Monday, May 23rd, 2016. 12:07 pm. I’ll officially be 18. Legal to vote, buy and consume alcohol, sign for myself, own a credit card and live on my own without parental permission in Australia.
To be honest, that terrifies me.
I’m a child in a teenager’s body, who isn’t ready to face “adulthood”. And while my peers, teachers and others refer to me as mature, I’m far from it. Adulthood seems so terrifying honestly.
But on my last day of being 17, I wanted to reflect on everything being 17 has taught me.
17 was a rollercoaster. Exciting yes, but terrifying nonetheless. I think I learnt the most about myself this year. I made so many discoveries (advanced English would be so proud right now) about myself, my personality, my strengths and my weaknesses. I think 17 was definitely a year of growth, both positive and negative, and I have so much to take away from it. Both in terms of what I can use to my advantage, and what I need to work on throughout the next years of my life.
So here are 17 things I learnt at 17:
- I am a strong, independent young woman who doesn’t need anyone to tell her that:
I value the power of my voice. My sassy attitude. My belief in trust. My faithfulness and dedication to the people I love and trust, my work and my life. And it’s the best thing I’ve learnt about myself.
- Experience as much as you can.
This is important to me. I think over the course of 17, I found out a lot about myself. My love for photography. The fact that I can cook well, my passion for politics, social issues and economics, my adoration for high-end make up. All of this was fostered by me getting myself out there and trying new things.
- If you don’t challenge yourself, are you living to your full potential?
I’ve always loved a good challenge. I never enjoyed easy work. And over being 17, I realised how important this was to me. I think this ties in with my need to have determination and drive in everything I do. Challenge fosters creativity as well.
- Failure doesn’t exist unless you make it exist:
I’ve always been an overachiever, and highly conscious of my performance in academics and other activities I’ve been involved in. my self-consciousness doesn’t do wonders for helping this either. And throughout 2015 in particular, in the midst of HSC, I went through a tough time accepting that I wouldn’t always see the marks I wanted to see. And this lesson only came to me very recently, when I was talking with a friend. And now, looking back on my HSC year, I realised that I imposed the thought of failure on myself when in reality, I was doing pretty damn well.
- Anxiety is a bitch
Having mild anxiety isn’t fun. And it got worse throughout 2015. And now, as stress only increases and there are more things I have to worry about and think about, I need to learn to find ways to control my anxiety to a manageable level so I’m not breaking down and I’m becoming stronger in dealing with situations that aren’t ideal or favourable for me.
- Self love doesn’t come to you in a day
This sounds so typically teenage like, but when you’ve never truly been able to accept that you are this bomb young Australian with an Indian heritage, the sass and intelligence to match and the will power to move mountains like you know you are, it’s a little tough. I’ve struggled with positive self-image for a while. There are a myriad of factors that contributed to all of this. But with the experiences I had over the course of being 17 and even before that to be honest, I’ve finally accepted that it isn’t healthy for me to be so unhappy with myself. No one’s perfect, and I think that I’m finally on a path of coming to accept that my flaws aren’t something I will be able to get rid of, so I’ve got to look ahead and make myself the best person I can be, with the canvas I’ve been given to work with.
- You aren’t your ATAR
This one struck home the day after my ATAR came out. On the day I received my ATAR, I was at work, and fighting back tears because a person I was once friends with, decided to message me after so long without communication to ask my marks, and then gloat about their acceptance in their course, an hour after ATAR results were released. And in that moment, having not received that 99.95 was painful for the overachiever in me. But the day after, knowing that I had a guaranteed place in the course I wanted to get into, I realised that an ATAR was a drop in the ocean that is life. I made it to where I want to be, and now? no one gives a flying fuck over what I got. And if someone asks, I sass them, telling them it’s none of their business because if I’m in the same course as them, then I got a similar mark to them. ATARs are important for 1 second. And then they’re irrelavent.
- It’s ok to cry
This might be the Gemini in me, but I hate showing my true emotions. Due to certain circumstances in my life, I always have a mask up for the people around me. But I learnt that the mask falls off when I’m with the people I love and trust the most, and when I’m around them, it’s ok to not be the strong person I will myself to be in front of others. Learning that it’s ok for people to see you ugly crying, and learning that there is no point in hiding things like fear, heartbreak, anxiety and stress from the ones who I love and trust has changed me a lot. It’s made me value my strength a lot more, because the ability of being able to show your weakest emotions actually shows how strong you are.
- Embracing yourself is the most important thing you can do.
I’m learning to love who I am. Sassy, passionate and unapologetic. Embracing myself, from my curly hair to my scarred ankles (the endurance of many, many sports injuries) to the impassioned way my brain works is what makes my world exciting. I wouldn’t swap that for anything.
