Lessons From My 19 Year-old Self

South Africa in Australia

As my gap year is slowly drawing to a close, I’ve started to really reflect on experiences and how they’ve shaped who I am right now.

It’s been the craziest year of my life, without a doubt, and this year has taught me the following:

1.) It is completely okay to have your own opinions, likes, views and beliefs.

Yeah, not everyone will agree with you. But then again, does that truly matter? You shouldn’t compromise purely because you’re scared someone won’t approve or like you.

2.) Stand up for yourself.

Odds are, you’ll find yourself in a situation where someone is taking advantage of you at some point. And no, you shouldn’t have to allow this to happen – no matter how young or unqualified you may be. It is important to remain respectful and professional at all times, though.

3.) There is no one way of living life.

My travels have allowed me to see that people are so vastly different and we should celebrate that. Don’t think that you have to follow a certain ‘step’ in life. We all have our own paths to follow.

4.) Life will chuck obstacles in your way.

We all go through experiences that are truly horrific and may seem like the end of the world. This part doesn’t matter because it’s inevitable. What matters is how you bounce back. We have the ability to overcome any obstacle. You are far stronger than you may believe – trust a sista on this.

5.) You’re going to mess up, a lot.

Messing up doesn’t define you as a person. How you handle it does, however. Life would be terribly boring without mistakes. The really satisfying part about life is learning and growing from these experiences. So mess up, but then learn and grow and challenge yourself not to make the same mistakes twice.

6.) Budget, learn to cook, do your own washing and plan ahead.

These things may seem small but they allow for independence. And that, young butterfly, is the most satisfying feeling in the world.

7.) Don’t bust your brain too much over what others may be thinking about you.

Sure, we all do it. But ultimately we’re the ones who sit with the consequences of our actions. So, wear what you want to wear, study what you want to study, dance and sing, create.

8.) Sleep is kinda, maybe vital for functioning.

Yeah sure, going to some club until the early others of the morning only to catch the earliest train back may appear totally cool because ‘yolo’. But then again, no one really cares about whether you go to that party or not.

9.) Take care of your health.

Physical exercise and a balanced diet will change your life in the long run. Our health is probably our biggest blessing, yet it is the thing we take for granted the most. (Nay, I’m not perfect in this department but I’m on the path the recovery.)

10.) Family and friends are important.

Make time for them and value them. Life would be utterly sucky if we didn’t have those legends to share it with.

Yes, I may be some 19-year-old punk living in some yellow house in some countryside town in England. But, I have a point, no?

Words and photos from Zahn. You can read more on her blog here. For more information on our UK gap year program head here. 

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