Dear eighteen-year-old me (and all the eighteen year olds out there)
Hey 18 year old Emily. Yeah, you, the one over there in the too large jeans, fitted t-shirt and flip flops. I’m talking to you. You’re 28 now (soon to be 29, yikes!) and your 28 year old self needs to tell your 18 year old self a few things. So lean in and listen up.
You’re going to have the most incredible twenty something experience. You’re going to travel, explore, have adventures, get your heart broken, meet your soul mate and become an adult. You’re going to make mistakes and accomplish great things. But before you dive in, here are ten things that you’ll wish you had thought more about ten years later.
1. Don’t be a slacker: One day you’ll stand in front of students who are just like you were at 18, 20 and 22. Don’t be a slacker now. Go to Econ class, even though it sucks. Take your classes seriously and put time and effort into your assignments. One day you’ll be on the other side of the classroom and in the professional world and you’ll have much more empathy for that science professor who always looked terrified or that econ professor who was terribly boring.
2. Guard your heart: You’re going to get sucked into a lot of weird ‘Christiany’ friendships with guys. They’ll want to hang out with you, they’ll spend a lot of time with you, and they’ll probably flirt with you. If they aren’t asking you out, they don’t like you. Stop reading into everything they say and move onto people who aren’t trying to use you to satisfy an emotional need.
3. Manage your money!: One day you’ll be on your own with a whole lot of bills, no full time job, and a lot of debt. You’ll look back on your early twenties and wish you hadn’t bought all those clothes at New York and Company and Old Navy and had saved some money. You’ll wish you were more disciplined with eating out and didn’t blow so much money on food. Money seriously doesn’t grow on trees and it costs a lot more than you think it does to live and make ends meet.
4. Cherish your friendships: One day you’ll be married and your friendships will be different. You won’t see your close girlfriends nearly every day. Cherish those friendships. And on a related note, friendships take work, but they shouldn’t be exhausting. If someone doesn’t approve of you at 18 or 20, they probably won’t approve of you at 28. Stop trying so hard and pour into the friends who truly value you.
5. Be Professional: Right now you’re thinking that you don’t need a college degree and that you’re going to be a free spirited missionary for the rest of your life. Guess what? You do need a college degree and you will have two before you’re 30. Be a professional now, work really hard, and take your responsibilities seriously. And network! Learn how to network with others, it will benefit you in the long run. What you think you’re going to do when you enter college may not be what you end up doing.
6. Be Yourself: There will be people who don’t approve of you, there will be people who don’t like you. That won’t change. Be yourself, embrace and love who you are. God made you unique. All of those guys who break your heart won’t matter, because God’s going to send someone who loves your weirdness and your quirks. When you feel excluded or judged, remember that all things are for a season. You’ll find that there are tons of people who love you for you!
7. Try to be healthy: Exercise and a healthy diet aren’t options, they’re necessary for the long run. Be careful when you travel, don’t drink the street juice, don’t eat the hawker stall food. Your body will thank you later. And try to exercise, at least a little bit. Habits are hard to develop so you need to start that as soon as possible.
8. Relish in your adventures: Adventures change when you get older. There are still adventures, but they are very different. Stay out til 4 am, travel abroad by yourself, and don’t be afraid to try something new. And when you have those adventures, relish in them. Cherish them. You will miss them someday, so embrace them while you have them.
9. Embrace changes: You are going to change in tremendous ways over the next ten years. Your beliefs will shift, your goals will change, your political views will be altered, your personality may even change a little. Embrace those changes, because they mean growth. Assess your spirituality and faith, ask questions. Try new things (just don’t be stupid!), go to new places. Explore, because its much harder to do so after you have bills and responsibilities.
10. Respect your parents: You’re dealing with changes. You’re growing up, but you aren’t grown up just yet. Your parents are dealing with changes too. They have a child who is legally an adult, but still needs help. Their daughter THINKS she knows everything there is to know about the world, but you really don’t. You’re naive, sheltered, and way too trusting. So, push the boundaries a little bit, have those adventures, but respect your parents and the changes they are experiencing too. Their little girl is growing up, and there’s some tension in that. Cut them some slack, because one day they’ll be your best friends and you want the relationship to remain strong.
There you have it. Embrace your growth but don’t forget where you came from. Spend a lot of time with your friends but don’t hang on to relationships that exhaust you. Have adventures and make memories. Take a lot of pictures, but don’t take yourself so seriously. Enjoy your twenties, they go by fast.