I’ve had the opportunity to speak to several youth groups about life after high school graduation over the last few weeks. I love seeing the excitement and anticipation on their hopeful faces as they contemplate being away from home for the first time, dreaming about all of life’s possibilities.
Victoria Beckham wrote a letter that was published in British Vogue, giving advice to herself at age 18.
“Dear Victoria,” it began. “I know you are struggling right now. You are not the prettiest, or the thinnest, or the best at dancing at the Laine Theatre Arts college. You have never properly fitted in.
“There is a red telephone box outside the school and you have just rung your parents, crying, 'I can’t do this, I miss home, I’m not good enough.' And Mum has told you to come home. 'We’ll go to Lakeside and buy a new pair of shoes,' she said. It’s tempting. But then Dad got on the phone: 'Stay there, prove everyone wrong.' If you’d listened to Mum, you would be going to Lakeside. (Shoes are important, just not right now.) It would be the easy solution. And I’m writing to jolly you along, to offer consolation and encouragement, and to tell you, aged 18, to be strong.”
Like Beckham’s parents, one of the best gifts my mom and dad gave me was the gift of support. I knew no matter what I did, they would be there for me.
I think that’s why I felt comfortable going for a reality show that only accepted 12 people out of 72,000. It’s why I had the courage to go to Nashville and pitch my songs to record labels, most of which turned me down. It’s why I applied for and attended college at probably the worst time to do so — after I was prime for stardom having just been on the No. 1 rated show on television because I needed to figure out what I really wanted. It’s also why I felt I could leave all that and still do what I love — in a different way, for different reasons.
My parents have always believed in me, always told me I could do anything I wanted. I want to offer that same advice to graduating girls this year, along with some other small lessons I’ve learned in the 14 years since I graduated high school.
1. You’ll have a fresh start.
No matter if you were the popular or unpopular girl, the smartest, the most outgoing, the best dressed or the most awkward, you have the opportunity to start fresh. If you are going to college, you’ll have the opportunity to meet many different types of people from all different walks of life who are just as eager to make friends as you are. Be a good friend. (Kissing your friend’s boyfriend is not being a good friend.)
2. Take learning seriously.
Whether you are at school or starting a new job, do your best. Be grateful for the opportunities that challenge you, and don’t be afraid of them. If I’ve learned anything about hard work, it’s that the satisfaction is worth the sacrifice.
3. Take care of yourself
This would seem like an obvious thing to do, but I was surprised at how much I let myself go as soon as I got out on my own. It’s like I was so excited with the freedom of no one “telling me what to do” that I rebelled against everything hygienic I was taught growing up, such as daily showers and cleaning my room. Not caring was somehow “cool.” Ladies, it’s not cool.
Put yourself together and you’ll feel clutter and anxiety drain from your mind. You don’t have to go overboard. Just do your hair and put on clothes that are flattering and you’ll feel you can take on the world. I still have to tell myself this. Getting ready means being ready for whatever the day has in store for you, like a hot date. If you stink, you might not get that date. (Unless you’re married and vowed for better or for worse, showered or un-showered.)
4. Be open to new possibilities.
I had one goal in mind when I graduated: get a record deal. I did that, but not until after I was married. I had so many goals I set for myself, and lots of them I met. Lots I didn’t. Go for your dreams, but be prepared to realize new dreams, too. It is never too late to try and do something you love. I truly believe anything is possible in life.
Above all, I’m going to echo what Beckham said, and that is: “What you will realise is that by working hard, yet always putting family first, it will be possible to achieve that balance. Nothing will be perfect, but it is only now that I have learnt to appreciate all I have and all I have been blessed with. I am happy.”