17 Things I Learned While 17
On March 19th I turn 18 years old. A milestone birthday I’ve been both dreading and anticipating for quite some time now. It doesn’t feel like I’m turning 18, but then again I don’t really know what turning 18 feels like or should feel like. Is there someone that’s going to come stamp adult on my forehead? Am I going to stop feeling like everyone around me sees me as a child the day I turn 18? Am I going to stop seeing myself as a child the day I turn 18? I guess I’ll find out, but if my 18th year is anything like my 17th was, it’s going to be quite the ride. The past 12 months have been filled with so many ups and downs, but I am so grateful for every single experience because through it all I learned so much about myself and about the life I’m living. This past year prepared me for the year ahead. The year I strike out on my own, the year I follow my dreams, and the year I part ways from my childhood.
There’s no way I can fully put into words the way this past year has affected me, but I’m going to try my best by sharing 17 things I learned while 17.
I’ve struggled with anxiety for a very long time. It started as minor OCD-tendencies as a child, but as I grew older and started taking on more and more responsibility while doing new things and broadening my horizons so-to-speak, my anxiety began to consume me. This year I had to learn how to cope with my anxiety to prevent it from becoming more severe than it was. I had to learn how to take control of my own thoughts, how to supress my anxiety attacks, how to de-stress myself, and how to be able to get through my day without letting my racing mind debilitate me as it so often did. I learned what my triggers were for my anxiety attacks, I found within myself where my anxiety stems from, and I made the conscious decision to fight it. It’s definitely an ongoing battle, but it wasn’t until this past year that I recognized it for the problem it was and accepted the fact that I did have a problem.
Deciding on my life direction has been a source of my anxiety since my junior year of high school. For some reason it just set in one day that I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and that I sure as hell didn’t want to go to college, and that’s when panic mode set in. I spent a year and a half researching, soul searching, and doing everything I could to try to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I had so many things I wanted to do and things I would love to accomplish in my life, but none of them seemed to intertwine in a way I could see. There was no predetermined path I could take to reach my dreams. None that someone before me had completed, that is, so I set out to make my own path. After a brief trip to visit some family back in June, my head was clear and I knew my path. I came home with a fire in my eyes that I hadn’t seen in a long time. I had found my path, my life journey, and my way to accomplish everything I wanted to within my life. At 17 years old, I was able to say, confidently, this is my journey, this is what I’m going to do, this is how I’m going to accomplish it, and I was able to say this without there being holes in my plan, without my dreams seeming unrealistic, and without a doubt in my heart that it would happen. In my 17th year I founded my future, and it seems pretty bright to me.
It’s ok to let people go. It’s ok to admit that you’ve outgrown someone. It’s ok if someone that once made you feel joy doesn’t make you feel that way anymore. It’s just apart of life, and it took me a long time to accept that. This past year I parted ways with some of the best friends I had ever had, but by the end of our friendships it just didn’t feel right anymore. It felt forced. I didn’t feel loved or happy when I was with them anymore, and once things came to a boiling point and ties were severed, I felt relief. I felt lighter. I had felt so weighed down for so long, and I was finally free. Free to experience new things, new people, and new adventures. I learned that just because someone is apart of your life, they don’t have to be forever, especially when you change, circumstances change, and you start to grow apart.
Parting ways with some very special people also taught me something else. Just because you are no longer apart of someone’s life, doesn’t mean all the memories you shared together mean any less. It doesn’t taint how you felt in those moments. It doesn’t make it all for nothing. It doesn’t cut up and burn the photos (unless you do that yourself), and it doesn’t mean you have to dissolve those memories from your mind. The future will be different, but good or bad, the past stays the same no matter what.
I’ve also learned what a good friend is. I’ve learned what a true friendship is. I’ve learned how a friend should make you feel. I’ve learned that you should never feel like you’re putting more in than the other person. I’ve learned that, that isn’t how a healthy friendship, or relationship in general, works. Friends should make you feel special. Friends should make time for you no matter how busy their schedule is. Friends should make you feel like there’s no one they’d rather be with when you’re together. Friends should encourage you and build you up, and if your friends make you feel anything less than that, then they aren’t true friends. The hardest part is realizing that someone you thought the world of just doesn’t think the world of you. Someone you had given your all too has only been giving you 10%. Everyone needs some amazing friends. Someone to call when you’re feeling down, someone to have a good time with, someone who will let you vent endlessly, someone to give you fashion advice, someone to hype you up when you’re feeling yourself, and so much more. Friends play a major role in everyone’s life, so it’s important to surround yourself with the best possible people, and this year I’ve learned what kind of friends I want and deserve.
