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To Be... AWESOME or Just Be –– Tips on Making the Most of Your Life Right Now!

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Do you ever watch those reality TV shows where someone gets a total life or personality makeover, and wonder when a TV crew will come along to “pimp” your life?

Thing is, such shows are often scripted with a huge supporting cast and crew hidden off camera. They want to produce a good show, not prepare someone for long-term success. And lest we forget that a 180-degree change in 30 minutes is pretty unrealistic. As are your chances of being one of a handful selected. That said, you can take the steps to change and improve your life for the better, all by yourself, and without that pesky camera crew there to catch your most embarrassing and trying moments.

This article is intended for tweaking a life that may seem ho-hum but is otherwise okay. If you are in a situation that seems abusive or unhealthy, or you think you may be depressed, please get help right now. But if you’re (a) feeling bored, unsatisfied or under-stimulated by your life in general, (b) stuck in a dead end place or held back by restrictive parents or (c) just not getting where you want to go, please read on!

Sex, drugs, and rock-y relationships

If you feel you’re missing excitement or passion in your life, becoming sexually active or starting a relationship might seem a very lucrative option. Empower yourself about your sexuality and practice safer sex. When you feel like you’re driving in circles in a dull life, there’s nothing like a or an unplanned pregnancy to make your situation seem dead end.

Dating can be fun and relationships can enrich our lives, but they can also unnecessarily complicate things. An all-consuming relationship, where you neglect stuff like schoolwork or your own hopes and dreams, is harmful in the long run. A good relationship can withstand, even become strengthened by long-distance and other short-term challenges. Therefore, you shouldn’t pass on opportunities like attending a dream college far away or spending a summer abroad for the “sake of a relationship.”

Haven’t had a relationship yet and feel as if you’re missing out?
You’re not, I swear. Sure, having a special romantic and/or sexual partner can be a wonderful, mutually beneficial experience. That is, when the person/place/time/situation is “right.” Committing to someone you’re not really into (or going on an extended “pity date” of sorts) just for the sake of having a boyfriend or girlfriend is not going to result in the fun, fulfilling relationship you were dreaming of. In fact, it could be really bad or leave you feeling really limited over time, even making you miss out on a truly great match! If you’re feeling lonely and thinking an on-call lover–best friend would provide that salve for you soul (or solution to a boring Saturday night), please bear this in mind:

Romantic partners aren’t (and shouldn’t be!) our only source of love and companionship. If you’re feeling this way, please reach out to friends and family, your five year-old neighbor who thinks you’re a rock star (while just being yourself!) or the homeless dogs and cats at the animal shelter, whose barks and meows are true yelps for help. Keep doing what you like with the people you love [platonically] and things will work out.

Dating and Mating
Zero to 60 in six seconds. You know how sports cars are ranked for their acceleration speed, are you a speed demon when it comes to entering relationships? (No, this isn’t a judgmental statement about sexual readiness, that would be addressed by this article.) This is about going straight from “I like you” to “I love you” and committed relationship all in one day… or at any other pace that feels a bit quicker than comfortable.

It seems that nowadays “dating” as such has gone somewhat out of fashion. Maybe you and your crush might hang out a few times, then call it a committed relationship. Or even decide you’re an exclusive right after admitting you both like each other. Have you had a bunch of relationships… that all lasted two weeks or less? Wait, are you sure you WANT to be so committed so fast? Is it you or the other person wanting a long-term relationship immediately?

Don’t forget that first just taking the time to get to know each other is really important; figuring out how or even if you two jibe in a potentially long-term way. It may not feel like it but this option is there! A good match will be willing to stick around and see how things progress, be it first hanging out as friends or going on non-committed dates. And should you find you’re better friends than dates, consider yourself all the wiser and one more friend richer…. because serial monogamy isn’t part of this balanced breakfast.

Going the distance... as in, long-term relationships
You are a couple and things are oh-so-fabulous. Well, other than the fact that you two are arguing all the time over instant messenger and you can’t ask anyone for advice because you have to keep the relationship a secret from your parents… Wait, you shouldn’t have to go through this alone – or at all!

The rollercoaster effect of a relationship heavy on drama may seem interesting at first, but ultimately leaves you tired and unresolved. A risky relationship, such as when you have to sneak around or hide being sexually active, is bound to explode in your face and have very detrimental consequences— and best left avoided. Click here for the Scarleteen article on relationship hurdles.

