The only consistency I maintain on this platform is the annual year-in-review article I write around my birthday. I started writing the first piece when I was still fifteen. Now, I’m eighteen. Fifteen and eighteen are different numbers because of math, but also because I am different (thank goodness) after these years. Sixteen-year-old Grace was enduring the toughest year of her life to date. Seventeen-year-old Grace was socially stressed and discovering her feminist voice, much to the chagrin of her male classmates. I am unsure what eighteen-year-old Grace is up to because these things only form trends in retrospect. Without any further rambling, here are eighteen lessons learned in eighteen years:

a. I will never be “cured” of anxiety. My natural thought patterns have self-destructive tendencies despite the fact that they typically make me a productive person (i.e. my anxiety makes me extremely conscientious, which contributes to the quality of my work, but this makes me more anxious which makes me hate myself). I have the control to curve these patterns in a way that continues my productivity without killing myself. It’s easier to tell myself I have no control because it takes all the effort I have to overcome destructive thinking, but ultimately, perpetuating the lies I tell myself only hurts me.

b. The premise of wanting to be well-liked by the general population is a distorted and off-centered view of this world. Some people are widely loved, but that is a side-effect of their personality, not the main goal of their behavior. Having more than four close friends is virtually impossible. Eventually, someone falls to the wayside whether you intend it or not. I do not need to win homecoming to feel loved because I am loved so deeply and richly by a few important people.

c. I should be less ashamed of my aptitude for math. I love the logic and mental gymnastics of calculus. I love the application of math to relevant real-world events. Yes, it is a male-dominated field even in high school calc, but I definitely have the mental capacity for higher-level math and I should continue math for that reason.

d. To go with my love affair with math, I also have a thing for economics. Economics is the ultimate combination of math with real-world applications of decision-making, social classes, and quality of life. I can’t wait to be an economics and math double-major in college.

e. Writing my thoughts, whether in a journal or just in notes on my phone, draws me out of myself when I get too deep in thought. It was hard for me to start because essentially, it is the act of recording your vulnerabilities for future reference. I have a hard time even being vulnerable to myself, but putting the thoughts on paper makes life feel a little more real.

f. I cannot bat 1.00. Mistakes are inevitable because I am a terrestrial being of human nature. Luckily, the arc my life is long and will bend towards success, even when outliers occur. That’s how data sets work.

g. It’s really just a hunch, but I cannot help but think that I will be fifty times happier as a college student than as a high schooler. College will arrive soon enough, I know, but I would be okay skipping the rest of senior year to begin living in a dorm in Chicago tomorrow.

h. I am less asexual than I originally believed. Being in high school means being surrounded by couples and dating gossip every waking minute, especially when considering the cultivated image people construct on social media. I have never really come anywhere close to romance, so since junior high, I have constantly examined and reexamined and reexamined myself in search of qualities that made me “undateable.” I still have a habit of projecting insecurities; sometimes I repeatedly imagine conversations between other people discussing the reasons why I do not deserve love. I’m coming around, luckily, because I suspect it is less about me being “undateable” and more about my small town in the rural and conservative midwestern-United States of America not having many people holding similar interests with me. For obvious reasons, calculus-loving girls with feminist agendas do not get romantic attention from boys because boys are too busy being FUCKING TERRIFIED of such girls. I still hold out hope for relationships in college.

i. I actually want to have a family after I have established a career. For awhile, I imagined myself living alone in a studio apartment until I died with only the comfort of success, money, and possibly a small dog. The more I am around kids, the more I realize what a gift children are. The more I babysit, the more I want small humans of my own to cradle and care for. It would be nice to come home everyday from a job I love to a small house of people I love. We’ll see, but my main point here is I want to have kids eventually despite my tendency to act like a completely independent loner in no need of company.

j. Social media is of the devil. Its affect on my mental health is unquestionably awful and I have to quit it. I feel like social media is my generation’s cigarette. A constant habit, calming in moments of anxiety, addicting, yet undeniably terrible for your wellbeing.

k. Exercise is also tied to my mental health, but in a good way. Exercise is such a good release for my stress at the end of a full day and I am happiest after a quick workout.

l. I am inclined to push myself as hard as I possibly can and that’s how I’ve come across most of my academic success. However, pushing myself to extremes is not good for my well-being and if I continue this way, I will kill myself, and that is a direct quote from my therapist. I have to learn to ease off the gas of my productivity car. Because of my mental illness, my workload has limits. And that’s okay! It’s not a sign of weakness.

m. Speaking of weaknesses, vulnerability is something with which I need practice. I am constantly trying to put my strengths and positive attributes forward for the whole world to see, but sometimes, it is okay to not be strong. It is okay to be weak.

n. Though I want very deeply to be kind to those around me, it is okay to break up with friends if they simply absorb your kindness and never return the favors.

o. I cannot control what others think about me. Just because I work so hard to present myself in a certain way does not mean it will persuade everyone to fall in love with me. Other people get to think their own thoughts and I do not get to try to control what they think about me.

p. My health is more important than my responsibilities and commitments. If I am sick, I should stay home from school no matter how many tests I have that day or how far behind I worry I will fall. My health is my first priority.

q. There is nothing better than a good sunset to make me smile to myself. It’s cheesy. It’s cliche. But I need to notice small beauties to make it through the days.

r. Everyone is worried about something they aren’t telling me and I need to respect those worries without necessarily being aware of them. I need to save my judgements. I need to stop assuming that I understand what existence is like for others and be more willing to listen without projecting my own background knowledge onto them.



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Grace Ellen

Here you’ll find the progression of teenage Grace learning when to whisper and when to scream.