It’s graduation season!
We’re officially mid-June, and this month has been all about graduations! High school graduation, or studenten as it is called in Swedish, is a pretty big deal here. Having gone through studenten myself (in 2007, which is FIFTEEN years ago. Dear God.), I love the traditions we have. Nation-wide, studenten usually begins with school-sponsored ‘champagne breakfast’, followed by a slew of speeches, after which each class runs out of the school, one at a time, while family and friends stand outside in the school courtyard with posters and champagne in tow.
Everyone cheers and kids find their families using the large poster boards (traditionally, a huge photo of the graduate as a baby), after which photos, hugs, gifts, and champagne-drinking ensue!
Afterwards, the new grads go back to their classmates and tour the city, either by decorated truck or a fancy car, where they continue to drink and party and get cheered on by onlookers 😂
A few weeks ago, Conrad and I went to a dear friend’s eldest’s studenten party (a lot of families host a reception after the truck ride), and it made me think about my own graduation. Viggo (the graduate) actually asked me, ‘If you could go back in time, what would you tell your 18-year-old self?’, and, after thinking about it, I thought it could make a fun blog post 😊 (Btw, a few years ago I wrote about life, post-college graduation and I think my advice still holds up!)
So, what would I tell 18-year-old Léna? A few things came to mind…
First, you don’t need to have a plan.
Instead of spending so much time worrying about the fact that you have no idea what you want to do, just get on with it and do things. And if you want to figure out what you want to do, I suggest doing several vastly different things, such as attending festivals, or getting a job bartending, or taking classes, or going on trips with friends or alone, volunteering, taking an internship, you name it. You don’t need to do that thing forever, but by just doing something (seriously, anything) you’ll learn about work, yourself (your values, dislikes, etc.), and it will help you figure out what you want to do. Looking back, this time after graduating is a really exciting moment, because you’re taking your first steps as an adult, but with the rare privilege of having a soft place to land in case you take the wrong turn, which you will do now and then. Not to be cheesy (oh who am I kidding, I love cheesy!), but the world really is your oyster 🦪🥂🍾
Get over yourself and just ask for help.
I know the idea of asking grown-ups for help feels absolutely terrifying and somehow also incredibly humiliating (?) right now. But even though it makes you feel like an incredible pain in the ass, you will soon come to find out that
- No one expects you to know how to do everything (babies can’t walk until they try and fall),
- Most professionals love being asked for help or advice by young people (it’s incredibly flattering!), and
- The worst thing that someone can do after you reach out is either say no or not reply, which is truly not the end of the world.
You can run but you can’t hide from mental health issues
High-school was f*cking hard on you (now we know it’s because you were suffering from anxiety, depression, and undiagnosed ADHD), but the end of high-school doesn’t mean that those issues will also magically go away. It sucks and it’s annoying and totally exhausting, but advocating for yourself and your mental health is so so so important. I’m proud of the work you did at the time with the info and resources available, but if I could go back I would really stress the importance of getting therapy, medication, and an ADHD diagnosis as soon as possible.
Have more fun!
Easier said than done, I know. And you did a really good job despite having mental health challenges. But if I could go back, I would tell you to do even more of that fun stuff, because that’s what you’ll remember more than any of the classes or papers or assignments you stressed about.
Instead of looking at things in black and white, try to view everything from a place of curiosity.
Oh, sweet, confused, hopelessly clueless 18-year-old Léna…you think you know it all! You have a very strong sense of morality, which is not a bad thing, but looking at things with judgement (vs. with curiosity and from the desire to learn more) will come back to bite you in the ass. Even though you don’t like it, things are never only black or white; embracing the nuance of all the different shades of grey in between will only help you be nicer to others and, most importantly, to yourself.
One last thing….NO ONE is looking at you bc *whispers* you’re not that special!
Again, I say this with love. Of course, you’re very special to those who know and love you 🥰 but in the grand scheme of the world, you are totally insignificant! And that is a fabulous thing! Your anonymity allows you to mess up, re-invent yourself as desired, wear whatever you want, change your mind, mess up again, and repeat, because literally no one is paying attention to you. The sooner you grasp this, the sooner you’ll feel the liberation of no longer giving a f*ck, which will drastically change your life.
Ok, now I’m super curious…what, if anything, would you tell your high-school-graduate self? Do you think your high-school self would believe any of it? I must say, even if I could go back and tell myself these things, knowing 18-year-old me, I have a sneaking suspicion that everything would have gone in one ear and out the other 😂 Guess I needed to learn things the hard way!
Hope you are having a lovely summer!