You two have been together since 9th grade– you went to freshman homecoming together, the sophomore smash, junior jamboree so, of course, you’re going to senior prom together… wait, do you really want to?

Long-term relationships can mean increased closeness and significant commitment over time; however, they can also slowly fizzle and feel painfully prolonged. Are you sticking with your honey hometown when away at college because you want to be together or because you just haven’t met any one special yet on campus? Conversely, are you and your beau staying together because you both stayed local and feel like there’s nothing else to do around here anyway? Break the monotony by making a decision– should I stay or should I go? I don’t know but if this applies to you, think long and hard about your relationship, talk things out with your partner, and make some move.

I love you, but… We can really care about somebody, even love them, but also not be in the mind space for a long-term committed relationship… at that point. Whether you have too much on your plate, want to focus on non-relationship aspects of your life, about to move to a new town, or just want more time with your best friends, these are all valid reasons.

However, this doesn’t have to be do or die. There are many options and, among them, surely the right one for you– take a break, switch back to just dating, start dating other people, and the rest of entries on the relationship Smørgåsbord. The key is being honest with your partner… and yourself. That said, there should be pressure to rush or handing out of one-sided ultimatums– take it or leave it, start by talking about it.

Risky behaviors

Let’s now talk about risks… namely, how we think should you being taking more of them. Oh wait, before you get ahead of me… The risk of teen pregnancy should be taken very seriously—a baby is not the cure of ills, please read I WANT IT NOW. However, pregnancy isn’t the only thing to watch up for with STIs rates at an all-time high, and did I mention the risks for your heart (not of the high saturated-fat kind.)

Let’s talk about talking healthy risks. Sometimes, sexual risks seem like the only exciting option because your life is otherwise pretty lukewarm and there’s nothing else worth jumping into, but there really is so much great stuff out there waiting for you to come grab it.

Work towards independence

What does independence mean? How about having the freedom to live life as you choose? Taking responsibility for your actions but also reaping the benefits of being behind the steering wheel of your destiny.

What subcategories of independence are there, and how can you go about achieving them? Here are two kinds.

Financial independence Do you have a part-time job? Do you know how to fill out tax forms? Do you have your bank account and can write checks?

Social independence Is a weekend home alone a chance to get creative or does it feel like solitary confinement at prison? When you’re feeling down, do you look to your friends or partner to cheer up you, or do you try yourself?

Keep dreaming (but take action, too!)

The literary canon is full of classics that romanticize young people "escaping" from it all, such as Holden Caufield in the well-known and loved Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger or the lesser-known short story "Paul's Case" by Willa Cather. Maybe you've seen that black and white movie called "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," where the protagonist is so busy daydreaming his life away that he becomes a victim to the real world? You don't want that– in fact, you can have your cake and eat it, too, by working on the here and now while focusing on the future.

Here are some general tips to go by:
Seek compromise with your parents (remember the bit about responsibility?) Maybe you can't attend concerts past 11pm due to an early curfew, but what if an adult where to come along? Still not an option? You can attend as many concerts as your heart delights when you're 18 and living on your own.

Intern, volunteer, shadow, look for mentors. So you can't move to Hollywood to try to break into the film industry, but what about becoming really active in your school's theater program or volunteering at your local public access channel for useful experience? In other words, do what you can do, because you can do a lot!

Get support from friends/family/teachers/adults. Talk about your hopes and dreams, get realistic assessments, and listen to their advice (but don't be discouraged!) These people can be some of your best supporters– and best critics– and they often genuinely want to help.

Take responsibility for your actions and for your life. Don't let fate run your life! Get informed about safer sex and stock up on birth control, ask for make-ups assignments when you miss class, don't just dream it but do it!

Penny for your thoughts, a dime for your time... how about a saving account for all that loose change?

Wishing you were somewhere else is ok, but with all your effort and energy surrounding that unhappiness, you're missing out on the good in the here and now! It's all inter-related–– healthy life, healthy outlook, healthy sex, healthy relationship, healthy friendship, healthy self-esteem, and a bright future. Start with little steps, start today, and stick with it-- I can almost guarantee you'll be happy with the immediate (and long-term) results.

written 02 Feb 2008 . updated 31 Jan 2014

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