Advice to my 17 year old self. And anyone else who wants to learn from my mistakes.
Perception vs reality is a crazy thing. When people think you have all your ducks in a row (and you really don’t), when you think you’ve got it all figured out or when you believe your life will just work itself out, it’s a slap in the face when the opposite happens. I never thought my life thus far would’ve played out the way it did. I’ll say it could be much worse. So I’m grateful to still have a fighting chance. Since yesterday I’m 24, with very little to show for the last 7 years. All because no one sat me aside and forced me to make a plan.
If I could do it all over again, better yet, if I could talk to my 17 year old self right before I graduated high school (June 21st, 2013), this would be my advice:
Really assess your support system. And make peace with your reality. It’s not smart to believe your parents will help you through school. Or anyone else. Because newsflash: they won’t. If you don’t want to be a fresh sophomore for the next 6 years, you need to plan like an independent adult. Because you’re the only person who will be helping you.
College/ University is not it. If you can’t pay for it (cash, grants, scholarships) don’t try it. There’s plenty other ways to create your footing in this world. But if you must try it, at least make sure your scholarship money is renewable. But if I were you, I would…
Research what trades are in highest demand. Read about them all. And then choose the one you think you can tolerate most. Chances are, you will not love your job. Especially as a creative. But you’ll make a shit ton of money. Which will help you out big time. Plus, you’ll be more likely to finish on time and less likely to take on much debt. Trust me, debt is not a necessity. Especially at 17/18 years old. DO NOT listen to those with the opposite opinion. Especially when they aren’t writing a check for you to go to school.
Get a job. TODAY. You should’ve gotten one at 16, so you could have some money saved up (at least $2,000) but now you definitely need one. Because you will be struggling without it. Remember I said no one will be helping you but you?
You should still leave your home town/city. Trust me, so many people you graduated high school with will get stuck. At least you can experience another environment before having kids. So choose your trade program in another town/city. If you find one in another state, even better. Use your job to feed, clothe, and transport yourself. Your school should have on campus housing at least for the first year, while you get your bank account set up.
Forget the world’s opinion. This includes everyone you know. Pick a name, any name. Yes, forget their opinion. Or you will be broke and miserable like them. Very few people have a positive net worth. That means very few people should give you advice. I’m you, in the future, so I can give you advice.
Walk on eggshells with credit cards. You honestly only need one. It should be secured for the minimum allowed limit ($500 or less). Use this for practice. If you can’t handle it, leave the real credit cards alone. And don’t sign up for any store cards. Last thing you need at this age is to be building consumeristic habits. Focus on getting that trade, making and saving money, not spending it. Get creative, and pay cash for the big stuff. It is realistic. DON’T LISTEN TO ANYONE ELSE. Unless they are where you want to be.
Use your new financial freedom to explore/invest. Pick up a second trade, create a side hustle, entertain yourself with hobbies. Get out there and figure out what makes you happy. Because you can actually afford it.
Don’t resent the fact that you have to grow up faster than others. At least you are now equipped to make the best decisions for you. Don’t let yourself be set back. Learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of those around you. The sooner you stabilize, the sooner you can enjoy life on your terms. It won’t be perfect, but you’ll be much better off.
Good luck. And remember luck is when skill meets opportunity at the perfect time. There’s no perfect time like now.
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