18 things I learned in 18 years

Becoming an adult scared me for a long time. Everybody tries to offer teenagers advice and prepare them for what the “real world” is, but continuously say the same sappy things. (Photo courtesy of Maddie Bimonte).

All across the internet are blog posts that describe things that people learned throughout their lives. They range from “patience is key” to “people change” and while all of that is true, I want to share important things I learned that helped me throughout the past few years. Hopefully for teens, some of what I say may be useful. 

1.“If you don’t know it, Google it.” Throughout school, I always relied on things from using Google to help me with homework (and by help I mean copy and paste the question into Google and get the answer) to finding out how to get free movies and TV subscriptions. If you look hard enough, you can find just about anything. I, as well as the rest of Gen-Z, grew up with technology in our hands almost 24/7. I found myself able to navigate through math problems as well as life hacks on my own instead of going to my parents, and I owe it all to Google for teaching me. 


2. “Stop buying brand name, it’s just not worth the price.” As a teenager, it gets hard to ignore the constant trends of expensive items, like $40 water bottles and $100 leggings. Everybody wears or carries them around, and it’s frustrating to feel like you’re left out. However, there’s tons of websites that offer similar products for cheaper. For example, I always see girls wear Lululemon leggings, but they average around $90-100 a pair. Websites like 90 Degrees offer leggings for about half of the cost. (Personally, my favorite leggings that are similar to that of Lululemon are the Aerie Play Me Real Leggings).

3.“Don’t skip out on coupons.” If you really do want to buy the name brand, search for any discount you can find. Signing up for email subscriptions and asking employees if they offer discounts can help you save serious money. 

4. “Order off the kids menu when you can.” Off campus lunch became a thing for me my junior year, and while many days I would pack, I started to eat out more often. Sometimes, I would be spending $7-10 on lunch and that adds up quickly. The best way I found to save money (aside from bringing lunch) is to order off the kids menu. You can go to Moes or McDonalds and get either a Happy Meal for $5 or a kids burrito, chips and a regular sized drink for $5. I swear by it now, and tons of other restaurants do it as well, as long as you check the menu. 

5.“Take advantage of free trials.” I can’t even count the number of times I signed up for free trials just to use the program for a project or an assignment. You can download free trials for just about anything, like Adobe Photoshop. I’d be able to use the program for a week and download my project before it expired. 

6.“For pro sports events, buy the cheapest seats.” I’ve been to my fair share of MLB games and a few NFL games. Ticket prices are extremely high, and as fun as they are, it’s almost impossible to go with friends to the games. Here’s a solution: purchase the cheapest tickets you can find, a lot of the time you can buy nosebleed seats for around $20. Instead of sitting at your seats, there usually is standing room behind some of the seats on the first or second level where you can stand and nobody will bother you. While this isn’t the same for every stadium and it can suck to stand for 2+ hours, it’s an option for those on a budget.

7. “Wash your white shoes.” I’ll admit this sounds weird but this trick helped me out through serious problems. White shoes are a widely popular trend, and I wear mine every single day. I try to make my white Vans last as long as possible, and when they get dirty I just wash them. It’s a weird trick I learned through my mom and so instead of spending $50 on a new pair, make them last for another 4 months. (Yes, I know you can buy specific sprays to keep your shoes clean but none of them have ever been able to handle the fact that I wear them every day.)


8.“City of Raleigh offers free public transportation for 13-18 year olds.” When I heard about this back in 2018, it went under the radar and not that many people knew about it. The Youth GoPass is such a good program for teens who go Downtown and can’t drive or like me have trouble finding parking or don’t want to pay. Also for those who plan on going to NC State, as a freshman (as long as you’re under 19) can use the bus instead of paying for a car, which really adds up.

9.“Keep a rain jacket in your car.” I know this one sounds stupid, but you would be suprised by how often I just wake up and leave my house without checking the weather and end up sad because it is pouring rain. So not only do I make it a habit to check the weather as soon as I get up, I also keep a rain jacket or an umbrella in my car. I have an entire change of clothes in case of emergencies. 

Also, another helpful thing to keep in your car is a first aid kit. Your mom probably tells you this often, but it always is awkward walking into a CVS with a cut open knee. Try and avoid it if you can.

