To A High School Grad, Sincerely 5 Years Later

This year marks five years since my graduation from high school. More importantly, 2020 is the year that my baby brother can officially be called a high school graduate. By no means was his senior year similar to mine. I had some struggles, but none really compared to a global pandemic that kept me quarantined for two months. I had some rough situations with friends, but none had to be solved over Zoom or from behind a mask. I had moments that I’ll never forget just like I confidently say that he will never forget this year. 

While getting ready for a virtual graduation might look a little different than me preparing for mine all those years ago, there are things that I recognize are the same. I’ve been helping him announce his school of choice to all loved ones and places. I took that classic graduation picture that my parents will hold onto forever. I watched as he wrote essays, cried about the changes to come, and worried about the unknown. I saw glimpses of myself the whole way. While I know that he has to break into this world in his own way and find his own path, I’ve tried to share with him the basic things that I’ve learned in the five years since I hung my hat on high school. 

The mistakes I made, lessons I learned, and moments I had were things that I needed. I wouldn’t give them up or change them for a minute. But, they’ve allowed me to become the person that I am today. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some things I wish someone had told me when I  graduated high school. Maybe you’ve already heard these things a thousand times, or maybe you don’t want to hear them at all. Nonetheless, if I could speak to myself five years ago as I was about to graduate high school, there are definitely some things I would say. 

First, there will be more people who are interested in you. I might have specifically needed to hear, “Emily, the boy you met when you were 14 and cheated on you six months in is probably not ‘the one.’” In a more real and broad sense, leaving high school throws you into the world of meeting people like a whirlwind. Classmates, coworkers, and mutual friends all have a way of making it into your phone contacts. Walking into that space with a mindset that the couple hundred people you graduated with are the only ones that are ever going to love you is pure garbage. 

I encourage you to make your own mistakes. Let your heart break a time or two so that you can learn to pick up the pieces for yourself. But, also know that the person you were at 18 and the way you want to be treated is not going to translate five years later. Recently, the wise Sullivan Saliby said, “Sometimes holding on hurts more than letting go.” Letting go of someone that you’ve known all of your formative years is so difficult, but it’s sometimes easier than holding on and continuing to get hurt.

Second, take more pictures. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I took (and take) PLENTY of pictures. I’m not talking about Snapchats that people will see for 24 hours and you’ll see a year later in your Timehop. Take photos that will be saved in your Camera Roll. Get them printed. Put them somewhere. Give them to your mom and tell her about the friends you’re making. Being able to sit with your memories makes them so much fonder during times when you can’t necessarily remember what you were wearing or the boy you had a crush on. Those pictures will say a thousand words that you will hold onto forever. 

Third, learn to forgive yourself, kid. Yes, someone in history decided that eighteen was the monumental year in which you’d be released into society. However, that doesn’t mean that you don’t get to keep making mistakes and learning like a kid. Hell, your 80 year old grandma is still making mistakes! Part of being an adult, though, is learning to take responsibility, say sorry, and forgive yourself. 

We’ve all said some pretty stupid things. We’ve all done things that made the ones around us disappointed. Those things might even make us disappointed to think about. The key to life is realizing that every single person has made mistakes. The star athlete, the self-help coach, and the model alike have all made mistakes that made themselves and the people around them feel bad. What sets us apart though, is our ability to deal with our mistakes and eventually forgive ourselves. 

I’ve told my brother this, so think of it as a little bit of older sister advice. The crappy days and the good days are part of what makes us, us. We build the little day to day experiences in with the monstrous life lessons to get this complex concoction that is us. You’re going to mess up. You’re going to spend too much money. You’re going to have your heartbroken or maybe you’ll break someone else’s heart. You’re going to hurt someone’s feelings. You’re going to fail a test. Damn it, you’re going to make mistakes. There’s no amount of prep work or reading that can prepare you for what the world really looks like. If I’m being honest, I don’t think I would want to provide you with the magic words if I had them. You need to learn to navigate all those things to become who you’re supposed to be. If something goes terribly wrong, make sure you have people that will be there to guide you back, but take the risks, spend the money, and forgive yourself.

Lastly, never stop saying you care. Believe it or not, being a high school graduate does not suddenly give you telepathic powers. Another mind crushing fact is that adults need to hear that they’re loved just as much as children do. So, while you might not think it’s “cool” to call your mom every day, she might just need you to pick up the phone. While you might roll your eyes that your Grandma signs all of her Facebook comments “Grandma Sue” as if you can’t see her profile, she might just want you to comment back. We all get overwhelmed with the whirlwind that is entering life. We have all this freedom, pride, and new land to cover. It’s hard not to press ignore a time or two.

When all the new things stop being so shiny, you’ll realize who’s been there for you all along. You’ll realize who the great “forever” friends are that you’ve kept from the halls of high school and the ones that you’ve gained as you aged up. Never stop telling the one’s around you that you care about them, you appreciate them, and you love them. There are some days that you won’t really like them. They might annoy you or hurt your feelings. But, to the ones that matter, make it known that even if you don’t like them at the moment, you’ll always love them. Because like it or not, life has a way of taking away the opportunity to say it to their face sometimes. So, say it often and loud.

I want to say that I’m so proud of the Class of 2020. They have a special place in my heart because I’ve watched one of your fellow graduates grow from infancy to getting his diploma. But, they also have a special place in my heart because none of us will ever know what you’re going through. None of us will ever have a senior year like yours or be tested like you have. I know that you’ve been asked to be strong 100 times already. Believe me, life isn’t going to stop expecting that from you. Regardless of how you finished the race, you finished. You got the medal.

