What I’d say to my high school self

A recent social media trend has many posting their senior photos as way to pay tribute to this year’s graduates.

The class of 2020 is sadly missing out on the many joyful ceremonies, parties and milestone moments that are normally characteristic of this time, and I feel for them.

So I dug up my own high school photo, and it got me thinking about the things I’d like to tell 17-year-old Regan, specifically, the lessons I’d share with her about resilience, expectations, and letting her heart be her boss.

Here’s what I came up with. Feel free to forward to a graduating senior (or anyone who might need to hear it).

Ask for what you need.

Some day, you might need a raise, a vacation, a divorce, or just a 15-minute break to walk around the block. (In fact, you will need all of the above at one time or another.) And it might feel scary or selfish to ask for it. Please, don’t let that stop you.

Asking for what you need is a critical skill when it comes to living your fullest life. It requires vulnerability, courage, and thought (more critical skills!). We also tend to assume others, especially those closest to us, already know what we’re thinking or feeling. But they have their own internal monologue, and if we need something, we have to cut through the noise and ask.

Give yourself a break.

You’re going to learn a lot about the shoulds throughout your life. These are the expectations and obligations you encounter, either because you put them on yourself or because others impose them on you. And they’ll usually conflict with the priorities and dreams you’re working hard to protect.

Give yourself a break and shed those shoulds. That board you feel you should join, the cupcakes you should make for the party, even the job you feel you shouldn’t quit—they aren’t worth it. Stop asking yourself to sacrifice valuable time and energy on things that don’t bring you joy or don’t move the needle on your dreams.

Embrace the now.

At the root of this lesson is another lesson in giving up control. You can’t embrace the now without first accepting your lack of power over it. But once you do, you can be fully present. And you will find so much pleasure and meaning in learning to be present—and fully embracing it.

Welcoming the now, and all the flaws that come with it, opens so many doors. It allows you to discover opportunities you would’ve otherwise missed had you been mourning the past or worrying about the future. You’re free to surprise yourself with your creativity and fortitude. In embracing the now, you will find new ways to experience joy.

Take these lessons and build something beautiful. And most importantly, remember that in the end, the heart is boss.

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