Here’s Why ’10 Things I Hate About You’ Is Still Guiding My Heart Over 20 Years Later

I’m about to admit something controversial yet brave: When I first saw 10 Things I Hate About You, I hated it. I can’t explain why. How could I hate hot bad-boy-turned-good Heath Ledger or Letters to Cleo serenading us from the roof of the school? I can’t reason away what the me from over 20 years ago thought, but Present Day Me? She loves this ’90s teen rom com. And honestly, even this far into the future, 10 Things I Hate About You still has lessons in life and love I use to this day.

Don’t do something just because someone else is doing it.

Although the beginning of 10 Things I Hate About You would lead you to believe that Kat Stratford (Julia Stiles), is an unlikeable shrew of a holier-than-thou teenage girl, there’s method to her madness. She might not fit in with the beer-swigging jocks or the designer-loving airheads, but that doesn’t mean she’s not rad as hell. As she explains to her sister toward the end of the film, she’s the way she is because she vowed never to do something just because someone else is doing it. That’s not just applicable to high school. Those are some seriously great words to live by well into adulthood. Be yourself, always. And find people who do the same.

Let loose a little.

All that “only do what you want to do” stuff being said, Kat still needed to break out of her shell a little. It took the super hot Patrick Verona (Heath Ledger) to encourage her to get out and do things. It’s so easy to get stuck in your little bubble, never challenging yourself, never getting out of your comfort zone. But her whole world turns around when Kat lets loose. Let’s all take that as our cue to do the same. Maybe we’ll get a cute paintball fight out of it, too.

Be yourself, even if you’re not for everybody.

It’s a blessing that the school wiseass jock doesn’t want her. / 10 Things I Hate About You

You have a choice. You can make yourself palatable to the masses, or you can just be yourself and wait for the person who matches your brand of weird. For the first option, you’ll increase your odds of finding someone, but will you really be happy? Kat clearly goes with the second option, being her cynical, feminist self even if it pisses everyone off. And in the end she finds someone who matches her. Sure, it takes a little more time, but it’s so much more worth it in the end.

Fight for the people you love.

Maybe you’re a teen guy who just lost the girl you love because she learned you were originally paid to date her. Or maybe you’re a big sister who needs to reconnect with her younger sis. Whatever the case, it’s time to fight for the people you care about. Confront the people who are hurting them. Tell them how much you care. Be open, be honest, be real.

If you find a guy like Heath Ledger’s Patrick Verona, never let him go.

Patrick Verona can get it. / 10 Things I Hate About You

His motives were suspect in the beginning, but let’s ignore that. How Patrick treats Kat is how we should all be expecting to be treated. He doesn’t want her to change into someone else–he likes her exactly as she is. And he isn’t afraid to show it. He isn’t afraid to make a fool of himself in front of half the school by serenading her. He cares about making her happy, and that’s what we all deserve. RIP, Heath Ledger.