Austin Scholar #58: 16 Things I Learned At 16
This past Thursday was my birthday! I'm now officially seventeen.
In honor of the close of my sixteenth year, my newsletter this week is a reflection of the sixteen most important lessons I learned this year (many of which significantly improved or altered my life).
16 Things I Learned At 16
How to drive
Learning to drive is perhaps the most cliche rite of passage when you turn 16. But to me, learning to drive was about more than just driving. It was about independence and spending time with my mom. It was about being a teenager. School is so hard and demanding and time-consuming that I feel like sometimes I forget to just have fun.
But when I’m driving? That’s the pinnacle of being a teenager. The freedoms and mistakes of driving define the process of kids becoming adults.
How to write every single day
I love this newsletter. Nothing makes me happier than getting an email from one of y’all talking about how what I’ve written has changed your life. I adore this.
But it’s definitely not easy. There have been weeks where it’s 2:00 AM on a Friday night and I haven’t written a single word. Weeks when nothing I write comes across the right way. When I just don’t know what I want to say.
But I’ve learned how to keep writing. To keep showing up. I’ve become a more dedicated, focused person since I’ve started Austin Scholar, and it’s all thanks to y’all.
Your support and kindness is what makes me want to get to my laptop and just write every day. Thank you.
That self-care actually makes you feel better
For some reason, for the first fifteen years of my life, I thought it was “cool” that I didn’t spend time on myself. Taking bubble baths were for babies. Hair and face masks didn’t do anything. But wow, was I wrong.
This past Christmas, I got a bunch of cool skincare and haircare products, and I didn’t want to waste them. So, of course, I set up an entire multi-step morning and night routine, complete with “glowy serums” and “softening masks.”
Not even a week later, I was getting compliments about how amazing my skin looked, and my hair had never been stronger. And what’s more–I felt more confident than I ever had. Now, my routines are parts of my day that I look forward to–moments when I can clear my mind and refresh my body.
Please, teach your kid to spend time on themselves. Spend an afternoon at Target figuring out what works best for them. It’s worth it.
How to have a job
I got my first job! As many of you know, I work at Write of Passage, creating and curating content for their college essay writing course. Through this job I’ve learned how businesses run, how to accept feedback in performance reviews, and how to really work on a team.
It’s been one of the greatest experiences of my life.
That impossible doesn’t have to be impossible
But then, one of my best friends got a 305.
We thought there was a glitch.
Turns out, there are 50 secret points on the MAP test that we weren’t told about–because it’s basically impossible to get them.
But my tiny 7th-grade math-wiz friend figured it out.
So, of course, my life goal became getting a 300.
I spent the next few years tirelessly working in my math apps, mastering everything I could.
But I kept coming up short. A 289. Then a 295. I was so close, yet really, really far.
This last MAP test, though, I was really determined to get that 300. I really wanted it. But a part of me still thought that impossible score was only for the true math geniuses, like my friend.
My hard worked ended up paying off. I got a 302. Suddenly, a lot more seemed possible to me.
How to accept failure
I failed a lot as a sixteen-year-old. I didn’t meet my own expectations and didn’t get the scores I wanted. In the past, my failures became my self-identity. I was obsessed with them and couldn’t go five minutes without reminding myself how I wasn’t good enough.
But this year, I took those failures in stride. I spent a few minutes crying (of course), then started problem-solving. And honestly, it's amazing how much smaller your problems start to feel when you don't let them consume your entire identity.
That getting into college will be a lot harder than I thought
When I was fifteen, college seemed obnoxiously far away–too far to even think about. But this year? It’s become pretty freaking real.
All of a sudden, I’m making a college list and thinking about my essays and how I can be impressive and how I should frame my application and why I would be a positive addition a school and literally everything else. It’s scary.
And then, when you start looking in to what it takes to get into a top college? Nightmares for weeks.
I’ve started making lists for every little thing just to keep myself sane. (I’ll keep y’all updated on how it’s going!)
That being uncomfortable probably means I’m doing something right