I’ve always been someone who lets things go when strangers or next-to strangers are involved. I’d keep my feelings about a coworker in, I’d let comments I’d hear about me in public slide, I’d see a stupid subtweet and ignore it, but this year I learned that I don’t have to do that. I don’t have to be kind and pleasant 24/7. I don’t have to avoid “drama” at all costs. If someone says or does something to me that I don’t like, I’m no longer going to just “let it slide”. I’ve spent too many years avoiding conflict at all costs. I have too many regrets of times I should’ve stood up for myself but didn’t. I’m tired of letting people think they can walk all over me because I’m “fun loving” and “too nice”. And ever since I made this decision, I’ve felt so empowered. I’ve stopped taking no for an answer when no isn’t the answer I deserve. I’ve stopped letting people belittle me and treat me as though I’m beneath them. I’ve stopped taking the beating I’ve gotten for years just for being me.
This one is still a work in progress, but this year I’ve learned to not take myself so seriously. I’ve learned to not be so conscious of what those around me might be thinking. I’ve learned to live in the moment instead of thinking so much about each move I’m about to make. I’ve never had a problem letting loose around my friends, but I often find myself being so conscious of my surroundings that I forget to enjoy the moment I’m in. Instead of having a fun day of shopping and going out with my friends, I’ll find myself only worrying about how we’re being perceived by those around us instead of just joining in the fun. Or even though I want a picture of myself because I love my outfit that day, I won’t do it because I don’t want people to think something negative about me. I’ve had to learn to not worry about what people are thinking and to only worry about myself and what I want to do. Enjoying the moments of life are all that matter, not what other people think about what you’re doing.
I used to find myself having major party FOMO all the time. Every weekend I’d see people living it up and having an awesome time at some crazy party, and I’d hear the stories for weeks, and I hated myself for not being someone that was able to go into a room of strangers and have a great time. I hated that I didn’t have the party-gene in me. I felt like I was missing out on so much, but I finally realized something I should’ve realized a long time ago. Why should I let myself dislike myself for the fact that I don’t like to do something? Plenty of people like different things, and I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world that would rather have a small group of friends together for a movie night than go to a party filled with strangers and bad ideas. I realized FOMO was stupid because everything I was doing while feeling FOMO was being missed out on by all those people, too. There’s always gonna be somewhere better to be or something better to do, so why not just be happy with the things you actually feel comfortable doing.
For those of you who don’t know, I also run www.styledbykyle.com. When I started that website, I knew nothing about styling women or taking pictures, but I knew I wanted to. I went from having no clue as to how to get a good picture, no clue as to how to dress different women’s bodies, and no clue how to run a women’s blog to doing it all pretty damn well if I do say so myself. In my 17th year I learned photography and women’s styling all on my own, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself.
One of my biggest downfalls is how often I overreact. Something triggers me, I go into survival mode, and I lash out. I react without thinking and I always go to the worst case scenario of whatever’s going on. I’m the total package, I know. But this year, I’ve actually thought to myself to stop and think before I reacted. If it’s an iffy text I got, I’ll set my phone down and just think on it for awhile before firing off a potentially hurtful message. If someone smashes their car door into my car while I’m in it, I’ll calmly wait until I get a chance to check for damage before I use a few choice words at the person who carelessly swung open their door. If a stressful situation comes up and my fight or flight instincts kick in and I go into full on survival mode, I distract myself to think about something else and revisit the situation at hand when I can think about and solve the problem objectively instead of reacting irrationally. I guess you’d call this a sign of growing up or “maturity” but no matter what it is, for me it’s a step in the right (and long awaited) direction.
