Get strong, but admit your weaknesses
To be honest, I already “knew it all” at 16: people had already told me that things would get easier, life would be better outside of our small town, etc. It was all true, but it didn’t really help ease the day-to-day woes of secondary school. So I probably wouldn’t be offering my 16-year-old self any philosophical advice. Instead, I’d tell myself this:
Eat less junk food and work out more. I was eating a lot of candy in high school, and I wasn’t involved in any sports. But if I had eaten a more nutritious diet and started a solid exercise plan, I would’ve felt better, looked better, and it would have given me a head start on being a healthy adult.
On the academic side of things, I’d advise my young self to ask for more help. Secondary school is probably the last time in your life where you can get help, for free, in subjects you’re having trouble with. I did very poorly in maths, and it’s not because I was stupid, it was just because I was missing certain key concepts. I should’ve asked for some extra tutoring or assistance, even if it meant watching a little less TV ... oh, and I should have watched less TV.
The strength of strings
I would tell myself to pick up a musical instrument during my free time. Maybe the guitar or the violin. Although my parents would ask me to study instead of wasting my time playing musical instruments, I think it’s a great way to relax after a tough day at school. Thinking about ways to destress, writing a short story would be another good option. It could be based on something that actually happened to me. Or play a sport instead of watching it on television. After all, actions speak louder than words!
“Be brave and do more stuff.” Simple advice everyone has heard of, but particularly applicable to me. I never was the most courageous or outgoing person (I’m still not!), but thanks to nerves and sheer apathy, I missed out on a lot of stuff. If I’d taken that advice to heart in my teens, I would probably have a lot more interesting stories to tell. I was lucky in the sense that I was forced into doing things I didn’t want to do at the time. So yeah, drama, field trips, acting, sports – do it all. Worst comes to worst, you’ll have a funny story to tell 10 years later.
Also, sleep more. When you have to choose between sleep and almost anything else, pick sleep. Trust future you/me.
Study, rest, ... and work
Right now, everyone is preparing for exams, and everyone is really busy. I managed my time well, and I studied all the time. But it would be better if you could create a specific time slot for what subjects you plan to study each day. Trust me, that makes it easier to digest a ridiculously huge syllabus in a very short period of time.
Treasure your study leave, and make the most of the freedom it brings. Being restricted by timetables and school rules is tiring. Study leave is a valuable opportunity to plan your own schedule.
I know everyone is busy studying. But remember you are not a machine. Make time to relax. I took a break from studying by swimming, watching films and dancing to Madonna. The key is to balance it with your studies.
Also try to find a part-time job or internship after your exams. I used to be a part-time delivery worker which provided a valuable learning experience, as I had to meet and work with different people. It’s also a great way to save money if you want to go travelling or do something fun before “real life” sets in.
Go your own way
To be brutally honest I would probably tell myself to NOT be so naive. Don’t always follow rules – rules are for sheep. If you want to really succeed in this world, work the grey areas! The real trick is finding that grey area, though. You don’t want to stand out too much, as it could make you a target.
As far as a social life goes, I would tell my younger self that not everybody has to like you. It’s important to focus on what right’s for you, because people are too busy worrying about their own lives to care about what you are doing.
I would work on my strengths, not weaknesses. Everyone has faults, but I think it’s better to focus on your strengths and build on them, instead of worrying about your faults.