18 Things I Learned Before I Turned 18

A letter to myself at 18. For those who have not yet turned 18, before they do. 18 things I learned before I did. Some things I wish I had known, and some I wish they would.

1. Life never goes as planned. There will come a time when you think you have your entire life planned out. You’ll know what classes you’re going to take, where you’re going to college, what you’re going to study, who you’re going to be, and where you’re going to be. Your entire future has been planned out in your mind. And then one day, God will alter your plan. It may be a small detail. It may be a major piece. But, He is going to change it. And your dreams will shatter, but His realities for you are much greater than any dream you could have. So always remember to trust Him and His amazing plan for you.

2. The friends you make in high school may not be your life time friends. Chances are, you are friends because it was convenient. You were in classes together, and you have some things in common. But, in reality, you guys are probably not meant to last. Many times during your years together, they failed to really support you and be there for you. And the only thing you really have in common is your intelligence. And neither of these things make for a lasting friendship. So have fun with them now, but don’t stress about letting them go. It’s okay to move on. In fact, it’s okay to search for other friends. Because, when you do, you’ll find friends who are amazing and supportive and loving, and you need to hold on to them instead of worrying about if your other friends really like you.

3. Guys are weird. They try to impress girls by acting cool instead of talking to them and getting to know them. They are strangely obsessed with their hair and if it looks okay. They don’t want to cry in the sad parts of movies because it’s not “manly.” They never read trashy romance novels, even just to mock them. They refuse to talk to or acknowledge that girl they like around their friends because they are worried what their friends would think. They try to do stupid stunts to impress girls. They make stupid, reckless decisions. They are probably some of the strangest creatures ever to have existed. But, one day you’ll discover you like them anyway, and you might start to fall for them, or one of them. When that day comes, it’s okay to let it happen- embrace it. But don’t let yourself become consumed by it and the idea of it. And remember, at least for a while, that guys are stupid, and shy, and just as confused about you as you are about them.

4. Being a girl is expensive- and painful. Trying to achieve that perfect eye-line is not a painless or cheap endeavor. Clothes are, unfortunately, not free. Have you ever let your razor slip while shaving? Has your eye ever flinched while doing your makeup causing you to stab yourself with the mascara wand? Have you tried walking in heels?  It’s painful. But, one day you might figure it out. Or at least learn to live with the pain.

5. You will not always have the same beliefs as your family, pastors, or friends. And that’s okay. There will come a time when you begin to question the beliefs of those around you. The beliefs that you have for so long held on to as the unshakable, undeniable truth. The beliefs of the people you have for so long looked up to and viewed as role models. But, the questioning is okay. It makes your faith genuinely yours. And if you don’t end up on the same page, that’s okay. Because your experiences are different than theirs. And your faith will evolve with your beliefs, and it will become unquestioningly, genuinely yours. And that’s the most important thing.

6. There is a fine line between confidence and arrogance. And finding this line will be difficult, but absolutely necessary. Because every time you fail to accept a compliment, make a joke about yourself, or downplay your talents and accomplishments, you are either coming off as arrogant, or you are showing that you have zero self confidence. So, it’s okay to be proud of your accomplishments and to accept a compliment. In fact, having confidence in yourself and your abilities is vital. But it’s also important to acknowledge your weaknesses and downfalls, because arrogance leads to an altered perception of yourself and others around you. So, know your strengths and acknowledge your weaknesses. Accept others’ compliments. When you succeed, it’s okay to acknowledge it, but don’t allow yourself to think that you are better than others who didn’t.

7. Eventually, school will become less about learning and more about passing. This will happen gradually, so you won’t even notice it at first. But, one day, you’ll wake up and dread going to school. You’ll lose the excitement, curiosity, and hunger you once had. And you’ll wonder what happened. Because you no longer have a passion for learning. But, remember that it wasn’t you that lost it. It was the educational system that took it from you. The system constantly telling you to that you must get good grades, not worrying about if you are actually learning. The system that causes you stress by telling you that you have to do all these things, and do them well, in order to be successful. But, one day you’ll get that passion for learning back. You’ll discover subjects that interest you, challenge you, and make you happy. And you’ll hunger to learn more about them. And school will remain dreadful, but learning will again brighten your life.

8. There are certain things that you should always have with you. A phone charger. Headphones. Water. Snacks. Pen and paper. Chapstick. These are essentials, especially in school. Don’t forget them, even if you don’t think you’ll need them. Also, having a book can never hurt.

9. You are going to fail. You are going to set goals for yourself that you will never reach. And you’ll set ones you should have reached but didn’t. You’ll make mistakes and you’ll fall short. You will put your time, effort, and heart into something and not receive the results you had hoped for. You’ll disappoint yourself. You’ll fail others. And that’s okay. Because nobody is perfect. But, you will learn how to persevere despite your failures. You’ll learn how to overcome them and come out better on the other side. You’ll learn lessons you would have never learned if you hadn’t failed. You’ll realize that there are more important things in life than winning, succeeding, or reaching every little goal you have set for yourself. And you will come out stronger.

