Dear 18 year old girl,
You’re 18 years old, you’ve reached the age where most people will consider you an adult. Being 18 means a lot of things. It means more responsibility, more rights, more changes, more freedom, more choices, and more opportunities. You’ve either already graduated high school or are about to. You’re deciding what to do with the rest of your life. What should you do? Where should you go? I can’t answer those questions for you, but you will be able to in time. Don’t worry yourself to death if things don’t immediately fall into place, because the truth is, they rarely do. Don’t rush into anything just because you feel you have to. Most people do not truly know themselves at that age. You’ve spent most of high school trying to fit in and mold yourself in order to do so. You’ve spent those years competing with others, for the best grades, to be the best at your sport or club, to be better than that girl three lockers down….. But now you’re out of that environment and everything’s different.
Being 18 means a lot of things, but I’d like to tell you what it doesn’t mean. It doesn’t mean you have to know what you want to do with the rest of your life RIGHT THIS MINUTE. It doesn’t mean you have to settle down, get married, or anything in that nature. It also doesn’t mean you should go absolutely crazy, live dangerously and recklessly. It means you need to start investing more into yourself and your life path. You need to listen to yourself, not everyone else. No matter how well meaning people can be, ultimately, they don’t know what’s in your soul. They can’t detect that calling that has been placed on your heart. Only you can do that. The only way you can do that is through self-discovery. Learn what makes you tick, what motivates you.
Through the process of self-discovery, it is key that you be kind to yourself. You need to extend yourself a great deal of grace, because not a single one of us is perfect and you’ll make mistakes, you’ll stumble, you’ll flounder, you’ll fall……. But you’ll get back up, you’ll keep marching on, you’ll keep searching, keep learning, keep discovering,…. You’ll keep growing.
Focus on yourself. I know that may seem like a selfish thing to do, but the truth is, you have the whole rest of your life to focus on other people, you need to take time to focus on yourself and know yourself before turning your focus on to others. That boyfriend you might have, yeah you can keep him, but don’t let your relationship rule you. Make decisions that are best for YOU, because the truth of the matter is, the only person guaranteed to stick with you for the rest of your life is YOU. Make time to be alone, to do things you want to do. If he has a problem with that, it will serve as a warning sign. No man worth his salt would have an issue with the girl he loves bettering herself/learning about herself. Any man worth your time will support you through thick and thin, he’ll want you to be happy, he’ll push you to be the best you that you can be, while loving you the way you are right now. He won’t turn at the first sign of trouble, he won’t make you feel bad about yourself, and he won’t do anything to make you doubt he loves you. Because remember girl, Marilyn Monroe said it best: “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.” You’ll learn just how true this statement is…
Read a lot, ask a lot of questions, search, try new things, try old things, do what scares you, do what thrills you, live this life like it’s the only one you’ll get…. Because it is. Do not take a single moment for granted. Learn to find peace in the midst of a storm, learn to find the joy in the midst of darkness, learn to find contentment in the hard, lean times. Your happiness doesn’t depend on your circumstances. They say lead from the heart, don’t do that. Your heart will lead you down quite a few wrong paths if you let it, it’s fickle that way. Lead from your mind, love from your heart, dream with your soul.
Find the people who truly love you (start with your family), and lean into them. They’ll be the ones that will be in it with you for the long haul. Listen to and learn from them, BUT be sure that when you make a decision, it is truly yours and it is truly what you want. People pleasing won’t get you very far in the grand-scheme of things. Fight for what you want, hold on to a few dreams, chase them, if they work out then bravo, if they don’t, then you have no “what ifs”. Pick yourself up and change course.
Most importantly, just breathe. If something doesn’t go as planned, just breathe and recalculate. If you find yourself in a particularly rough time, just breathe, you’ll come out to the other side of it soon enough. When you experience something painful, breathe, lean into it. Pain and failure are two of the best learning tools known to man.
Relax, think it out, and do your best to glean as much joy out of this life as you can. Learn yourself, and then be yourself.
Born and raised in Upstate NY, Liz is a freelance writer. She has written for websites, blogs, and magazines for the last 10 years. She works as a freelance writer and editor, as well as a proofreader and beta reader for several authors, all the while working on her first book.