10. “Procrastination sucks, but it’s not the end of the world.” People throughout your life will tell you that you should never wait until the last minute to do things. However, I say otherwise. For me, I have always found I do well under all the pressure, and it pushes me to really think and the time constraint motivates me to work more diligently. This does not always work for everyone, but if you are like me, a trick I learned is to only start a little when you get the project. Even if you write one sentence or one paragraph and finish the rest the night before its due, knowing I at least started and had something done actually relieves some of the tension. 

I’ll admit it, I’m pretty lazy, and if there is a way to cut corners, I probably will do it. I won’t flat out tell you to never do anything until the night before, but when you’re in crunch time, sometimes you’re able to find shortcuts you never thought of.

11.“Where you go to college doesn’t really matter.” So many of my friends and peers are caught up in the idea that if they don’t get into their favorite or top college their lives are over. However, that is completely false. It is not about where you go to school but rather how you work at the school. If you decide to party 24/7, that’s fine but just know that was your choice and you can’t blame the school for not providing help in getting a job. 

It hurts knowing that your number one school did not accept you, or the college you choose isn’t as well respected as another. But remember to apply yourself, because if you really are going to that bad of a school, you may graduate top of your class if you really try. 

12. “You failed a test, but your life isn’t over.” School is hard, and we have all been there where we fail a test (or even two, that’s kind of how it goes in AP classes sometimes) and it’s the worst feeling in the world. You know your grade (which is probably right on the edge of changing) is going to go down and there isn’t anything you can do. It happens, we’re all human and in life we won’t know everything or understand everything 100% of the time. Parents often place pressure on teens and even if they get angry with you, it’s only temporary. What’s important is you learn from the mistakes and move on. Life won’t stop for you.

13. “High school isn’t always the best four years, but it could be.” When asking parents or other adults, some will say “High school was the best four years of my life” or “I hated high school so much I couldn’t wait to get out of there”. High school isn’t easy — if people tell you it is they’re either geniuses or they’re lying. You’ll have ups and downs, you’ll meet new people and you’ll lose your friends. You have to make the most of your time and find things you like. High school offers tons of opportunities and you’ll never get these four years back, so make the most out of it.

Try hanging out with friends, join the school musical, maybe even skip class a couple times, go out and push yourself. The last thing you want to be is alone.

14. “There is a quizlet for everything.” Similar to my advice on googling everything, Quizlet got me through a couple of rough patches. You can find test questions to vocab lists that other students have made for free. Some websites try and charge you to see the answer, but not Quizlet.

15. “Take naps.” As a teenager, on school nights I rarely get more than 6 hours of sleep a night. While to many that seems ridiculous, I have found a way to make sure I get about 8-10 hours of sleep per day: napping. Sometimes I’ll nap in my AP Statistics class (wouldn’t recommend because I don’t understand the content even when I am awake). But I will come home and devote an hour or two on average to catch up on some sleep before I have dinner and do homework. Naps have changed my life, and my fellow students (such as Amanda Ray, who wrote about all the benefits of napping) agree too.

16. “Don’t be a people pleaser; it’s just annoying.” It’s honestly a little sad sometimes to see teenagers try and suck up to every adult or person they meet. Teenagers have to realize not everyone will like you. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but if you spend your whole life acting like a toady (thanks AP Lit for the vocab word) to people, you lose your sense of individuality and your backbone. 

17.“You don’t need a gym to work out.” This sounds ridiculous, but I have talked to tons of teens who always talk about going to the gym or don’t have a membership and think they can’t work out. However, you don’t need fancy equipment to work out. There’s tons of at home 10 minute workout plans that you can find all over Instagram. Besides, who wants to go to the gym in January when people are trying to complete their New Years resolution only to give up in a month. Save yourself the gas and the crowded gym — just work out at home.

18. “Take road trips.” Some of the make or break bonding moments I have had with my friends have come from road trips. Whether you drive an hour away or five hours away, you really bond with people singing along to karaoke and then being yelled at for giving the wrong directions. If you have nothing to do, and want to go somewhere, look for places where its free admission. Even try places like the beach or a lake. Don’t stay in one place for too long — go explore.


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