When I was 18 and about to graduate from high school in 1993 (insert series of all available emojis here), I had considered joining the Air Force or Navy, but ultimately decided I was going to go to college to eventually major in biochemistry, based on my longtime interest in science and science fiction. I’d grown up with a father who constantly watched television that included NOVA, nature documentaries like Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom, and Dr. Who. I’d watch black and white sci-fi movies from the 1950’s on rainy weekend afternoons and Carl Sagan’s Cosmos after dinner and homework on weekdays. I loved science and discovery and exploration. I still do.
10 years later I was making video games for a living. In hindsight, this made sense. Though I was always enthralled by science, I also had a deep creative streak that I indulged, and which helped me through some tough times.
What you want changes. Situations alter. Opportunities arise that you never expected. You may have a chance to turn something that had always just been a hobby into a profession. You meet a significant other, or just new friends, and you end up moving hundreds or thousands of miles — once, twice, three times.
While you can’t be prepared for everything that might happen in your life, there are some things you can do now that can only help you later.
Keep a journal.
This doesn’t have to a be a traditional “diary”. It can be anything, from a public blog to something you keep under lock and key. The point is to create a record of your thoughts and feelings that you can review over time. It will help you understand yourself better and is a valuable lesson in how we are not really the same people from one year to the next.
Invest in yourself.
Everything you do during your life is technically an “investment” in your future, and that means you can make bad investments or good ones. Rather than gorging yourself on donuts in the morning, choose to make some homemade granola, yogurt and blueberries. Eat a salad full of dark green veggies for at least 3 dinners per week. Go get some exercise even if you just feel like laying around on a Sunday. Find the time to read a nonfiction book once a month and catch up on the news every day. Instead of upgrading to the newest XBox or iPhone, use that money to take an online course that could help you in your career. On the flip side, when you get a promotion, score a new client, or it’s your birthday, treat yourself.
Make a New Year’s List.
On the morning of January 2nd every year, wake up, take care of your hangover with a healthy breakfast and adequate hydration, and then write a list of the top 12 things you want to accomplish during the new year. Put them in order of what is most important. You want to do your best to knock 1 of those goals off the list every month. Keep that list on your fridge, bulletin board AND on your phone. Think about it all the time.
Save for the future.
A lot of things fall under this. Keep money in a savings account. Keep some cash hidden away somewhere. Buy some gold. Literally take a percentage of everything you ever earn and stash it away. There will be times you need it. I also advise you to never get into a habit of using credit or loans. Having balances is anti-saving. When you put a $20 meal on a credit card with a 20% APR, along with the $500 dollars already costing you interest on that card, you might end up paying double for that stupid pizza unless you pay off the entire balance immediately. So save early, and also invest early. Put some money into a variety of stocks when you are young, add to those investments as you grow older, and HODL hard.
Stay in touch.
I have regrets. Most of those have to do with not remaining in regular contact with people I care about. Go out of your way to message your friends on a regular basis. Make absolutely sure you call your parents and siblings at least once every single week, even if you can’t stand them. Your life, and all of theirs, is at best probably only 90 years. 1,080 months. 4,680 weeks. By the time you graduate high school, your parents are going to be close to halfway through it all. There is never enough time, but if you don’t make the most of it you will end up wishing you had tried harder.
There are a million other bits of advice you will see and hear. One other that I think is very important is to STAY INFORMED, which could be lumped in the the “Invest in Yourself” paragraph above. If you are in high school and are here on Medium, it’s likely you already know the value of staying informed.
Don’t let the world blindside you. It’s best that you blindside it.
Thank you for reading and sharing!