Varsity is the time to do all the stupid stuff that has people shaking their heads in disapproval.

At 24 and a bit I hardly feel that I have experienced enough of life to impart any “wisdom” to the world. That being said, if a much younger, and considerably less educated, Justin Bieber can preach to the masses then why shouldn’t I.

I don’t feel like the adult I imagined myself becoming when I was younger, and I have not nearly amassed as much wealth as I thought I would, but I have learnt a few things in my relatively short time here, and if I went back to school now I think I would have a shot at passing the chemistry section of my matric science final.

Looking back, and using the cruel gift of hindsight, there are moments when the tongue should have been firmly bitten and times when I needed to speak up, but as Doc’s DeLorean has been decommissioned the only benefit of experience is knowing better for next time.

Here goes – the 25 life lessons that I have learnt so far, some the hard way.


1 Get out of your comfort zone. Do things that make you feel anxious or nervous, within reason (and the law). Character growth does not happen in your gated complex, where the only adversity you will face is getting a stray bird out of your kitchen.

2 Speak to your grandparents as often as possible. They have a lot to offer you, and will be gone long before you are ready to say goodbye.

3 Don’t believe in religion just because you have to pray at school. Whether you are Christian, atheist, or only believe in science, don’t follow a belief system that you are not fully convinced by. There is no shame in not believing in a god just as there is no shame in believing in one. Either way, no one has the right to judge you on your choice.

4 Study what you enjoy and excel at. I have a BCom in Management and Economics but now work as a journalist. I have always enjoyed reading, current affairs, and expressing my opinion but did not follow the study-path accordingly. Thankfully, I managed to right my course in time – start your journey a bit earlier.

5 Ask questions – in class, at university or at work, even if nobody else is interested in the subject at hand. Knowledge is not bestowed upon those who sit idly without making an effort.

6 Say yes. The movie Yes Man may slightly exaggerate the effects of a positive, yes-to-life attitude, but it does have a fragment of truth to it. It’s trite and clichéd, but positivity begets positivity.

7 Say no. If you do not want to lend your friend your laptop, or drop it off at their house because they don’t feel like driving, then say no. The sooner the better, before you end up as someone’s lackey. PS: don’t be an asshole about it though.

8 Debate, give your opinion, and disagree if you feel strongly about something. Only the immature will take disagreement personally, and if they do hit your point home and leave them to wallow in their self-pity. However, like all things in life, timing is crucial – know when to argue and when to let it slide.

9 Read, a lot. Reading is the foundation to becoming eloquent and wise. A lack of vocabulary and knowledge is not going to impress anyone, especially in the corporate world, so get on it. On the topic of language – SMS jargon will have an adverse effect on you later on in life if used daily. SMSing is virtually free these days, so spell the word out in its entirety. The book is always better.

10 Don’t act pretentious or pious, even if you, in a non-holistic sense, are better than someone. To misquote Einstein, “You can’t judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree”. Attempt to get to know someone before you make a judgment call on them.

11 Take precautions when you venture into the world of casual sex or “friends with benefits”. There are very few things more terrifying than going for an STD test and knowing you have been less than responsible in your social life.

12 Don’t get involved in a serious relationship until at least your final year of university. Varsity is the time to do all the stupid stuff that has people shaking their heads in disapproval. Having a handbrake (my favourite euphemism for a partner) during this time will result in you being a lot more responsible than you should be. Only when final exams come around is it an advantage to inhibit the gregariousness.

13 If you can’t take criticism you can’t take life. Accept critique of your work or how you conduct yourself, as long as it is founded. Don’t be immature and take offence when someone is attempting to give you some pointers.

14 Always wear a tie to a job interview, even if it is for a position at KFC behind the till. Bosses and HR do take notice and it shows you have made an effort. It also gives you a sense of pride that you will need to exude to your potential boss if he is to consider you for employment.

15 Play sport. Running around trying to physically defeat someone is an excellent way to relax, and it will help keep your weight down once you start working at KFC. You will also make a few friends, while at the same time learning the importance of camaraderie.

16 Don’t take it personally if you get involved with an older women and she asks you to leave her place at 6am because her sister is coming over for breakfast. Also, girls who have just broken up with their boyfriends, or are in the course of breaking up, are emotional and dangerous. Do not hit that soft target, it will end in tears.

17 If someone on Facebook, BBM, or Twitter is irritating you, delete them. Don’t feel obligated to keep them on the friend-list for fear you might need them one day or you will miss out on a peripheral friendship – you won’t.

18 A girl that will sleep with you within hours of knowing you is not long-term relationship material. Don’t try to fool yourself and believe it was your charm that got her into bed so quickly.

19 Don’t procrastinate. Starting is the hardest part of any task. It took me four hours and multiple episodes of Family Guy before I admitted I was putting off the inevitable – finishing this piece. Once you start, the work will fall into place accordingly.

20. If you want to impress a girl there are two guaranteed acts to have her swooning with delight. You can either cook her dinner, or win her a giant stuffed animal at a carnival. I suggest the one where you throw bean-bags at the gorilla’s teeth.

21 When you are socialising with new acquaintances, bear the following in mind: More people know the names of the cast from “The Only Way Is Essex” than those who know who our deputy-president is, and the majority could not name five political parties in our country. Once you acknowledge this sad fact, you will be able to enjoy the company of others much easier.

22 Risk embarrassment in the quest to reach a goal. Taking an idea, incubating it and then handing it over for judgment is scary, and rejection stings like Dettol on your scraped knee. But remember, regret is more powerful than humiliation.

23 You are going to spend a large amount of time in your late teens and early twenties extremely frustrated – with school, university and life in general. It cannot be avoided, and is intrinsic to all adolescents. Deal with it and move on, better times lie ahead.

24 Break a world record. When I was younger I had the opportunity to be part of an attempt to break the world record for how many people could fit into a Mini Cooper. I did not do it and, although they only tied the mark with their attempt, I still regret it.

25 You only get one chance in life most of the time – take it when it comes. - Sunday Tribune


* Piece inspired by Emma Gray, writing in the Huffington Post