Missed Opportunities: Why Teenagers Should Make Stupid Decisions


Rather than being so focused on deciding what to do with the future, middle and high school students should use this period of their life for trying new things. One such thing is experimenting with makeup. There is no better time to learn how to put on makeup than during middle school and high school, where expectations are fairly low and everyone is working to find their unique style.

Emily Stocksdale, Editor-in-Chief


Unpopular opinion: planning for the future is overrated.

My stint in high school is coming to an end, and as it does I cannot help but look to the past. Middle school and high school have not been kind. These last six years or so are filled with mixed feelings, from nostalgia to regret to embarrassment to pride, and every other emotion in between. I learned a lot, and not just about chemistry and grammar and the sort of stuff you expect to learn in school. I learned a lot about people, and about opportunities–both taken and missed–and about the advantages and disadvantages of planning out future courses of action.

There are a lot of people, too many perhaps, who seem to think that teenagers should have a plan for their lives. I do not know how many times I have been asked where I plan to go to college, what I want to be, whether I think I will get married, over the last few years. And certainly, it seems that teenagers are expected to make a lot of arbitrary–but highly impactful–decisions that supposedly determine where they will end up for the rest of their lives (although according to this editorial in TIME magazine, those decisions may not be so important as one might believe). These people think that teenagers need to focus on the future, to know exactly what they want to do and where they want to go, even if they do not really know why.

If there is anything that I have learned in middle school and high school, though, it is that planning is totally overrated. There is an element of necessity to thinking about the future, but existence is much more meaningful when we stop paying so much attention to what the future may have in store for us, and we instead start focusing on what we are making of our present situation.

Our teenage years should be a time for trying. They should be a time for trying everything. There is, quite frankly, never going to be a better time to make random, stupid decisions than as a teenager. These are the years of experimenting with makeup and fashion. These are the years of discovering new genres of music, of finding out that sports are (or very much are not) your thing, of making questionable choices just for the heck of it. These are the years of staying up late and sorely regretting it the next morning, the days of swearing to look cool, the days of drama and cliques which will not last the year. While everyone else is worrying us about college and jobs and dating and money, they seem to have lost sight of the fact that we are still kids. We are still kids, and there will never be a better time to try than right now.

Probably one of my biggest regrets from these past few years is that I never bothered learning how to put on makeup. This sounds like a silly thing. But looking back, it is also very ironic to me that the one thing I had always belittled and scoffed at as a child would become a skill I wish I had developed sooner. I do not wear makeup. I never have. And now, unfortunately, I see that there is an ever-growing and very real desire for me to be able to apply makeup, and I am nearly eighteen years old and still cannot. Where so many other people were experimenting with makeup in middle school and are now veritable professionals at it here in high school, I am still at the cusp of amateur hour. And even if I were to get really good at applying makeup, it seems almost impossible for me to work up the courage to actually wear it in public, having already established my reputation as a girl who does not wear makeup.

It is a silly regret, but luckily one which I can fix. However, it brings with it an important point which I fear many of us will realize too late: that everything–even the things we do not understand, even the things which we think we could never possibly be interested in–everything is worth trying. And again, what better time to try than now, as a teenager, when most decisions are reversible and there is a societal expectation that all people our age will go through “phases” at some point?

We judge so quickly. We create niches for ourselves within society, and there we stay. And while there is nothing wrong with finding the things you love and sticking by them, there is very much something wrong with assuming that things are bad even though you have never tried them out for yourself.

Take running, for instance. I am not exactly the sort of person who would be dubbed “athletic,” by any means. Middle school gym class was the stuff of nightmares for me. But over the summer of eighth grade I took health and PE online, and it was one of the greatest decisions that I have ever made. I found out that I love running. I run about four times a week now (a habit I hope to keep up for the long run!). It turns out that my hatred of school gym class was limited to being forced to run in a crowd of strangers, feeling gawked at and sweaty and uncomfortable. But running on my own, or with a friend, is liberating, and I never would have known except for a fluke that led me to take some summer courses in order to make room in my schedule for other classes.

My main point is this: the future is unpredictable. It is hardly worth planning out. Who knows what you will stumble upon in the next few years? Maybe you have your whole life planned out to a T, and then the world throws a monkey wrench in those plans and your idealized dream for the future shatters before your eyes. Maybe those plans get thrown out the window when you realize that you have been pursuing the wrong passion all along. Maybe you stumble upon something that you really enjoy and want to spend the rest of your life doing, or maybe you find out that something you thought you really loved is actually a horrid fit for you. Who knows?

Instead of planning for the future, use these few scarce years to their full potential. Try everything. Make the most of every opportunity. Choose to do even the things you may not enjoy, and then if those things are not for you, stop pursuing them. It is a lot easier to regret the choices that you never made than the choices that you did make. Middle school and high school should be the years of trial and error, of learning about who you are and what you like, of forming your own identity. Everything else is secondary.