Lessons learned: Examining time in high school to become better person

Kaywin McCall

I’ve done lots of stupid things, and I’ve paid consequences for decisions I’ve made and for decisions I didn’t make. I’ve suffered from what I’ve done and from what I’ve left undone. I’ve watched things in my life fall apart before my eyes while not having any say in it, and I’ve also watched myself grow and rebuild stronger.

Someone asked me if I’d ever redo or change something I did in high school, and my answer: absolutely not. The knowledge I’ve gained from mistakes is too valuable versus trying to “make something right”.

The knowledge that I have obtained from doing what was considered wrong, from doubting myself, or from others who helped me far outweighs the thought of redoing something and risking never learning these lessons.

Here’s 10 of them:
Lesson 1: Nobody cares, work harder.
I’ve learned how to suck it up. I’ve learned that complaining will get you nowhere in life. Having a vision of where you want to be or who you want to be is awesome, but how are you going to get there? Don’t just repeat and talk about your vision, but work for it. You can’t dream big and make your dream a reality if you do not work.

Lesson 2: Never stop learning.
Knowledge is one of the most valuable tools you’ll ever have. One of the best decisions I’ve made in high school is to listen to people. Yeah, I’m super stubborn and set in my ways about lots of things, but that doesn’t change the fact that I love listening to others. Knowing what people believe is great, but knowing why they believe it is powerful. Knowing why someone believes in this over that and taking time to understand their reasoning behind it is a pretty cool experience. Don’t be a bigot or so stuck in your ways that you overlook someone because they believe differently than you. It’s okay to disagree and to debate issues, but don’t be intolerant to someone and not take time to listen to them or ask them questions; have meaningful conversations.

Lesson 3: Don’t focus on the haters.
Don’t be overcome by loud voices around you saying you can’t do something. Instead focus on that one voice inside of you saying you can. I learned to stop listening to negativity. I learned to focus on what I believed would propel me to be the best I could be, and to drown out voices of doubt. I think I’ve proved a lot of people wrong (myself included) over the past few years, but I devote it all to that one voice who told me to keep going and to shut out my surroundings. It’s like tunnel vision. Just focus on what and where you want to be and work your butt off until you get there – prove the naysayers wrong.

Lesson 4: Don’t let people tell you your ideas won’t work.
Don’t let people doubt your ideas. If you believe something will work, defend it wholeheartedly. Defend what you believe in, defend what you think is the best option. What makes others’ opinions more valuable than yours? Defend your ideas and believe in yourself.

Lesson 5: Investment > sacrifice
Don’t call things a sacrifice, call them an investment and watch how your attitude changes. It’s all in the wording. Sacrifice implies you’re giving something up to gain something. Investment implies that you are putting your work and time into something you believe is truly valuable. Once you find something you’re passionate about, it’s no longer a sacrifice; it’s an investment of your time, energy, ability, etc. So find something you’re passionate about and give it all you have.

Lesson 6: Give back more than what you’ve received.
Leave things nicer than when you get them. If you borrowed your friend’s truck, return it with a full tank of gas. If someone gives you a ride, give them gas money – don’t let them ask for it, just hand it to them. If you stay the night with a friend, clean up after yourself and make it cleaner than when you got there. Doing this doesn’t just show that you can clean up after yourself, but that you appreciate what they did for you. Say “thank you” more. Look for the little things to be appreciative, and tell someone how thankful you are for them. You might just make their day.

Lesson 7: It’s okay to lean on others.
People naturally want to help others when they’re struggling. Ask someone to help you with your homework, for someone to listen to you, or for advice. Humans are made to live in a community with each other, and when you talk about your aspirations, doubts, and hard times with others – that community grows so much stronger when you’re vulnerable.

Lesson 8: What you do when nobody is watching is way more important than when they are.
I’ll be honest: someone once came and told me they met someone who knew me and was inspired by my work ethic and how I handled some situations… and I didn’t really know the person they were talking about. I didn’t know someone knew who I was and that I was inspiring them to be better – I was just doing what I always did, going to work on my dreams. What I did when I thought nobody was watching came into the light and I was able to impact someone. Work hard in silence. People will notice more by your actions than when you talk about it.

Lesson 9: Take responsibility.
If you make a mistake, own up to it and fix it. If you broke something on accident, fix it or buy the person a new one. Circumstances you may be in might have shaped you, but you are responsible for who you become. You are responsible for the people you impact, you are responsible for a mess you may have made, and you are definitely responsible for your tray at lunch! Don’t leave it for someone else to pick up.

Lesson 10: You’re not a mistake.
Just because I’ve made a mistake doesn’t mean that I am one. I’ve messed up lots of things, I doubt myself a lot, and sometimes I fall into deep thoughts questioning my value and my past mistakes, but then I remember that God has created me on purpose, for a purpose. So were you. You’re here, in this moment, for a reason. Don’t forget that: you have purpose, you are important, and you are loved.

I’ll leave you with this:
Eat lunch with someone who’s eating alone, smile at those walking in the hall, hold the door open, tell others how much you appreciate them, say “please”, “thank you” , “yes sir/ma’am” “no sir/ma’am”, be a light to someone in a dark spot, go out of your way to help someone, work hard in your classes, mend broken relationships, forgive, be kind to everyone, don’t ever give up, and know you are made to do big things. Little things you do will make a huge impact.