How To Be A Human
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How To Be A Human

11 Pieces of Advice I’d Tell My 17-Year Old Self at 27

It’s October. That means my birthday is coming up soon. I’ll turn 28, and in another two years, I’ll turn 30. What the f##k. Regardless of my legal age, I will forever feel younger than the age my ID-documents state.

Gurl, just don’t.

Looking back at how I was 10 years ago, going back in time to threaten to beat myself up with a baseball bat if I didn’t adjust my behaviours would be nice. With the knowledge and experience I have now, I would have chosen different ways. Too late for that. All we have of yesterday is a distant memory. What we can do now, is reflect and choose to do things better. To learn, and to make sure mistakes made back then are not repeated to this day.

If you are 17 now, this might come in handy. Here’s what I would tell my 17-year old self:

1 — You worry too much about what other people might think of you. Children can be mean. Peer pressure can trick you into joining in on things you couldn’t care less about. If you are not interested in an activity or event or meetup, just don’t go. Eventually no one will care, because everyone will eventually go their own way, and you won’t be missing out on anything. Especially if it’s some party where everyone will get smashed and not remember a thing the next day, AND waste the next day lying in bed all sick to recover. Damn.

2 — Also, don’t join in on clothing trends. Don’t try to fit in. BE YOU! Just wear whatever you want. Whatever style that is, whether goth, skater, punker, preppy, casual, colourful, no one cares! They might try to shame you, let them! Their opinions will not matter at ALL, in time. Negative feedback usually comes from people who are in a bad place within themselves. They might unleash their frustration about themselves on you. Let them be, don’t give a single damn. Worry about no one else, but you.

3 — Spend your time wisely. You are young now. Stop watching tv, stop playing so many video games. Pick a few things you’ve always been interested in or curious about, and go explore them! Again, screw what your peers might have to say about this. It would be too much of a coincidence if your best friends have the exact same hobbies or interests as you.

If you must, turn on Discovery Channel, or watch a channel to practice hearing a foreign language.

4 — Don’t worry if you suck at first doing the new thing you’re trying out. You just started! You cannot become a Mozart or Bill Gates in one day. This takes practice, and over time, your skills will accumulate. If you invest now, you will pick the fruits later. See the people around you who are doing better now, as mentors and examples. Don’t envy them, instead, learn from them. Ask them for advice and help.

5 — Do NOT listen to your parents. Even though they mean well (or we like to hope so, don’t we?), they lived a different life and they are not you. You are you, you know yourself. You know best what is good for you, what your interests are and what direction in life you want to pursue. Hiding away your true self will not make you happier. Do you want to make your parents proud, or yourself?? Screw your parents’ potential opinions (not sorry). You are living this life for you, and not for anyone else.

6 — Finish your high school with damn good grades. Don’t do it just for the grades, see it as acquiring knowledge. By all means, study! If you finish high school with a perfect grade list, you won’t have to worry about not having access to universities (important if you want to for example become a doctor). Learn how to be disciplined and organised when approaching your studying. Don’t just learn off by heart, and do not limit yourself to the text book only. Use supplementary materials. If school won’t provide you with them, find them yourself. Make them, use the internet, this is 2018. Challenge your brain, bro.

Study you must.

7 — Learn HOW to learn. In high school you are obliged to learn all these materials, but no one tells you HOW. Standardised tests will determine your final grades. These might not always be the most fun, but try to make your learning fun. Find out how you prefer to learn and what you learning style is. Then you can tailor your learning to what works best for you. Combine different methods and materials to effectively learn. There are tons of videos on YouTube about this. Make use of them, young sensei.

Before you start studying, learn how to learn.

8 — Please, please, pick a hobby, and go see how far you can get with that. If you haven’t started, start TODAY. If you don’t know what to pick, or what you’re passionate about, try out different things. Explore all there is! Become obsessed with exploring or with this hobby, so that you won’t be seduced by time-wasters, such as all these cool parties everyone is attending. Or hanging out on the street and not doing anything else but trying to look cool and occupied. This will not bring you anything now, or in the future. You. Are. Not. Missing. Out.

Dancing is my absolute passion. Before I found out I loved it so much, I tried out a ton of different sports, in order: gymnastics, acrobatics, ballet, tennis, swimming, karate, football, judo, hockey, volleyball, kickboxing, fitness and then finally came dancing (mostly hip hop). Dance is THE hobby which stuck. It was love at first sight. Secretly I have always known this would be something or THE thing for me, but it took us a while to find each other. That’s a story for another time though. Bottom line: it took me a while to find the right thing for me. If you haven’t found your match yet, keep searching. No need to justify your decisions to anyone but yourself if you change your mind, or drop something which is not working out for you.

Dance yo butt of yo.

9 — Read more. Go invite friends and hold PPT presentations or whatever presentations in front of them, sharing what you have learned from reading. Write summaries. Learn more. Share more. Discuss, debate.

Follow Spongebob’s example here.

10 — You want to go on this surf camp? Or to this language learning summer school? But you are underaged? Persuade your parents to pay (if they can afford to). Or get a side job, work, hustle, and save up all your money. Then splurge it on summer schools. Or winter, or autumn, or spring or whatever schools and programs. Start learning young, my butterfly. All your friends are going on group vacations to party all the time, but you’re not keen to go? Then don’t go. Instead plan out your ideal vacation or trip. It’s simple.

Hustle baby.

11 — It’s okay to not know it all. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to be when you ‘grow up’. You will not even know once you’ve grown up. All you can and should do now, is to pick something that interests you that much, that learning about it and mastering it becomes a treat. Start now, because who knows where it might take you. Start today.

This is guaranteed to happen more often. It’s normal. Just keep going.

What would you tell your 17-year old self?

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Gracia Kleijnen

Gracia Kleijnen


Professional oversharer. Writing towards progress. Personal growth, relationships, mental health, tooling, GSheets & (failed) ventures.