1. There is so much ahead of you.
In the short years I have been out of middle and high school, there are already so many lessons and pieces of advice that I wish I could tell my younger self. First of all, please know that your school experience is NOT your entire world. Sometimes it can be really hard to see outside the school hallways, and to realize that there is so much more to your life. Know that school is just one chapter of your life story. There is so much ahead of you ... adventures you will go on, people you will meet, relationships you will develop...middle and high school are just one fraction of your total experience. So when things start to feel overwhelming or social anxiety starts to take over, please know from someone who was in your shoes not that long ago, that it truly gets better.
2. If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it.
This is such a simple concept that we have all heard a million times. I truly believe that if we practice this and repeat this to ourselves on a daily basis, we can change the world. We will never be perfect and that's okay, but at the very least we can be conscious and respectful of other people and the journey they are on. If something you are going to say or do is going to have a negative effect on that person, then don't say or do that thing. That's it. If you practice this, you will create a better life for the people around you and it will help mold you into the best version of yourself.
3. Everyone has a story.
That girl who everyone calls a "slut" or that boy who shoves other boys into the lockers to make himself feel more in control ... they have a story just like you. I can promise you that every person you meet has experienced trauma, or maybe they will wake up tomorrow and their life will completely change. You have no idea what someone comes to school with or what they go home to when the bell rings. It's so important to be kind and respectful to others, because the things that we say and do to someone can affect them based on experiences going on in their life that you may not know about.
It can be something as simple as saying "hi" to someone in the hallway who you know has a hard time, or sitting with a girl who sits alone at lunch. You can literally change and save someones life by just reaching out.
4. Don't be a bystander.
I wish I could travel back in time and stand up for certain people whom I went to school with. I know when you are in school it seems like the most important thing in the world is to fit in and to be cool, and it may seem scary to stand up for others. However, if you do stand up for people, you will look back on this short chapter of your life and be so proud of yourself. Standing up for someone doesn't necessarily mean getting in the middle of some big, dramatic fight. It can be something as simple as saying "hi" to someone in the hallway who you know has a hard time, or sitting with a girl who sits alone at lunch. You can literally change and save someone's life by just reaching out.
5. We are not all going to be best friends.
You are not going to get along with everyone, and everyone isn't going to get along with you, and its important to know that that's OK. People will come and go in your life, and sometimes it's best to relieve yourself of certain friendships that make you feel icky. When you do that, that doesn't mean you create some campaign for others to hate them, or start rumors and gossip about them. Just go your separate ways. Have enough respect for yourself and the people around you to recognize that we are all unique and different and because of that beautiful fact, we are not all going to want to hang out and be close to eachother.
6. Use technology wisely.
Everything you put on the Internet is permanent. Know that whatever you text or write in a Facebook message is going to have just as much affect on the person as if you were saying it to their face. Just because you don't have to look them in the eye when you say something through social media, doesn't mean its not just as impactful. The way you represent yourself and others through Instagram, Facebook, and all social media can follow you or that person for years. When I graduated from college, one of the first things my friends potential future employers did was google them or look them up on Facebook and whatever popped up, effected whether that person got that job. The same goes for you. Respect yourself online. Respect others online. It's called the World Wide Web because the moment you click "send" or "post" it's there for the world to access and see if they want to.
7. Join extracurricular activities.
One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is to get involved with things outside of school. When we are in middle and high school, we are forced to see the same people every day. If you join a sports team, or sign up for an acting or music or art class, or find a local youth group like YoungLife, you automatically become a part of a community outside of your math class and lunch period. This is very important. You will begin to meet people more like-minded to you and when things get hard at school, you can rest assured knowing that every week, there is a separate group of friends and relationships that you have through your extra curricular activities.
8. Ask for help.
When anything in your life feels bigger than you, don't be afraid to ask for help. It is so important to find an adult in your life that you can confide in. When we are in school, we feel so much smarter and cooler than the adults in our lives and it seems completely impossible that your parents or your teacher or counselor can relate to you. But the reality is that every human goes through things. I promise you that your mom or your teacher has experienced bullying too. If you can find one person to open up to and process some of these harder times, it will make your school experience so much more enjoyable. I wish I opened up to my mom and dad more when I was in school.
9. Write a letter.
I have found that sometimes it can be scary and hard to confront someone who is making you feel bad. Its important to let others know how they are making you feel so when that times comes, I advise writing a letter. It gives you the chance to take your time and say everything you need to say in a thoughtful way.
We are not perfect. We are all going to mess up. If and when you hurt someone's feelings, have enough courage to say "I'm sorry." Apologizing is not only healing for the person you are saying sorry to, but it will be healing for you as well. You can write your apology down and hand it to the person or walk up to them and tell them what you wish you would have done differently. There is so much power in that and I promise you will walk away feeling like a strong and better person.
11. You can change the world with your friends. Be kind.
You can change the world with your friends. We had no idea what we were doing when we started Kind Campaign. We Googled 'How do you start a non-profit?' and here we are today, because we worked hard and we love and respect each others feelings and opinions. Find whatever it is you are passionate about and go do that and do it with kindness. Don't look back on your life and wish you had done something different or wish you had gone after your dreams. Don't look back and wish you could take back those mean things you said to someone in 8th grade. If you do what makes your heart come alive and you are kind to people, I promise you that you will find happiness.
Know that you will be okay. Smile. Breath.