- After a bad day, a good day will always come about
This ties in with a few things. I think the acceptance that something not going in my favour doesn’t taint everything else has really opened my eyes to the bigger picture.
- The only validation I need is my own
Taking to heart what my teachers said to me about my performance in a subject I thought I was good at (“if you work really hard, you might get a low band 5”) did jackshit for me. Why? Because I ended up aceing the subject. By throwing those words out the window, and using that taunt as motivation to prove them wrong, I realised that I didn’t need anything but my own validation and belief in myself. And even now, I don’t need anyone’s opinion, but my own. I’m my own person, and I’m the only one who can judge my performance.
- Experiences, whether good or bad, make you a better person
This has hit home recently. I’ve experienced a few bouts of bullying. I’ve been racially victimised and make fun of for my skin colour, the hair on my skin and my culture more times than I can count. But all of these experiences I’ve realised, have toughened me up. Yes, I have bad days where all the negativity floods me. But I’ve come to realise that I am a lot stronger from all these negative experiences. And while the pain of these experiences will never leave, and I’ll always have a negative reaction to them, it’s made me so much more grateful for the things I have, the strong young woman I know I am, and the people around me, who love and support me. And it’s also shown me how to fight back by being the bigger person in the situation. And I’m eternally grateful for that. I will probably never truly bounce back from the racial victimisation or the bullying that has brought me down and worsened my self-image and anxiety. But these challenges have made me see how much stronger and persevering I am and I love that about myself.
- Tell people how you feel because time doesn’t stop.
This is in relation to guys. To love. To emotions that shouldn’t be bottled up. I wish I had realised this a little earlier. Maybe I could have prevented some things from happening last year. I could have prevented all the tears and outbursts because of my personal humiliation at my “less then satisfactory” performance. Things would have been different.
- Your prince charming is out there
Heartbreak isn’t fun. Crying in public and trying to play it off as allergies around your friends is bullshit because your friends will always know what’s up. Heartbreak doesn’t heal in a day and even though shit happened in 2015, I still have days where I look over photos, music and the playlists we created for each other, our conversations, and playback memories. It burns like a fire inside me, and there will be nights where I scroll through midnight conversations in tears, and ask why everything went to shit when it was so good. And it does hurt, knowing that one of the first guys who wasn’t like a brother to me used me and betrayed my trust and faith when I broke my walls down around him. But the guy who will sweep me off my feet (my hopelessly romantic side is speaking) is there somewhere. Love isn’t forced. It shouldn’t be forced. And the heartbreak was in hindsight a saviour, because maybe I would have ended up a lot worse if I had started something with someone who I have no trust, care and faith in anymore.
I will find that guy who makes me feel like I’m being spun around on a rollercoaster. I will find that tall, black-haired, hazel eyed man who makes me feel all sorts of ways. Who isn’t afraid to pull me into an impromptu dance while we cook, or come with me on new food and travel adventures. I will find that guy who balances sensitivity, intelligence (both academic and emotional) honesty, trust, bluntness and humour. It’ll happen. But I can’t force it cos life doesn’t work life that.
- Never be ashamed of what you love. You don’t have to defend your passions
I remember getting weird looks when people (especially guys) found out that I enjoy R&B music and I thoroughly enjoy rugby union. The All Blacks are my pride and joy. I don’t have to let anyone validate my interests. If you can’t handle the fact that I am a young woman who is just as passionate about her Men in Black on the field, as she is about that dream customised Bugatti Chiron, Zayn’s voice and Justin Timberlake’s artistic genius, and of course the bloody long list of celeb crushes and all that NARS makeup waiting to be owned, then you can leave/
- No is a full sentence.
If anyone has any questions about this fact, feel free to meet my fist (the one with the rings adorning it) and my foot.
- Finding yourself isn’t a one day process
I’ve discovered a lot about myself – both things that I love, and things that I need improving in. but this isn’t the final list. Life opens up so many experiences. It throws so many curve balls at us. I’m pretty sure I’ll be learning even more about myself with every subsequent year that passes by.
Being 17 was one of the most challenging and rewarding years of my life. It’s been a wild run, and I’m so keen for 18. I do have a list of things I want to accomplish while I’m 18, but that’s another blog post for another time (: There are so many things that have risen to the surface for me to work on and improve myself on, and honestly speaking, being 17 has been such a great journey of self expression. I’ve begun to find myself, find my passions and see my goals being acheived and my dreams coming true. It’s a whirlwind feeling and I wouldn’t give it up for anything.
Cheers 17, that was a fun ride. 18, I’m KEEN AF for you.