My baby sister just turned 18! It’s insane thinking that she’s an adult now, considering 18 means she’s an adult now, and I don’t really like that she’s going to be able to do adult things now. It’s just strange.
It got me thinking back to when I first turned 18. Eighteen was a big year for me–it was the year that I moved out for school, got my first full-time job, figured out what I want to do with the rest of my life, and met my now-husband, Connor. But 18 wasn’t all good for me–some parts were really hard, actually. I had my heart broken. I started struggling with anxiety. I was extremely lonely when I first moved out.
I did pretty well that year but there are definitely some things that I wish I had known ahead of time. So, Katie, this one’s for you: here are 18 things I wish I knew when I was your age–moving out, just turned an adult, and kind of scared with all the change. So sit back and enjoy the tips and pics from when I was 18.
And yes, that’s me and my sister when I was 18. Throwback to my red-hair days.
1. You are not who you were in high school.
This is your chance to re-define yourself. No one remembers your geeky stage in grade 8, or that time you were weirdly obsessed with the spice girls for 3 months in grade 10. They don’t even remember the time that your elastic snapped off of your braces onto the forehead of that guy that you had a crush on.
All that these people know about you is what you tell them and show them. They know you as you are now, not who you used to be. That doesn’t mean be inauthentic to your past, but allow your past to be your past! You don’t get many of these opportunities–this may actually be your last.
2. That boy isn’t worth your time.
I know, it may seem right now that you won’t ever find anyone or that everyone else is in an amazing relationship and you’re in a fully committed thing with Doritos and Netflix, but no matter what PLEASE don’t waste your emotional energy and time on a guy who won’t give you a second thought. Yes, he’s smart. Yes, he’s funny. Yes, he’s pretty cute. But also yes, you can do better and you deserve move. He’s going to make some girl very happy, but that girl is not you–someone else will make you happy. Wait for him.
3. Just because you had an easy life doesn’t mean that you’re better than those who did not.
Don’t be quick to judge someone’s actions or their beliefs against your own. We are the product of our experiences. Something that seems obvious to you may not be to someone else. Take a few minutes, step in their shoes, and thinking about how you can help instead of just being condescending.
4. You spend way too much money on coffee and not enough on friends.
Seriously, 18-year-old me. You have a problem. You spent almost $20 on coffee in only one week. ONE WEEK. (Of course, then you made a budget, which helped redeem you, but still.) It’s good to go out and to have fun. Spending money is not wrong. But spend your money wisely. Take those $10 that you would have spent on Starbucks and go out to lunch with a friend. Buy coffees and walk by the river with one of your classmates after an exam. Spend your money more on experience than just convenience.
5. Your parents don’t define who you need to be
Your parents are going to have expectations about how you should perform in school and in life in general, but what they want from you doesn’t necessarily have to be what you want from yourself. Make sure that you are living out who you are truly meant to be–find what brings you joy, what sparks that excitement inside of you, and chase after it, even if it’s not exactly what your mom and dad expect from you.
6. Your parents are trying a lot harder than you think
All that being said, your parents do know a lot and they’re trying so hard to give you a good life. Maybe they want you to consider med school for a different reason than just bragging rights. Talk to them. Figure out what they see in you, and use that as a tool when you decide what your future will hold.
Your parents are going to mess up. They’re going to cross boundaries, make you feel cornered, hurt you, and embarrass you. That’s inevitable. But make sure you don’t dwell on those things, but remember the times that they were there for you when you cried about your first failed test, or how your dad mailed you chocolate after that guy dumped you. Focus on the good and the bad will seem to shrink.
7. Dating is totally OK and I highly recommend it
You’re in college now. Go on dates. Take boys out for coffee. Ask them out for ice cream. Remember that just dating doesn’t mean anything serious–no physical aspect, no relationship, you’re just getting to know people. So just have fun. Don’t lead guys on, but don’t write them off, either.
8. Moving out is going to be the hardest thing you’ve done this far
Don’t underestimate how sad you’re going to be. You’re going to miss your mom and dad, you’re going to miss that little town you’re from, and you’re not going to be able to sleep for about 2 weeks. That’s ok. It gets better.
9. College students aren’t scary
You’re a college student now, too, so don’t be scared to talk to that other kid in your class! She probably wants a friend just as badly as you do.
10. Professors aren’t scary, either
Profs aren’t nearly as terrifying as they seem. Often if you just take 5 minutes to get to know them, you find that they’re actually very sweet and friendly, and just want to get to know their students, too!
11. Don’t expect too much from yourself
You are not that kid who sits in the front of the class and always seems to know what’s going on. You’re not your friend from high school who’s posting pictures shaking the Prime Minister’s hand. You’re not that friend of yours who landed that internship you were really hoping for. You are yourself. Just do your best and celebrate that.
12. Don’t expect too little of yourself, either
That being said, just because you’re not shaking the prime minister’s hand doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t aspire to. Figure out what you want and don’t stop until you get there. Hard work pays off, even if it’s in unexpected ways.
13. Surround yourself with good influences
Who your friends are can make a huge impact on who you become. So don’t make your core group filled with students who get drunk every weekend or blow off class to go have fun. Find friends who will push you to be better while still having fun.
14. Make time for friends
Once you find those friends make sure to nurture those relationships. It can be so easy with the business of school to make friends and then forget to spend time with them, so schedule it in. It’s important.
15. Also take time for yourself
Don’t over-book yourself, though. Make sure that you have time to just slow down and relax. It’s so important to take care of yourself. When you do, you’ll find that you have more confidence and spunk for the rest of the day!
16. Don’t neglect your health
It can be so easy to stop working out and start eating crap when you first move out. The freshman 15 is so real! So take advantage of the free gym at your school, and get the chicken instead of the lasagna.
17. No one will remember what you wore last week, but they’ll remember how you wear it
It can be intimidating when you see how many cute clothes all of your classmates seem to have, but trust me–save the money on clothes. No one actually cares how many items of clothing you have in your closet, but how you wear it can make all the difference. Having fewer items that you wear with confidence rather than many you wear but aren’t sure about leaves a much better impression.
18. This is your chance to start the rest of your life–have fun with it.
You’ve done so well up to this point. You survived childhood. Now comes the fun part. Yes, there’s pressure, but don’t let it drown you. Have fun. Enjoy having nothing to hold you back, and enjoy learning more and more about yourself.
What are some things you wish you had known when you were 18?