17 Things I Learned While Being 17

My 18th birthday is in THREE DAYS! This year has been a whirlwind, with so much happening and so many things being planned, and 18 is looking to be quite the amazing age. But before I look too far ahead, I thought it would be nice to look back at 17 and find some of the things I learned. 

1. I don't have to be good at Chemistry. 

I really wish I had realized this at the beginning of my Junior year, but I didn't. I can't tell you how many times I walked out of the Chemistry lab and thought I was the stupidest person in the world because I couldn't understand or remember anything I had just been taught. The thing is, I didn't have to be good at Chemistry. I passed the class, and that is what matters. I am good at many other things, and Chemistry doesn't need to be one of them. This applies to so many other things. I don't have to pass my written DMV test the first time (or the second), I don't have to read every book everyone else is reading, and I don't have to good at the same things as everyone else. I am my own person, and I don't have to be good at everything. 

2. Send your writing places. 

Seriously. Because this (7:22) was pretty cool. 

3. The people I met in the past year are in my life for a reason.

For some, I don't know the reason, but for others, I can pinpoint exactly when I realized the reason they had been placed in my life and I had been placed in theirs. I am so incredibly thankful for everyone that is in my life, and I am especially grateful for the people I have met in the past year who have changed my life for the better. 

4. Don't be afraid to leave a plan behind (i.e. cut your hair)

Remember back in February when I cut 7 inches off my hair? I am very happy I did that because it allowed me to prove to myself that I can steer away from a plan if I want and are able to. I'm growing my hair out again because I do want to eventually donate it, but I'm glad I cut it eight months ago. 

5. Go to basketball games, banquets, vespers, and other events.

PARTICIPATE IN THINGS!! Some of my favorite memories of this year happened at events I was hesitant about going to, and I am so happy I ended up going. However, I also learned that when I'm emotionally exhausted from an especially long week, it's okay to say no when I'm asked to go to a Saturday night basketball game. Sometimes going to an event when I'm already feeling uneasy and anxious can make those uncomfortable feelings worse, and I'm glad I've learned to notice when that may be the case. 

6. Be okay with months of not creating anything.

It took me a long time to get back into songwriting (I didn't write one from September 2016 to April 2017), but once I did it felt great. One of the most important things that I learned this year was that creative droughts are not bad, in fact they can be used to recharge my creative energy by soaking up other people's creativity. I used to beat myself up if I didn't finish a certain number of projects in a month, and I'm glad I've learned that that is not the best way to go about things. 

7. I can be so open minded that I become closed minded. 

This was a tough one. As you well know by now, I have a tendency to be very opinionated and quick to say what I think. This year I have been exposed to different ways of thinking, and some of the people I have met have become incredibly good friends that I can talk to about our differences and we can still leave the conversation feeling respected. However, this year I have also had the opposite experience where I have met some people I strongly disagree with and it has been really hard to remain calm in those situations. But I'm still learning, and that's okay. 

8. Communication, communication, communication...

Seriously. If you have something you need or want to talk about, talk about it. Also, "better late than never" doesn't always work, so talking sooner than later is always best. 

9. Your feelings are justified simply because you're feeling them.

Even if you end up being wrong (and don't realize you were wrong until five months later), it's okay to feel whatever you needed to feel. Asking for help doesn't make you weak, but in fact makes you stronger. Crying doesn't mean you can't control your emotions, it simply means you're human. Feelings are hard to navigate, but whether they are good or bad they are always okay to have. 

10. There are people who will do bad things. 

I am of the mindset that people are inherently good, and I will always believe that. However, I have had to learn this year that some people are going to do bad things. Some people will break your trust, treat the people you love with utter horror, and turn out to be different than you thought. But there are also good people. There are people who will lift you up when you are down, and there are people who will be there when you need them. Those people will always be there. 

11. Don't leave it, change it.

But if you've tried your best and it simply cannot be changed for whatever reason, walk away knowing that you tried your best. (Just to be clear, I'm not applying this to relationships. There are some relationships that simply cannot be fixed and it's always best to leave them.)

12. Where people are in their own lives will affect how big a part they can play in your life.

A hard lesson to learn, but definitely one of the most important. 

13. Be adventurous.

In July I visited Seattle and stayed with one of my Mom's friends from college. I hadn't really thought about it until my first night there, but I had never actually met her before staying with her. Even so, those few days turned out to be some of the most important and amazing of my entire year. 

14. I'm not an outdoors-y kind of person, and that's okay.

I don't like bugs. I don't like seven mile hikes up steep hills. I don't like being out of cell service for more than a day. But I do like sleeping under the stars. I do like waking up in a sleeping bag and feeling a cool breeze. I do like smaller hikes with my friends and family. I've talked about this a LOT lately, but if Senior Survival taught me one thing, it was to be okay with not liking things. 

15. Your mentality and your priorities will change.

Last year, I was convinced I'd learned everything I was supposed to learn while in high school. It's only the beginning of the second quarter, and I've learned so many things about myself, the people I love, and life in general, so obviously I was wrong. Different things are important to me now, and the things that mattered SO MUCH last year now seem almost trivial, but in a good way. Growing up is scary, but parts of it are okay. 

16. Live in the questions, instead of spending all your time looking for the answers.

To be honest, I'm still working on this one. But this quote from Letters to a Young Poet is helping: "You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can... to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to the love the questions themselves like locked rooms and books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then, gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant say into the answer." (Letter 4)

17. Surround yourself with creativity.

In September of this year, I went to my first poetry slam. I spent the next few days happier than I've been in a while simply because I was surrounded by creativity and smart, insightful people for about three hours. I loved every second of it, and it just reinforced how much I want to live a creative life, with creative people, doing creative things. It also taught me that in order to do that, I need to surround myself with creativity more. 

_________

Sixteen was a year where I was going up and up, and then crashed down before slowly starting back up. Seventeen, on the other hand, was far more balanced. It was a roller coster that went up, and then down, and then started over. Even so, I wouldn't trade the bad things for anything. After all, those moments are what gave me these seventeen lessons. Eighteen is looking to be a wonderful, busy, spectacular year filled with so many good things, and I'm very excited. To seventeen, I'm not sure if I'll miss you. You were the kind of year I needed, but not necessarily the one I wanted. Still, thank you. Thank you for the good things, and also for the bad things. Although I'm happy to leave you behind, I believe I will still look back on you fondly. 

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