Everyone tells you to appreciate being young, to enjoy school because you will miss it once it’s over. We, however, of course know better, because “honestly, what could be so great about rules and tests and popularity contests and clicks.” But then life happens, and it hits you right in the teeth, gut, stomach, and every other place you can think of that will hurt.

It might sound cliché — especially coming from someone who is no longer in high school and who has become part of the group of people telling high school students to enjoy their time in what they essentially think is prison. But the hard hitting truth is that the security of high school, no matter the degree of education it provides, in no way prepares you for the big world.

The real world is more than just making your own decisions and being independent. It expects the same amount of effort you would put into, say, a chemistry exam, but the difference is it doesn’t grade you. This might seem great (no more fails), but if you take a closer look, it means that there is no way of knowing whether what you are doing is right. There is no big build up to the test and relieving moment afterwards when you can forget everything you’ve learnt because it’s finally over. In life you never know when you’ll be tested, and you need to be ready every second. Afterwards you’re stuck wondering whether you got it right or if you ever will. You make your own decisions, and you bear the consequences of those decisions directly.

If you don’t want to take someone’s word for it, think about your own word for a second. When you’re in high school and you see an empty playground, you can be sure that 90% of you would run to the swing, maybe even go down the slide if you’re brave. In moments like those, you just wish you could be a kid again, without the constant concern of tests and labels and making the team. Now step back and realize that people who tell you to enjoy high school are in the exact same boat (or swing, if you will). We all wish we could go back to the previous stage of life because it seems simpler, easier even. But someone once told me that just because something is easier doesn’t mean it is richer.

In the words of Sebastian, “The human world…it’s a mess,” and there will never be a perfect way to clean it up. That’s, dare I say, the part you can look forward to. You get to learn from and through every bad decision, every struggle, and every hurdle. You might fall, fail, and create an even bigger mess. But with every step, you discover the way to clean up that mess, and you find people who hand you the soap and start cleaning with you. If you’re lucky, these people make the process less terrifying.

Sure, growing up isn’t easy. There is no way of being able to know what to expect. But one thing I can vouch for is that you get through it. Having sleepless nights about whether you should take over the family business, go into accounting to please your parents, work with kids, or follow your insane dream of becoming a foodie is just not worth it. So, to all the worriers out there: I used to be one of you. To you, I want to say, LIVE IN THE MOMENT and enjoy where you are. You will blink, and it will be over, and you’ll wish you did more to savour it. To the one who tried to teach me to do the same: Thank you, and as much as I hate to admit this, you were right (but don’t let it go to your head).

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