There was a poster that hung in my school classroom when I was a kid with a famous message that has always stuck with me: "In 30 years from now, it won't matter what shoes you wore, how your hair looked or the jeans you bought. What will matter is what you learned and how you used it."
It seems our teenage years are a time when we feel a desperate need to follow particular social norms and hide certain parts of our unique and wonderful identities. In the world we live in today, it seems inevitable that young people will be sucked into this idea of being liked and fitting in.
Social networks seem to push us into proving ourselves as some kind of "virtual celebrity," often forcing us to forget there is actually a big, wide world out there to live in and real life friends to show off our new shoes to.
We hear our parents go on and on about being surgically attached to our devices and how our brains must slowly be turning into mush. Could they have a point?
When they were kids, they were out playing in the park on their Space Hoppers and getting involved in sports clubs. They weren't sitting on Instagram, incessantly hashtagging in hopes of just a few more followers.
Ambition and creativity are often things we hide growing up because we're scared of being judged by our classmates. We've all witnessed those kids in school who were a bit different, the ones who preferred to stay indoors at lunch to improve their algebra skills, or sit alone in the corner drawing comics.
At the time, we probably wondered why they were torturing themselves when they could actually be enjoying themselves. It turns out, they probably were. They didn't care about looking like a geek; they knew what they were about. In hindsight, these are the people who have now found great success and are actually doing what they love.
These are the kids who now work for NASA, or backstage at London fashion week or fly around the world on amazing business trips. Ultimately, they stuck with their passions and believed in their dreams, and now it's paying off.
Now, in my 20s, I'm encouraged and inspired by others my age who are turning their passions and skills into jobs. I see friends building mini empires, setting up recording and photography studios or interning and working toward an end goal. All of these people are taking a risk and making something they love into a career.
So, here is my message for Generation-Y. In 30 years, none of this will be important:
-How many likes you got on your facebook profile picture
-How many followers you managed to get on Instagram
-How many doughnuts you did in the McDonald's parking lot driving your "souped up" Subaru Impreza
-How many bottles of Grey Goose you bought in the club
-How natural your fake eyelashes and extensions look
-How many people loved your name brand handbag or new shoes in school
-How many girls you managed to hook up with that one night out in Jersey City
What will matter in 30 years looks something like the following:
-What books you read in school and how they inspired you
-The uplifting conversations you have with your teachers who tell you to work hard in school
-The bond you create with a sports team, the victories and the losses
-How hard you listened to someone older than you who was trying to give you that golden advice
-How graciously you learned to forgive those who did you wrong
-How bravely you stuck up for a friend who was being bullied
-How well you listened to your dentist when he told you to floss
-The small acts of kindness you showed when giving up your seat for an elderly person, or walking a girl right up to her front door after a date
-The amazing places you traveled to
I urge those of you who swim cautiously down stream to turn your butt around, believe in your kooky ideas and your kooky self and swim upstream on your own.
In 30 years, no one will care how perky your boobs looked on Instagram; they will remember that chilling speech you gave at graduation when you inspired the rest of the world to go out and actually live their dreams.
Photo via CNET