8 (Out Of Many) Things I’ve Learned By Age 17


1. You have to put in effort for friends

I was always adamant that if a relationship was meant to be, it would just work naturally, friendships included. It shouldn’t be hard and you definitely should have to put effort into it.

I have since learned that I was 100%, completely and utterly wrong. In order to have long sustaining, rich friendships you need to put time and effort into conversations, checking in and plans.

Go make friends with the people you want to be friends with. Don’t just wait around for someone who is tolerable in a warm-soft-drink kind of way to come up to you. Say hi to that person who is having an interesting debate about the state of international politics.

2. No matter how much money you spend, the relationship won’t change

When I was younger there was a time when my family didn’t have a lot of money. There was a place near our house that you could go where you paid $30 for a box full of unwanted groceries. Sometimes the food would be outdated and you would have to throw it away. When I was about eight, I was invited to my best friend’s birthday party. My mom told me that we did not have the money to buy a present so ten year old me wrapped a hand-made bracelet in a small crocheted blanket that I had worked months on. I distinctly remember the embarrassment I felt that I couldn’t afford something better. When I gave my friend the present she was thankful – she acted as she always had and I had a great weekend.

Flash forward to now me. I spend a large portion of my hard earned money on those who are closest to me and still my younger siblings are lazy assholes who will complain when I ask them to help me (I love them to bits, I swear).

3. Alone and lonely are not synonymous

This year has been one of the most important of my life in that it is my first year out of school. You know how when you leave school/college/university and all your friends who were your friends simply due to being in the same space for 1 hour, three times a week have suddenly…. disappear? I’m pretty sure that happens to everyone. However, despite being a person who generally spent a lot of time alone, I spend even more time alone now and honestly, I couldn’t be happier. My once frequent panic attacks have almost disappeared and I get very little anxiety. I am comfortable with my aloneness and more comfortable with myself.

When I found myself in a space with all of the people with whom I attended school only a couple days ago, I found myself lonelier than I had felt all year. That loneliness stuck around for a while as I compared the number of friends I had with everyone else who was there. Alone and lonely are not the same.

4. The ‘big moments’ that you wait years for are usually underwhelming

The reason I was in a place with all of the people with whom I attended school was because my friend invited me to attend her graduation. Afterwards I had the chance to reflect on the momentous events in your life including graduating high school. Basically you wait for graduation through twelve years of schooling and when the time comes it can be a bit of a let down. While I sat there in the sweltering heat of parents, friends and sibling I thought, ‘twelve years had culminate to a ceremony that was nauseating, sweltering and overall mind-numbing. Could your speeches be any cheesier?’

Those moments like graduation, having sex for the first time or your first job are overrated. I can relate this to the first time I saw The Breakfast Club. As a well-love classic, I was excited to finally experience a movie that defined a generation. I had expected this moving to challenge my very understanding of teenagers. But my expectations fell short. I found the movie to be uneventful and bland. Bring on the hate.

5. You don’t expect the real big moments

Whether it as sudden as death or as slow as falling in love you don’t really plan for the big moments. Even then, you may not know they’re your big moments until they’ve already happened, day or months or years after.

6. A healthy relationship isn’t built upon someone saving the other

We are in an age of the romanticisation and glorification of mental illness especially among teenagers. Nothing sounds more romantic than a troubled, self-harming girl riddled with anxiety and depression to be saved by a young boy. The boy can see through her mask and spends all of his time nursing her back to health

This is not how life works. This is not how mental illness works.

It’s something that I am still working on. I can’t depend on a knight coming and saving me from bouts of anxiety or depression. It’s up to me with the support of many people around me.

7. Social interaction between adults is much stranger and complicated than between us rebellious youngins

This year I had my first real job. I feel so lucky to have a job that I absolutely love. Now I spend more time around adults I have the opportunity to examine their peculiar behaviour for example, the use of carefully crafted sentences and strained politeness rather than open communication. This seems to be equally used in business and personal settings.

8. I probably won’t be famous for changing the world, and that’s okay

I probably won’t save the world from poverty and my name probably won’t be written in history books alongside my favourite heroes, and that’s okay.

The most amazing leaders of human history are people who have risen to power because of a need. Nelson Mandela, Aung San Suu K, Gandhi. These are not people who aimed to rise to greatness but are people who stepped up when there was a need.

Malala Yousafzai, who recently became the youngest person to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, is one of the few role models I have to. She was thrust into her position due to unfortunate circumstance. Though I aspire to be like her I am lucky that I, unlike many young girls around the world, are not denied my fundamental human rights.