Advice For A 17-Year-Old

Somewhere on the other side of the ocean, my sister turns 17 today. This is to her.

From what I hear, you’re a lot like I was at your age. Chasing dreams, refusing to leave the clouds when the ground called. But the ground’s going to get louder now. September will bring your last year of high school. Adults will be asking you to make big choices that they say will impact your life, although yesterday they still considered you a child.

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When you answer their questions, you’ll be expected to have something solid. You’re supposed to have a plan that will make you money. You’re supposed to do this so the adults will think you’ll be okay, even if the choice means you won’t be, not really. But as long as they think it, that’s what matters.

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I’ve been asked to talk to you about this choice. I don’t know why I was asked, I’m the one who went to England and chose to study Creative Writing of all things. You were always the more practical one. You get good grades and excel at extracurriculars. I was average, you are exceptional, but I suppose I have more life experience so I’ll impart on to you whatever wisdom I’ve got.

You’re going to fail.

Okay, probably not what you were hoping to get from me. There are a few things I’ve learned since my own seventeenth birthday, and that was one of them.

You will fail. Several times, actually. It’s a guarantee. Don’t be afraid of it. Accept it, learn from it, move on. Whatever your failure may be, however bad it may seem, you’ll be okay.

You don’t have to stick to a plan.

Things change and that’s fine. Maybe things aren’t going the way you wanted, or how you expected. Learn to adapt, gain experience. You can’t control everything, but you can control how you deal with stuff.

Trust yourself.

Don’t depend on other people for validation. It only makes a difference when it comes from you. Trust that you know what’s best for you because at the end of the day, no one knows you better. Know that you can do things and go on adventures. Trust that you can take care of yourself, and trust that you know when to ask for help.

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You may have noticed none of that stuff has anything to do with choosing a career, which is what I’m supposed to talk to you about. The thing about choosing a career is, whatever you choose, be it astronaut or princess, you’ll fail something at some point. Some career paths have higher success rates than others, but nothing is for sure. Which is why planning out your life meticulously is kind of pointless. It’s good to have an idea of what you want to do and where you want to go, but be flexible. And finally, when it comes to big decisions like this, you’re going to get a lot of pressure from other people about what choices you should make. You’re the one who has to live with those choices, so make sure you do what you want, not what everyone else wants.

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Okay, that’s all I’ve got. Happy birthday little sister. Hope it was a good one.

(Here’s what I wrote you for your birthday last year.)

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