When you’re in high school it’s easy to get caught up in the exams and the stress and the constant pressure to do well. It’s only when you’ve graduated can you take a step back and realise what those final years really taught you.

1. No one cares about your marks

The percentages and scaling, the 90% on an essay you handed in with pride, the 12% on the maths test you didn’t study for, your final exam marks and your ATAR; it will all be forgotten as everyone moves on with their lives after graduation.

2. Don’t wait

Don’t wait for the weekend, or for summer, or for your crush to fall in love with you. Don’t wait to start that assignment or to call your grandparents. The perfect time you’re waiting for will never arrive. Just do it.

3. You will grieve for the people you have lost, but who are still living

This is the best friends, the boyfriends and girlfriends, the crew you surrounded yourself with for six hours a day, five days a week who are suddenly not such a big part of your life. Remember, nothing is infinite, and you will learn to be okay without them.

4. There is no such thing as being an adult

Turning 18 or 21 doesn’t magically turn you into an adult, nor does getting your licence or graduating. There will be times when you run around with your little brother and feel like a twelve year old, times when you drive to work early in the morning and feel like you’re forty, times where you cry into your mums shoulder and feel like you’re five and times where you spend all night dancing and drinking and feel like you’re 22 (I don’t know about you).

5. It’s okay to leave

Leave friends you’ve outgrown, partners who are tearing you down and jobs that make you miserable. Leave the club when the music starts making your head ache and the smell of orange juice makes your stomach heave and leave the exam when you’ve written down all you know but there’s still an hour on the clock. Don’t look back.

6. You don’t have to go straight to uni

Travel, get a job, meet new people, start a TAFE course, get an apprenticeship, volunteer. There are so many opportunities outside of university. Don’t feel obliged to jump into another three to six years of education straight away if you’re not 100% ready for it.

7. Coffee is not a necessity, good sleep is

Exhaustion is not cool, sleepless nights and breakdowns are not things to aspire to and no essay or exam is worth losing your sanity. Do not romanticise being tired.

8. Shit happens

You will kiss the wrong people and get a bad mark or fail a test. You will fight with your friends and get into shitty situations and make bad decisions. You are not the first person to do it, and you will not be the last. Recognise that these things happen to everyone and that you cannot make every situation perfect.

9. It’s okay to cry

Cry in the car when it’s raining and everything seems to be falling apart. Cry before your exams when you’re under-prepared and over-stressed. Cry late at night when everyone is asleep. Let it out. You don’t have to justify your emotions to yourself or anyone else. You are human and sometimes crying will be the only way to articulate how you feel. Let it out, then take a breath and move on.

10. Say no without guilt

Say no to parties you don’t want to go to and to extra work you can’t handle. But say no to yourself as well–to spending all day on the couch if it makes you feel like you’re wasting your time, to the late nights if you hate waking up tired and to the third shot if it makes you feel sick.

11. Enjoy the little things

The best parts of your life will be the little moments that you can’t even properly remember. The inside jokes that made you cry with laughter but are long forgotten, the sleep-ins on lazy weekends, the conversations in someone’s car outside their house and the hundreds of silly selfies that didn’t make the Instagram cut. Enjoy these moments as they happen.

12. Go home

Sometimes you need to go home and surround yourself with the people who love you unconditionally. You need to wipe off the dirt from the day and crawl into your own bed and tuck yourself into your doona that your mum bought you. Rest between the walls and listen to the familiar creaks of your house, remember that home will always be there for you.

13. There is so much ahead of you

After you’ve graduated you’ll realise that there is so many moments and experiences. So many good things to come that will make you forget about your days spent in school. Your final year is tucked inside an alarm clock that is just waiting for graduation to wake you up to the real world, which is so much bigger and has so much more to offer than you realise.