignorance usually in the form of sexism, homophobia racism etc. you need to call people out on it. Even if the person is your friend. There’s no point having all these amazing opinions in your head if you don’t voice them. Obviously you won’t be able to change certain people, and you will probably get made fun off and there’s a chance people will try and “trigger” you by saying all kinds of nonsense but if you stay consistent eventually people will learn to not mess with you, and if even one person refrains from making a sexist joke because of you, then I think it’s worth it.
- Stay in touch.
Everyone has a group of constant friends who they obviously give a lot of importance to, but you also have a bunch of friends who you made in school or some class, who were a big part of your life at some point but now you barely meet and have just lost touch with. It’s not possible for you to suddenly hang out but there’s no harm in calling occasionally to check up on them. Don’t let people who once meant a lot to you just fade away like that, you never know when you might need each other.
- Read more.
Or travel more. Or do both. It’s the only way to grow, to learn, to expand your horizons and open your mind. If you do neither, at least watch good movies. Please.( As a favour to yourself)
- You don’t always have to be happy.
You are allowed to wallow in self pity sometimes. Don’t tell yourself you have no right to be sad just because nothing major happened to make you feel sad. Don’t tell yourself that kids in Africa are dying of hunger and so you shouldn’t be complaining. Respect your emotions. Succumb to mood swings. Sometimes it helps to sulk about nothing, and if you genuinely have a reason to be upset then don’t refrain from pampering yourself. (I suggest a pity party with ice cream and sad movies)
- You can’t gel with everyone.
It’s just not possible. There are going to be people with opposing views, people who get on your nerves, people who you just can’t understand. You can never be best friends with these people at the very most you can try to see things from their point of view but even then you might never accept the way they think or behave but there’s no reason to judge. Everybody has a right to their own lifestyle and your liking or disliking something makes no difference. Unless they are causing severe damage, just live and let live.
- Remember the good stuff.
Keep writing down the details of an important day or moment in your life. Keep all the cards and letters you get, save the special pictures, and don’t throw away things like your first train ticket, your school id card, the ticket of a special movie, concert passes, friendship bracelets, old diaries etc. Call me strange for thinking about this, but I believe that one day when I’m old and tired, I would want to go through my things and remember the good times and the bad, the milestones, accomplishments, and all the other evidence of a life well-lived.
- If you can’t change it, own it.
Be proud of the things you love. Even if they’re embarrassing or strange or something that nobody else gets. Be your own person. Whether you enjoy golf, or are a theater geek or secretly watch Tarak Mehta, whether you like makeup or rap music or aspire to be a trapeze artist. It doesn’t matter, wear all your hobbies and dreams and aspirations on your sleeve for the world to see, and wear them with pride. Because being passionate about something is nothing to be ashamed of. And be proud of who you are as a person, flaws and all. Yes I drink 4 cups of tea, yes I have horrendous eyebrows, yes I have thunder thighs, yes I dance to Bollywood music in the shower, yes, I eat for 3 people and only shop from the streets. So?
- Whatever it is, you can survive it.
You don’t know how strong you are. When you feel like the worst thing has happened, or something is way too difficult for you, just put one foot in front of the other and don’t look back. You can do extraordinary things. You can pull all-nighters for a week and write an exam. You can look at a plate of fries and not eat one.(IT’S TRUE, I DID IT ONCE!) You can have your heart broken and live to tell the tale. Don’t underestimate yourself.
- Don’t be afraid of change.
Not external change and not internal change. Change is a sign of growth, it means you’re a babbling brook and not a stagnant pond (which tends to attract all kinds of disease causing germs and insects) . Just because you’ve taken a stand or established an opinion doesn’t mean that it gets set in stone. People change, opinions change, priorities change and it’s completely okay. You can like something(or someone) one instant and not, the next. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.
- It’s only embarrassing if you decide it is.
Ever suddenly remembered an awkward conversation from 3 years ago? Or how you fell in public once when you were 10? Well guess what? Nobody else does. It’s just you who thinks it’s such a huge deal. Usually when something embarrassing happens you get so overwhelmed with the urge to hide and forget, that you don’t even bother to assess the damage and 90% of the time, it’s not as bad as you think. Take it from someone who’s had her fair deal of public fiasco’s, the best thing you can do is laugh at yourself and move on. If you cling to the memory it’s gonna bring you pain.
- Company matters.
Surround yourself with people who make you feel comfortable and happy and safe. Don’t hang out with people who only care about you superficially just because those people are “cool” or whatever. It’s not that hard to tell real friends from the fake ones, because the real ones will actually care if you stop talking to them. Your friends should build you up, boost your confidence and bring out the best in you. They should be the people rooting for you and cheering you on, not the people who tear you down and make you doubt yourself.
- Be kind.
It’s nice to be important, but It’s more important to be nice. If the jokes really funny but will hurt someones feelings, don’t make it. If you know somebody’s insecurity, don’t rub it in their face. Smile at strangers, hug your pals more than required, help people out if you can. Be the person you’d want to be friends with.