This is a question asked by my incredibly awesome and intelligent friend, Amanda. I am going to use it for an article on my sarcastic advice column later, but in preparation for it, I realized that I had some actually helpful advice for this problem. Thus I am going to answer the question here as well as there.

One thing I’ve noticed in my observation of people is that living life doesn’t equate to knowing what you’re doing. A lot of people go into a situation without any knowledge of the behavior expected or required and they manage not to fail at everything. The key to that is just making it up as you go along. Whenever I’m doing something for someone and they ask me to go get something, I don’t just stand around wondering what I should do, I wander off in the direction indicated and start looking in places that I would put the object I’m looking for.

You aren’t going to do yourself any good sitting around wondering what to do, so you might as well go out and try something. When you’re thinking of the future, unsure of what direction you should head, find something you like or something you think is a good idea and run with it. If it doesn’t work out, then you’ve probably learned a lot about what not to do in order to have things work out and you can use that knowledge and experience to figure out how to get it right.

People are always saying that you should just try things out. This is actually some excellent advice. During this school year, I played in a pit orchestra for our school musical, I joined some dating websites, I took college level Chemistry, I asked a guy to a girl’s choice dance, I went to a Speech and Debate competition, I went to a region Solo & Ensamble festival with my violin, I was the Student Director and understudy for a school play, and I had a ton of fun. I didn’t know what I was doing in any of these situations and it terrified me to try them, but I did it because that’s how you learn to do stuff.

I used to avoid leaving the house because I was terrified to find myself in a situation where I didn’t know what to do. To be honest, I still avoid leaving the house because it makes me uncomfortable. The point is that my fear has depleted significantly the more I go out and live through a variety of situations. I’ve learned to talk to people even though it makes me nervous and I’ve learned how to accomplish the things I want to with the help of others.

I know there are a lot of teenagers like me who feel like they don’t know what they’re doing or who they are. I understand this feeling, but I think that there’s a lot of pressure on people to BE something. What more do we need to be than just people? I know that humans crave acceptance and recognition from their fellow humans, but I think we can get this without having to have a label to pin on our shirts every day.

If you’re wondering what you should do, not matter how specific or general your situation is, just do what you find natural. If you’re wondering what you should do when it comes to a problem concerning your peers, just remember what your goals are and do what is best for you to achieve them without stepping on other people. If you want to help someone else and you don’t know how to, just be nice to them. Don’t baby them or tip toe around them, just let choose how they want to feel and be their friend. Unless people ask me for my advice directly, I don’t usually ask them what is wrong or try to help them out. Just let people know that you’re available for comfort or whatever they need. Keep in mind, though, that you need to find a happy medium of doing things for other people and for yourself. Also, set a standard of decency for yourself because it’s only going to help you to be a decent person. Don’t let people step on you, but don’t be completely closed to giving them a boost up if they need it.

Make friends with people who like to do the same things as you and has a similar view on life.  Your relationships with people should never be forced or planned in a long-term way. Let things happen naturally and you’ll be able to avoid unneeded stress. For romantic relationships, you shouldn’t feel stressed about where you are and what you’re doing when they’re around, just act normally and what happens happens.

As someone who overreacts to stressful situations, I highly recommend you only try to figure things out as far as is necessary. Letting things just happen whatever way they will will help you have a less stressful life overall. I have used this method all throughout high school and it has made my experience a lot less horrific than a lot of my classmates.

Some people say that high school students can’t avoid all the drama that is characteristic of their environment. I believe this is partially true because of the focal point that teenagers maintain. Their primary focus in school is more than likely the social aspect. If a class doesn’t have a friend in it, then it sucks. If they don’t have a significant other or at least a crush, then it’s lonely. If the class requires any work outside of the classroom, then it’s way too hard. If nothing extremely exciting happens, then it’s boring. If they don’t go to every school dance, then it’s because no one likes them.

As long as you’re focusing on things like that, of course whatever you’re doing is going to suck.

I, on the other hand, have focused on what school is actually supposed to be about: LEARNING. Now, don’t panic. I know this is kind of a new concept for some people. It’s okay. Learning won’t bite you… unless you provoke it.

I have had plenty of classes in high school that didn’t have my friends in it, I’ve never had a boyfriend or a crush, I’ve taken hard classes that have required me to work a lot after school, I’ve had days that absolutely nothing noteworthy happens, and I only went to two school dances (one of them, as mentioned above, I instigated the date). None of this mattered to me. I loved high school so much. I took classes that were interesting and my grades in those classes were my biggest priority. I’ve spent a lot of times with my friends, but it wasn’t absolutely crucial for me to be with them as much as possible.

In fact, during the last 10 or so weeks, I’ve survived high school without a best friend (she graduated early). I still have plenty of friends, but not anyone that I always had to be around or that I shared everything with. It was a little lonely sometimes when everyone else paired off, but I always latched onto some group or another and I still had a lot of fun. I didn’t get invited to every party and I didn’t even date all that many people (two, including the date I asked), but I wasn’t always moping about in my room, depressed about how pathetic I am like it seems other kids do a lot. I had far too much AP Chemistry homework to worry about that.

I guess the point is that it’s actually pretty easy to live life and be happy, you just need to understand that a lot of the stress that is causing your unhappiness comes from you.

So, what do you do when you don’t know what to do? Just do stuff. Do stuff that makes you happy, furthers your goals, helps other people, and makes you a decent person. That’s as much as you can do. Everything else doesn’t matter much.