I like control. I like things to happen how I want them to, when I want them to, and without a hitch. I like to know what’s going on at all times. I like to be in the driver’s seat (literally and metaphorically). It’s both a blessing and a curse, because when I put my mind to something I get shit done, but when things aren’t going according to plan I start to panic. I can easily be sent into an anxiety-induced spiral, but this year I realized it isn’t worth it. It isn’t worth it to try and control things that aren’t able to be controlled. It isn’t worth it for me to antagonize over things that cannot be changed. I learned to accept my lack of control, and to focus my efforts onto things I actually can control.
In my 17th year I tried to fix too many people, and you know what I realized? It’s not my damn job. If someone wants to go into a downward spiral, let them. If someone wants to think the whole world is out to get them, let them. If someone is broken inside, it’s not your job to put them back together. I’m tired of fixing people. I have my own things to worry about. I have my own issues, and I shouldn’t have to feel responsible for people, especially when they don’t appreciate all that I do for them. So good riddance with people who need me to have my shit together so that I can put their shit together. My 18th year will not be spent being the fixer.
The past 12 months taught me that sometimes you just need to unplug. When my stress level is a 10, my anxiety attack is going on hour 3, and I just can’t anymore, I turn everything off, and I turn on a movie. By the time the movie’s over, I feel so relaxed and unwound that I can get back to the task at hand. I spend all day every day either on my phone or my computer (I run two blogs lay off me) and sometimes it just gets to be too much, especially when I continue to use my phone even when I’m taking my breaks. Relaxing and enjoying some me-time takes on a whole new meaning when you actually spend it focused on just one thing. Whether it’s reading a book, catching up on some magazines, watching a show, or doing something else you enjoy, I’ve learned that doing it while completely unplugged from the outside world is the only way to actually reap the benefits of some much deserved downtime.
Social anxiety is something that has plagued me my entire life. I’ve never liked meeting new people, making new friends, or being surrounded by people I didn’t know or feel comfortable with. It’s kept me from experiences I wish I would’ve had, and this year I set out to defeat my social anxiety. All too often I’ll attach myself to one person or a group of people, and I’ll use them as an excuse to not break out of my shell, but once I lost those attachments, I became a whole new person. I made more new friends in the last 3 months than I have in the last 4 years. I’ve met so many cool people and even resurfaced an old friendship that faded out years ago. I’ve finally become the people person I’ve always wanted to be. Someone that can just go out and strike up a conversation with a stranger, someone who can make a friend just like that, and someone that is able to get along with so many different types of people. I see the world as a place filled with possible connections instead of a world filled with just strangers, and I’m loving the path this new mentality is taking me on.
Perhaps one of the most valuable things I learned this past year is that I can make anything I want, happen. I wanted new friends. I went and got them. I wanted to be self-employed. I made it happen. I wanted to live in NYC. I’ll be moving there within the next year. I wanted to learn new skills like photography and wardrobe styling. I taught myself. Nothing is going to happen if you don’t strive for it. Nothing is going to happen if we don’t think it can happen. Just because a dream is far fetched doesn’t mean it can’t be a reality. And this year I learned that my dreams aren’t as far away as I thought they were.
I’ve spent so much of my life so worried about what people would think of my outfit choices. I remember my freshman year of high school having panic attacks the day before I wore something I hadn’t worn before. But why? Why was I so terrified of wearing something other people might not approve of? Even now I will catch myself thinking about what people’s reaction will be to an outfit I had just picked out, and I’ll then end up switching it up to avoid any possible negative reaction to my appearance. But this year I decided to stop all that. I’m tired of dressing for everyone except me. I’m tired of sending things back because I’m scared of the reaction it will get. I’m done worrying about being overdressed for something. I like dressing up for no reason and there’s nothing wrong with that!! I learned this past year that I need to dress for me and only me.
My 17th year was full of self realization, but the biggest and best one of all is that I am perfect just the way I am (cliche, I know). I’m finally 100% confident in who I am and where I’m going in life. I love the way I dress, I love the way I look, I love the person I’ve become, I love the people in my life, and I plain and simply love my life. I don’t need to change anything about me, and after years of wishing I was someone else, I finally feel 100% secure in who Kyle Peterson is, because he’s pretty damn great.
Looking back on my 17th year makes me feel so many different emotions. It went by quicker than I ever could’ve imagined, and before I know it my 18th year will be behind me as well, but here’s to 18 being bigger and better than 17. Here’s to 18 teaching me even more life lessons, and here’s to 18 getting me another step closer to my dreams.