7 things I wish I understood at age 13

In October 2018 One Day co-founder Delia de Villiers was invited to address the new student council of De Vrije Zee Primary School in Goodwood, outside Cape Town. Here are the 7 thoughts she shared with the grade 7 class of 2019.

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Good morning De Vrije Zee Primary School

And a special hello to the Grade 7 class of 2019, in particular the learners who have been selected to represent the student body as prefects next year.

Being chosen by your peers – your friends and classmates – to represent them is an honour and one that you can be very proud of.

But remember with every great honour and achievement comes a big responsibility. The responsibility for setting and living the example of how a De Vrije Zee pupil should behave.

Responsible schmponsible… luckily I’m not here today to lecture you about responsibility and duty. You’ve got teachers and parents to do that for you!

No, I’m here today to share 7 nuggets of wisdom with you… 7 things to take to Grade 7 with you. And we all know that 7 is a lucky number.

Today I am going to share 7 things with you that I wish somebody had shared with me when I was your age (I probably wouldn’t have listened to it but that is besides the point!).

Proactive is a great word. It means creating or controlling a situation, rather than letting things just happen to you. The opposite is reactive.

You have a choice about how you react to a certain situation. If you do poorly in a test, you can say that the teachers made it too difficult, or you can admit that you probably didn’t study enough and decide to try harder next time. Or better yet, ask the teacher privately about the parts of the work that you are unsure of.

Proactive people make things happen. They decide what they want and then work very hard for it.

If you live to be 75 years old, you would have lived for 657,436.5 hours. That might sound like a lot, but as somebody who is almost 42% of the way to 75, believe me it isn’t. And you’ll be asleep for at least half that time.

You can never ever get back the time you wasted. Make sure you spend your time wisely. Games on your phone, TV, boring people, worrying about things you can’t change, these things eat away at your time. Time that is then gone forever. Be proactive about how you spend your time.

And respect yourself enough to not waste others’ time. This means always being punctual, meeting deadlines and being focussed on the people you are spending time with in a given moment.

Time and attention is much the same thing. And you miss a lot of things when you don’t pay attention. Don’t be like those cool kids who are so busy taking selfies that they miss all the awesome stuff around them, including opportunities.

Kindness and good manners have two things in common. The first is that it costs nothing and the second is that it makes all the difference.

What’s also wonderful about kindness is that the more of it that you give and show, the more you will get back. You might not get it back in exactly the way you think you will. But you will. Because ultimately that is how this beautiful world works.

You might be grade 7, you might be a prefect, or the smartest learner in your grade, or the best netball player in the school, but that doesn’t make you any better than anybody else in this world, which means everybody you encounter deserves to be treated with kindness and treated to a display of your best manners.

Kindness is being friendly, considerate and sometimes putting yourself in the shoes of another person to better understand their situation.

Kindness is cool. Always has been, always will be. Don’t let anybody convince you otherwise.

When I was 12 years old a teacher, who became a friend, said the following words to me: “If you can read, you can achieve.” There are very few bits of advice that for me is as true and relevant as this.

Reading develops your mind, it broadens your horizons, it opens the world for you.

And it doesn’t matter much what you read – magazines, non-fiction, newspapers, blogs on the internet. It all counts.

There are more than 7 billion people alive today, yet there is not a single one that comes even close to being the same as you. Not even if you are a twin. That’s pretty unique. If you can learn to understand that you are unique and special, and that there is nobody quite like you in the entire universe, then you will be ok.

It won’t always feel comfortable or nice or cool to be yourself but you’re all you’ve got and the secret to a happy life is working with what you’ve got – your skills, talents, your way of doing things.

And take care of yourself first. Respect yourself, love yourself and choose to do things that develop and grow you. My mom used to say to us, if we said we wanted to do something because a friend did it, “if your friend jumped in the fire, would you also jump”. The same goes for not studying for tests, or being rude to a teacher or simply not make the best choice for YOU.

Is there anybody in this room who doesn’t like music? No, I didn’t think so. My grandpa was the only person I have ever met, or heard of, who didn’t like music.

Music helps. It helps when you’re sad, when you’re lonely or anxious or nervous, or happy or on edge. Of course you won’t enjoy the same music when you’re happy as when you’re sad, but luckily there is a gazillion different types of music to choose from today.

When I need to block out the world, or concentrate on work, I put my earphones in, turn up the music, tune out the world and do what needs to be done.

An added bonus is that music is a great workout for your brain. This doesn’t mean that you can replace reading with music. Do both.

Music is a universal language. Enjoy it.

Lastly and most importantly, don’t forget to have fun. Make friends, fall in love, dance, do spontaneous things, laugh until your tummy hurts, go on roadtrips… whatever it is, embrace the joy. School is important, work is crucial, life is serious but don’t ever not try and have fun. There’s a famous one liner that reads: “Don’t take life too seriously – nobody gets out alive anyway.”

Thank you De Vrije Zee, for your time and attention. My farewell wish for you today is that you will embrace not only school, but life, in all its colourful glory. Go out there and be the best you.

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