Life this July feels like the moment after placing the last piece of a puzzle. Countless hours spent finding the missing pieces, building around sides and corners until you get to the final slot and…
There are times in your life that feel so obviously like reaching a milestone. Right now, I feel like I’ve reached the intersection of a few: I just passed the one year anniversary of my family’s move to Canada, I finally graduated from high school, we’ve passed the six-month marker of 2019, and today is seven months since I started this blog, Teenage Adoxography.
Seasons like these make space for reflection and room to acknowledge growth. While it sounds wishy-washy, I think it’s necessary to confront and recognize change before moving on.
From the way I’ve moved around the world, I’ve had a grand total of five and a half years in high school. I spent two years in a British International curriculum in Qatar, before moving back to South Africa for two and a half years, and finally moving to Canada for my final year. While it hasn’t always been the easiest, I see now how living internationally has been beneficial.
So here’s what I’ve learnt from these journeys:
You Don’t Have to Know It All Yet
I’ve never felt drawn specifically to one career or path for my future. Initially, all I saw myself doing was writing. In Grade Nine, I fell into my space phase and began to wander down a more science-y path. Last year when I started properly thinking about my future, I realised I didn’t have a clue what I was going to do. I knew I wanted to study and that I am drawn to humanities, social sciences, and liberal arts; but other than a vague idea of what I am interested in and a desire to unite both my academic potential and creative ability, I didn’t have a clue where to go looking forward. Thankfully, I am in a position that allows me to explore – an encouraging family, an enabling university, good ol’ government funded education grants, and the hopefully-manageable prospect of student loan debt at the end of it all.
What I’m trying to say through these anecdotal tangents is you don’t have to know it all yet. Some people have a crystal clear view of where they’re going and good for them for knowing themselves so early but there isn’t really a deadline for figuring yourself out. It’s an ongoing process so enjoy the ride. Of course, don’t be passive about building up your life: research and dig into what excites you – just don’t feel the need to rush.
It’s easy to get caught up in one ideal or slip into an unshakable paradigm. And while being passionate about something is always a good thing, extreme obsessiveness can bar you from rounding yourself out.
I think this applies to every aspect of life. In school, I never wanted to limit myself to purely academics or culture. I was lucky enough to go to be able to both pursue traditional intellectual endeavours and explore my creative side. I’ve been friends with a few people who are – in my opinion – maybe too focused on school, grades and stereotypical smart pursuits. I’m not saying that having a dream to be a doctor, or an engineer, or the next big name in software is a bad thing, but throwing away your life to chase one goal seems counterproductive to me. Don’t get me wrong: I think education is important and I’m almost definitely going to carry onto graduate studies after completing my first degree. I do however stand by the fact that you need to experience all aspects of life: don’t sacrifice a social life for eons of studying, try out new experiences regardless of how much they’ll contribute to your resume, learn and venture through the world without being handed a certificate for it.
I also feel that friendships need balance. I bring it up not as a sob story, but rather an explanation for my further advice: I was bullied in my late primary, early high school years. Unfortunately, I think everyone’s experienced their fair share of unpleasant people and childhood tribulations. For me, going through that showed me the power of having a diverse group of friends so if you fall out with someone, you won’t be completely abandoned. That’s a dramatic way of putting it – and sounds almost paranoid – but I learnt the same lesson from moving around. Having lived in various cultures, I don’t feel the need to find people who resemble me entirely in order to befriend them. And I don’t need to belong to one single group. I’ve found I float between people, not because I feel like an outsider, but because I’ve realised that having lots of different friends with different experiences and interests makes for a life of variety, diversity and intrigue. There’s always more to learn about people and differences to embrace. However, I do stick with like-minded people when it comes to values and morals. Having balance in friendships doesn’t necessarily mean be kind to all people regardless of their opinion; it means carry on meeting people and growing through these relationships.
“Don’t Feel Stupid if You Don’t Like What Everyone Else Pretends to Love“
Above is probably one of my favourite quotes from Emma Watson, and it kind of bounces off the last idea. Having balance in friendships means exploring other people’s interest and passions and identifying with those that you share.
But when it feels like the entire world loves a thing that you don’t really feel for, don’t feel pressured to follow the crowd. There are plenty of popular things I don’t quite fancy that everyone else seems to swear by – most prominently apple pie (I despise both the crumble and the baked apple). That being said, it goes both ways. Don’t feel stupid if you love something everyone else pretends to dislike – personally, I feel it’s high time we start publicly appreciating Taylor Swift for the musical, lyrical, and artistic genius that she is (rather than perpetuating the idea that her music is corny and that having an audience predominantly consisting of teenage girls makes her less worthy of the obvious success she has garnered). There are tons of other examples I have for each situation, and I’m sure that everyone feels the same deep inside. Let’s create a culture where we can embrace differing interests without fear of the hive-mind.
So Chanel, what really is next?
There are so many more stories I could tell and life lessons I would love to share with the world. Of course I don’t think my word is law and everyone should take and use advice with their own judgement, but I do think I make some pretty solid arguments.
I think for the past few months while I have been busy, I also fell out of touch with writing. Composing this piece reminded me of what I intended Teenage Adoxography to be – a resting place for my growing philosophies. These essay-esque posts that reach out to both society and my own life are what I started writing, and what I want to continue to create.
I have two months to spend in a sort of limbo. The summer is a welcome break from the busyness of the end of the academic year – my last one in high school. While I was never the kind of student who despised going to school everyday – I also never hated maths and one of my favourite things is an essay without a word limit so maybe I’m just a nerd – I do feel the freedom that comes with graduating and realising you never have to go to high school again!
My July and August will likely turn out to be time spent learning how to drive, working my last few weeks at my pizza shop job (until putting my notice in on the anniversary of my interview) to save up my minimum-wage salary, and preparing for move-in day! I start at my university on the first of September, and I’m really looking forward to it. You do have a writer on your hands, so I’m also looking forward to documenting the whole process of becoming an independent student who knows how to drive and stops procrastinating (and is also vegetarian because I decided in July I was going to quit meat and I’d like to keep that up!).
I won’t apologise for not writing recently on this blog, as I don’t feel like I owe it to anyone but myself. However, I will say thank you to the people who have time and time again showed support in this adoxographical endeavour of mine, and will hopefully stick around for what I do in the future.
Maybe this advice resonated with you. Maybe you know someone who is about to entire the chaotic fray of high school life and could do with a bit more knowledge (and the comforting hope that you can make it out alright in the end). Maybe you just like the way I write. Whichever it is, feel free to like this, share this, praise it in the comments. In the meantime, I’ll draft out some future posts and wonder at what’s next.