I cared about a lot of things when I was sixteen.
Actually, ‘cared’ is the wrong word: ‘worried’ is a better one. Obsessed. Fretted. Freaked. Sweated. Lay awake stressing over for weeks, gossiped about tirelessly with my girlfriends, whispered about in class.
Yes, I cared about a lot of things when I was sixteen. Unfortunately, none of these things were overly useful to the rest of my life.
It may have seemed important at the time to spend my school hours musing over the fact that Jack Thompson was lit-er-ally the hottest guy I had ever seen, but it brought me no closer to the handsome Mr Thompson. It was wasted time, just like the sleepless nights I spent willing away a rogue zit, or the summer holidays spent sweating over my flat chest. Wasted time, and wasted worrying. (Update: chest yet to blossom).
Fast forward a decade or so. For the young and the old – and the old in denial, like me – here is a list of four ways life changes from sweet sixteen, to twenty *muffled noises* something-something.
When I was sixteen, getting a brazilian wax was like, SO exciting. It was très risqué, and very inappropriate behaviour, so naturally was the most exhilarating thing we could do. After all, hair down there was not an option – I was a teenager growing up in Queensland, at a time where Paris Hilton was spearheading the ‘so hipster it’s almost grazing your vagina’ style jeans movement.
These days, brazilian waxes feel as exciting as a root canal.
Not only am I frustrated that beauticians are yet to create a smarter option for pruning the lady bush, but I am also furious that menfolk can get around with a growth that rivals Yosemite Sam. It hurts, I hate it, and it is a personal goal to go as many months in a row without having burning hot wax poured over my labia.
Being nice to your friends.
Being a teenage girl is a complex game of social tetris. You move one friend in, you move another friend out. Lunchtime hierarchy was all about being as nasty as humanly possible to your girlfriends, making them cry, then having three hour Deep & Meaningfuls to sort it out. It was fun, and pretty much the only form of entertainment as a teen. Parents are also hyper-sensitive to any friendship bust-ups, and will threaten to declare war on anyone you have a fight with.
As an adult, you have to be nice, or people ditch you. True story. Social tetris continues as a fully-fledged woman – except that instead of telling your best friend that she’s fat, ugly, bad at dancing and that Jack Thompson said she was a bad kisser; you have to say nice things, like, you really love her new shoes, and where did she get that bag from, how is your day?
It’s hard. But being a loner who calls people fat is harder.
Working on weekends.
Hey, remember when working on weekends was fun? Neither. But in the deep recesses of my mind, I do recall a time when my part time job at the local cafe provided great entertainment and respite from weekends spent baking in the hot, boring sun of the ‘burbs.
Work was fun! You could chat up cute boys, as you simultaneously ignored customers, and made plans for what park you planned on drinking Midori Illusions in that night.
Working weekends as an adult, on the other hand, is the ultimate sacrifice. No brunch. No sleep ins. No hangovers spent curled up next to an Uber Eats bag as you aimlessly scroll Netflix. Hell, you can’t even have a cheeky wine without worrying about booze breath in the elevator at work the next day.
Working on weekends is the millennial answer to conscription: we don’t want to be there, but fine. Fine. We’ll be there.
Having some kind of direction in life.
I still remember the interview I had with my career advisor, “And what are you planning on doing after school?” she asked me, terse.
I didn’t have an answer then, and I might not even have the answer now. It took a great many years fumbling through part-time jobs and bouts of unemployment (didn’t hate that, necessarily) before I made sense of who I was, and what I wanted to do.
The good news is this: you can actually find direction in your career choices in those confusing days before high school concludes. The trick is committing yourself to doing as much research into the choices as possible, and stop waiting for the answer to magically appear.
Rather than basing your career choice out of what university courses are available, work it backwards: what industry are you passionate about? What job makes you excited?
Shameless plug: For a little extra focus, try out our Footnotes-created ‘Careers personality quiz’ – it’s a three minute quiz that will give you some serious insight into the industries and roles made for you.