I turned eighteen years old last week and I figured it would be worth writing a post reflecting on how I’ve gotten here, and what I want out of my life.
1) When you’re upset, tell people what’s going on with you. A few years ago, I worried a lot that telling people things, or asking for help when I needed it, equated to being manipulative. It doesn’t. As long as you reciprocate help when your friends need it, you are allowed to ask for help. Opening up about your emotions and are frank about how drained and hurt you’re left by things going on in your own life is valuable, not manipulative.
2) You are worth more than what your parents think you are worth. I grew up in a deeply messed up home situation on multiple levels, which I knew at age fifteen. I was also deeply hurt by that, something I was not equipped to process as a fifteen year old. Outwardly, I was angry at my parents, snappish, fearful, avoidant. Inwardly, I was hurt, challenged, and desperate to be loved unselfishly. And though my home situation has gotten better/worse depending on how you look at it, I’ve realized that my parents’ whims do not dictate who I choose to become. My parents’ anger at themselves does not dictate my self-worth and it does not dictate my ability to be a fully-fledged human.
3) Empathy gains you more than it loses. When others make mistakes, recognize it, but empathize with it. Human beings are fallable and we change. That goes for you, too. On the flip side, you don’t need to give your time to people who do not give you anything back. I don’t mean, like, they buy you coffee and profread your essays; I mean that a good friend should make you feel happier about yourself, should make you laugh or feel loved. If someone is rude to you, uncaring towards you, or manipulative towards you, you don’t morally owe them time. If you want to not make waves, fine, but do not put emotional effort into friendships that make you feel shitty.
4) Keep a diary. You won’t remember your life as well as you think you do, in ten years, and there is so, so much value in knowing who you were ten years ago. No matter who you’ve been, you can always look at who you were and know that you have been made stronger, more experienced, more mature. And take photos. So many of them.
5) Offering people rides is literally the best way to make friendships closer. Driving someone somewhere = a nice thing to do. People are fucking busy, and talking in the car is often the only way to really get time with someone. Cars are naturally condusive to deep conversation. Conversations lulls feel! way! less! awkward! because you are driving!
6) True motivation does not come from outward sources, it comes from yourself. You are never going to get college applications done if you’re just worried about your parents; you are going to get them done if you know why you’re applying to each college and why you want to finish this process. Figure out why you are doing everything in your life that you’re doing, establish goals, and cut out activities that you don’t genuinely think are worth your time.
7) Pain is a thing that changes us, but we are not the victims of our lives, and thinking that we are only hurts us. Holding yourself accountable will help you.
8) Feeling okay with your appearance and personhood (especially as a woman or as someone who presents feminine) is really hard, but it can be done!! Some things that can help: finding clothes that fit you well and that feel flattering (yes, they exist), pampering yourself with the goal of feeling happy rather than looking pretty, and experimenting with your haircut until you find something you look cute in.
9) Feeling confident in social situations comes from faking it. I swear. And then, it comes from realizing how awesome you really are, and how much people genuinely do want to spend time with you.
10) The worst thing anyone can say to you is no. And the consequences of being turned down are far lower than the consequences of never asking at all.
11) Step one: Have hobbies. Step two: Be dedicated to those hobbies. Step three: Profit. Seriously, you can genuinely make money, or make connections, off so many little talents and little hobbies that you would not expect. It takes a lot of effort and yes, we don’t have the time to do everything, and sometimes energy runs out. But it is doable. I mean, some of us are getting free books for blogging. That applies to lots of hobbies.
12) Keeping your home and life organized will make your life so much easier. Keep good calendars. Write down your account info details. Label boxes and bins so you don’t lose things. And make your apartment beautiful! Just moving a few things around and decorating with the random crap you pick up over the years can make an easily beautiful house.
13) Never give up. Checking off boxes on a to do list = heaven. Google is always always always your friend. Budget out brief sections of time to work on x thing or work on y thing. And oh, learn to be a really fast writer. I swear it will change your life.
14) Cooking things at home is cheaper than eating out and also more fun. Learn to cook a few quick, cheap, easy recipes — I like soups and salads because you can keep them all week. Also, get a good coffee maker and make coffee at home. I’m trying to do this now.
15) Since we’re talking about cooking, you can listen to audiobooks and/or podcasts during any boring task and it instantly becomes non-boring. Getting gas? Audiobook. Laundry? Audiobook. Paying bills? Audiobook.
16) Having your own money that you have made will make you more confident and also, independence is necessary as you get older. Even if you’re just making money babysitting or working at Starbucks, seize those job opportunities.
17) The college you go to does not define you. If you get a ridiculously large scholarship to a place you genuinely want to go to you should go. Like, yes, the name is cool, and if you got into an Ivy that’s amazing for you. But you can also go to a liberal arts place and enjoy yourself. (Bryn Mawr ’23, bitches!)
18) You, as a human being, are changeable. You, as a human being, will change over time. It is only when you say “I can’t do the thing” that you will not be able to do the thing. Does it sound cheesy? Yes. Is it true? Absolutely. I cannot tell you how much I have changed over the years, how much I have developed, and the degree to which it is determination that has driven me through my life.