Graduation might signal to the world that you’re ready to enter it, but don’t hesitate to hang out in the world of a kid for a while before rushing into your next steps. You have your whole life to be an adult. No matter what graduation means, move forward in your life how YOU are meant to live it. Love who you want, take in all the moments, and dive into all your passions. Take it from someone who was in your shoes just five years ago, there’s a lot of things I wish I would have known as I was crossing that stage. But damn, I’m so excited for you to come and learn all of them alongside me.

Congratulations, graduates! Tell me about the plans for your next chapter (or brag about your favorite grad) on any of my socials below!

Edited by Vanessa Reza. Contact info can be found on the ‘Contact Me’ page.

Girls Gotta Stick Together

I don’t know if you guys get this vibe from me, but I’m definitely one of those girls that’s let the phrase “it’s so hard to get along with girls,” come out of my mouth. You know the type. My best guy friend when I graduated high school was a dude (shoutout to MC).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m dramatic. Like I’m the definition of the word. BUT, I always found it easier to get along with guys than I did girls, again you know the type. Growing up, I was closest in age to all my boy cousins – so I always wanted to fit in with them at family events. I wanted to joke around, like get all gross, and play a really rousing game of kick soccer balls as hard as we could at each other. It was fun at the time.

Lynds, Syd, and I are definitely queens in our own right, but you can see how the cousins are a little male dominated.

In middle school, I had my first super close group of all girl friends. We were all really involved in our sports, some of us were in theater, we had the cheerleader. But most of all, in that phase of our life that everyone was supposed to be like wearing the darkest shades of lipstick they could find to attract all the 6th grade boys – we were much more concerned with having fun in our little group. We went to different high schools, grew into different people, and were never nearly as close as those formative middle school years, but damn if those girls didn’t set the standard for the kind of girls I want in my life.

Keep in mind, again, that I’m dramatic. Okay? We’re all on the same page there? Cool. I was on the girls swim team and in a lot of theater. It was definitely the environment I was in and a terribly depleting self confidence level, but I kind of started to see girls as constant competition. Like, there was always something better about the girls around me. I mean, in swim, it came down to literal times… numbers on a clock. So essentially, everyone that wasn’t in your lane was someone you wanted to touch faster than. For theatre, everyone that auditioned was someone that could get the role or the spot over you. You just had to be better.

I don’t necessarily think that that mindset is isolated to young women. Young men are in constant competition to be the best in those formative years too. Regardless, it’s a fucking exhausting mindset to be in and it’s a truly a never ending race.

It’s hard to unlearn that behavior when you’ve been doing it for so long. But, right now, think of the coolest person that you possibly can. You don’t have to have met them. In your head, you probably imagined someone who’s able to relate and get along with everyone, right? The coolest people around aren’t the one’s that are mean to everyone or constantly at people’s throats. They’re the ones with genuine hearts that shine threw when you desperately need them.

I say this a little bit in a podcast about toxicity in one’s life (which you can find here: You’re not going to get along with everyone. There are going to be coaches, coworkers, and bosses that you really don’t like. Part of growing up and showing maturity, though, is being able to communicate with those people in a civil way. Especially for women. We’re already at odds in the workplace and society – showing respect for everyone is just one way that you can be an ally!

Also, this is not to be confused with the fact that you should just stfu and not speak your truth. Civil disobedience has made some serious changes to this world. There’s a difference, though, between speaking up for your injustices or for the voices that aren’t always heard, and trying to stifle out a voice.

I got the international women’s sign behind my ear as my fourth tattoo because I wanted another tattoo. I wanted something behind my ear. I was feeling like a strong ass woman. Truthfully, I forget that it’s there, but it’s moment when I’m standing up for women, spreading my arms, or giving love to those who need it that I know I made the right decision.

My ex’s ex recently came to me apologizing if she had overstepped for sharing a story about her experience with him. Someone had pointed out similarities and said she was “copying” me. Nah, she just also had the unfortunate chapter that involved the same narcissistic abuser. I’m not the first to feel that way, nor am I going to be the last. Sharing my experience does not mean that hers didn’t happen! It got me thinking about how quick people are to pin women against each other. Online, in person, whatever.

We know that some of the most powerful moments are those that we support one another. A strong woman can change the tides, but a strong woman and her army??? DAMN.

As I’ve grown up, I still find it really easy to get along with guys. Now, however, I have a fierce urge to stand up for, connect with, and love the women around me as well. I have been on this earth for 22 years dealing with just some of the bullshit that women have to go through – having each other as allies just makes this world a better place. So, yeah, that phrase that the nicest person you’ll ever meet is the drunk girl in the bathroom is totally true. What if we didn’t live in a world where alcohol was needed to break down those barriers? What if showing sincere affection and compassion for others was what was ingrained, rather than hypothetical competition? Just food for thought.

Find a crowd that makes you feel good & that cherishes you for being unapologetically you. Ladies, I can promise you that there’s nothing better than walking into the function with some of your best friends, looking great, and knowing that you all have each other’s backs.

Who’s your girl group? Who makes you feel like a badass bitch? I wanna hear about it! Let’s celebrate womanhood!! Slide into my DMs on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Or, email me at to chat with me today.