Do you remember being in high-school and looking at all the university students that seemed so much older and wiser than you? I do, I remember thinking, “Wow! They are so grown up, they must have it all figured out.” What a joke right? Looking back, having gone through all those years, you and I both know that I couldn’t have been more wrong.
As a young adult, when you leave school, you are leaving the path that has been more or less laid out for you and are suddenly thrust into an open world where every decision is your own. Some take to it like fish to water, others take to it like a fish to a wall. I was one of those fish slamming against the wall and flopping across the ground wondering what the hell just happened.
As much as my parents tried to prepare me for the real world, I was still very sheltered from it for most of my life. I am the youngest of three siblings and it is common knowledge that the “baby” of the house can get away with minimal effort. I have a brother and a sister, with an age gap of 12 and 9 years between us respectively. If you ask them, I knew absolutely nothing about anything as a young adult…actually, they would probably say the same thing about me now.
Needless to say, entering into a new phase in my life, I had a lot to learn. To make matters a little more interesting, I was going to begin my studies abroad in the People’s Republic of China at the age of 17. It has been 10 years since I left on my overseas adventure and I often reflect upon my time in China, as well as the time I’ve spent back in South Africa since my return home. In the past, I would often question myself as to whether I would change any of the decisions I have made along the way. The conclusion I came to was yes and no. I would like to revisit some of the decisions I’ve made along the way but not change it outright, but rather to educate myself with the knowledge that I know now so that I may make a better-informed decision.
This brings me to the point of this blog post. I have come up with the top 5 things that I wish I could go back and tell myself when I was matriculating 10 years ago. Let’s get into it.
#1: Just Live YOUR Life
Usually, I’m all for leaving the best for last but in this case, I’m making an exception because I feel it’s that important. When I was in matric everyone around me knew exactly what they were going to go on and do with their lives. I, on the other hand, had a very vague idea…but ideas nonetheless. This uncertainty on my part allowed a gap for others to heavily influence my decisions and set me on a path I was not exactly comfortable with. 10 years later, I have made those decisions work for me, but I could have been a lot less lucky. You, as an individual, know what your capabilities are and what’s going to make you happy. Don’t ever feel like you need to sacrifice your ideas and dreams for someone else’s, even if it may be your parents or other family members that are influencing you. At the end of the day, it’s you that’s going to be living with the results of these decisions. Those who influence us may or may not want what’s best for us, but it’s your happiness that matters most.
#2. Level Up
One of the main things that I wish I could go back and tell the younger version of myself, is to get up off your butt and go and learn some new skills. I’m talking about over and above what my degree had to offer. Fair enough, medicine took up most of my time, but I was a quick learner and I used all the downtime that I had to watch movies when I could have been learning literally anything. So if you are a young someone reading this post, take advantage of your free time and lack of mass responsibilities and learn as much as you can. No skills are ever a waste of time to learn, especially if you are enjoying what you are learning. To my more responsibility inclined readers, it’s never too late to learn new skills. Pick something you think you would enjoy and make the hours work for you.
#3. Healthy Living
I could probably write a whole post just on this topic, maybe I will in the future. The diet that I had adopted for a huge portion of my late teens and early twenties consisted of binge eating and crash dieting. I was a chubby kid, who became a chubby teen and I really didn’t want it to spill into my adult life. The best solution I could come up with for myself at the time was to eat as little as possible for as long as possible until I finally gave in and succumbed to a storm of snacks. It’s only now that I have found balance in my diet and peace with myself. I would love to go back and tell my younger self to stop being so hard on us. We just need to be a little bit better, eat some wholesome food, and enjoy a snack every so often and the results will come in time.
#4. On a Need to Know Basis
Let me paint you a picture. You have a complicated assignment that’s due and the lecturer’s notes make little to no sense. You spend hours contacting the lecturer personally and gathering the relevant information, without which the assignment would be impossible to complete. Finally, it’s done. You understand what’s required of you and spent days getting the work done. You’ve also gone ahead and found out exactly how and when to hand it in. Then out of the blue, a “friend” will contact you, they haven’t started their assignment the day before it’s due. So you lay out every bit of information for them, including how you went about your assignment itself, right to the final full-stop. More often than not, this person will go on with your information and get a better or equal mark to you after completing the minimal amount of work. Let’s not kid ourselves, this isn’t the only time it’s happened. If the roles were reversed it would be difficult to get an iota of information out of this person. This life lesson is one that you genuinely don’t see coming, especially if you are a person who generally likes to share what they know or their ideas about things. Don’t get me wrong, it’s awesome to help a friend out, but it can’t be an ongoing thing neither can it be a one-way street. Be picky about who you decide to go over and above for because the truth of the matter is, not everyone who’s friendly to you deserves it.
#5. Ca$h Money
This is one of the things that really irritates me about myself when I think back to my university years. I had zero money-saving capabilities. Whatever money I did manage to save at the end of the month I would end up blasting on some nonsense that gave me a few minutes of happiness and was then forgotten. It had reached such a point that even with a weekend job I could not save at the end of the month because I would just end up blasting the cash. If I could go back I would heavily stress to myself the benefits of saving especially during that period of my life. There’s so much of the world to see and so many things to experience, which in my opinion is better for a young adult than hours of online shopping to scratch a never-ending itch (an itch I’ve spoken about extensively in a previous post if you want to pop by and check it out). Save some money, experience something new, gain some stories to tell the grandkids.
In writing this blog post I have gotten to reflect on the last 10 years of my life. Although I have only documented what I feel are my shortfalls, I have also taken the time to ponder upon my achievements. I feel proud of myself for how far I’ve come and how much I’ve grown from being a semi-functioning teenager to an almost fully functioning adult.
Even though I can’t really go back in time and give myself this information, my hopes are that you, dear reader, will find something of substance to take away from this reflection of mine. If this post can do that for even one of you, I would count it as a raging success.
InshaAllah (God willing), my journey through life does not end here. I look forward to many more adventures with all the life lessons that go with them. Maybe I’ll do another one of these reflection posts in another 10 years. Who knows where we all will be by then.
Till next time…
Stay wild, weird, and wonderful.