Column: 17 things I’ve learned at 17 years old


Alex is the sports editor for Ethic News.

Today I turn seventeen. Seventeen rotations around the sun and countless experiences have made me into the person that I am today. And today I compile seventeen of the most important lessons that life has taught me. Seventeen lessons that’ll stick with me for the rest of my life that I’ll carry while I continue on my learning journey.

“You are your harshest critic.” You’ve probably heard this at some point and it’s so true. You might receive criticism–whether constructive or just hurtful, but in the end, nobody will be as harsh as you. You will find yourself analyzing things that matter to you but that others won’t even see. Take that as a good or bad thing. 

Everyone is paying attention to themselves. Meaning that maybe you embarrass yourself temporarily but nobody will really remember. You might think that something is a huge deal when in reality no one is paying attention to you because they’re busy thinking about themselves. High school can feel like someone is holding you under a microscope and pointing out every flaw because trends fluctuate–appearance and behavior-wise. Generally speaking, no one is paying that much attention to you because we’re all focused on ourselves and trying to impress one another. 

Artwork made on indicating 5 important lessons. (ALEX VERDUZCO/ Ethic News Photo)

“Everything will pass.” My therapist used to tell me that things come and go in waves. For the most part, this helped to calm my anxiety because I just had to feel the feeling that was consuming me. Then, I could logically work out what was causing me stress and felt so much better. Things may feel like life or death in the moment and you just need to acknowledge these feelings so that you can confront them after. Allowing yourself to experience the moment is crucial to letting all of the fog in your mind that is clouding your ability dissipate in order to logically solve your problem. Sometimes, you don’t even need to solve the problem you just need to experience your feelings rather than holding them in and bottling them up for an explosion later.

Gratitude is a freeing state of mind. Being grateful shifts your perspective on life. When I was going through a mentally challenging period of time during my freshman year, I began a gratitude journal. Every day during my lunch break, I wrote down one thing I was grateful for, then continued this until I didn’t need the reminder of the notebook. Even simple things like being grateful for a functioning and able body every time I used the restroom or went for a run. Starting my day with appreciation for my bed which kept me warm all night, and a protein smoothie to keep my stomach filled until lunch. I noticeably felt more positive and always had something to be happy about, even a simple text to friends describing how appreciative I am of them helped to spread the gratitude into my surroundings.

A very cliche one is to continue believing in yourself. I applied this to the AP classes that I took this year. Despite everything I have heard about these particular classes, I continued to succeed and felt very confident in the exams this year. Going into this year I had thought about the potential setbacks I might face in my mental health causing myself to fall behind and yet I’ve managed to have an A+ in each class all year long. This was my first year writing and editing the school paper and I worked really hard and secured my position as CEO (chief executive officer) for next year, which was mind-boggling considering the short amount of time I had spent here. I didn’t intend to apply for this position but I worked really hard and earned it. Just like ‘you are your harshest critic,’ you must be your biggest fan and number one supporter. If no one will back you up, at least you’ll have yourself. 

Artwork incorporating the element of Lily of the Valley flowers representing the month of May and accompanying more quotes representing meaningful lessons. (ALEX VERDUZCO/ Ethic News Photo)

Don’t take criticism from someone you wouldn’t take advice from. People are quick to judge and dish out harmful words. You can’t control how someone perceives you or what they believe to be true about you. But there’s a line separating constructive criticism and straight-up hate. Constructive criticism should be created to benefit you and implemented to improve something overall. But negative comments, behind your back or in person, should not be taken to heart. If you wouldn’t trust their advice or believe that they make good decisions, then why would you consider the hate they’re spewing? If they’re not trustworthy then don’t accept negativity from them.

People will believe what they want to believe. This can be applied in so many situations. The way in which someone interprets political beliefs can be a window to what that person values and has experienced in life. Many people have preconceived beliefs that can’t be changed simply because they aren’t interested in the other side. Even if you’re passionate about defending your perspective, you have to realize that some people will not engage and that’s okay. You can’t change a person–or their beliefs. Likewise, if someone has their mind made up about you, then nothing you can do can change that. You shouldn’t attempt it either because it’s just a waste of time. Whether or not you do something to provoke their skewed perspective of you, ignoring it altogether to focus on yourself is a much healthier way to avoid unwanted drama.

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