10. Your decisions should never be made based on others’ ideas or opinions. Choose French over band, even if your friends don’t think you should. Take Biology instead of Physics, even if everyone tells you that’s the wrong choice, and even if you think you might regret it later. Don’t take 4 APs because you feel the need to impress someone, or some ones. Don’t give up on studying Chemistry because teachers or classmates have told you to. Don’t go into nursing or teaching because society has told you that those are great professions for women interested in science. Do what you want. Make your own decisions. Pursue your dreams. And never wonder if you chose the right class, or made the right decision, because, in the end, it doesn’t matter. It’s your life. Live like it.

11. It’s okay to be passionate. In fact, passions are what make life interesting. Yeah, loving math and science and literature may be considered “nerdy.” And being a Bible Quizzer may not be in society’s definition of “cool.” But, you’re passionate about these things, and that’s amazing. One day, you will feel like you will have to apologize for or justify your passions. Don’t. It’s okay to love science and math and literature and Bible Quizzing and football. You don’t need to justify or apologize for them. You don’t need to explain that your passion for science will not lead you to be a nurse, and your passion for math and science is not an obligatory feeling because of the lack of women involved in science and math. You don’t need to explain to your friends why you would rather spend your days memorizing Scripture and hanging out with other Quizzers than going to parties or the movies on weekends. You don’t have to justify your love for reading. You don’t have to explain that you like football because it’s fun, not because you want to impress guys. Your passions are your own, even if others don’t understand them. Never stop telling nerdy jokes or spreading your passion for Quizzing.

12. You should always fall for the “nice” guy. You’ll watch your friends enter relationships and then break up. You’ll watch her heart get broken because she overlooked the nice guy. Protect your heart and date the nice guy. The one with a beautiful soul and large heart. The one who has a crooked smile and green eyes. One who will pray with you and for you, but won’t prey on you. The one who will lead you closer to Him than himself. The one who does more than just goes to church on Sundays and Wednesday nights. The one who lives out the Scriptures and who is daily seeking to grow closer to God. The one with the adorable face and bright smile. And if he is a nerd, that’s even better. Someone needs to laugh at your nerdy jokes. He’s the one you can be completely yourself around.  Date your best friend. The one with whom you can discuss anything and everything- literature, chemistry, math, football, history, language, and anything else either of you may be passionate about. The one whom you can have deep conversations with, laugh about stupid things with, and sit in silence with. Date the one who will never make you feel like you need to change yourself. (And if he is a Bible Quizzer it’s even better.)

13. In the race for popularity, kindness may be forgotten by others. In high school, people want nothing more than to be remembered. They want to be remembered for having the best hair, or best eyes, or best smile. They want everyone to know their name. And that’s not always a bad thing. But, in the race to be remembered, the feelings of others can be overlooked. You’ll experience it. But don’t allow yourself to be that person. Instead, aim to be remembered by a few people for things you did for them. That girl sophomore year whom you invited to sit with you when you realized she was sitting alone. Your friend who was stressing about her future and her life. That freshman whose locker was next to you whose questions you always answered, no matter how annoying they were. Do not forget that these things are the most important. Because, ten years from now, these will mean more than having the best smile.

14. Numbers are meaningless and arbitrary. Your SAT score, your GPA, your class rank, the number of likes on your selfie, the number of Twitter followers you have, your Quizzing PPQI. You’ll begin to focus on these numbers so much. You’ll make excuses that you would have done better on the SAT if you weren’t so tired or stressed or sick, or if it wasn’t in the middle of synchro season. You’ll wonder why your GPA wasn’t higher, and you’ll regret not putting forth a little more effort. You’ll graduate 8th in your class and wonder why it wasn’t 1st, or 5th. You’ll wonder if you would have more likes if you had smiled more or worn more makeup, or if you’d have more followers if your tweets were funnier. You’ll regret not pre- jumping sooner or memorizing better in order to make it into finals or increase your PPQI. And, by the time you turn 18, these numbers will have consumed you. They’ll be used as a comparison for yourself against others. They’ll kill your self esteem. But, don’t worry, you will get it back. And it’s a slow process, but you’re getting it back. Because you have since learned that all those numbers mean nothing, and your worth and value can not be measured based on numbers. They can’t measure your intelligence or your personality or your importance.

15. You will get insecure sometimes and you will need someone to tell you that you’re smart, or beautiful, or a good Quizzer, or a good synchronized swimmer, or a nice person, or whatever. And that’s okay. Sometimes. Because there will be a day when you fail a calc quiz. Or you fail to make it into Quizzing finals. Or you can’t learn that Synchro stunt. Or you just don’t feel beautiful. And insecurities are normal, and it’s okay that you have them. And it’s okay to need a compliment from time to time. Just remember not to allow yourself to be defined by what others think of you. And don’t allow yourself to need validation from others. Know who you are. Be who you are. Understand that you’re exactly who God made you to be. Accept yourself and your flaws, without needing others to tell you all the reasons you should.

16. Life will never give you lemons. It’ll throw them at you. Hard. The wind will be knocked out of you, and you’ll fall crashing to your knees. And just when you think you have the strength to get back up, it’ll throw them back at you. The juice will pour into your wounds. But, eventually, you’ll be able to stand up and throw them right back at life. So, when life gives you lemons, don’t make lemonade. Instead, gain the strength to throw them back.

17. There will be things you don’t want to do, but you need to do them anyway. I’m not just talking about doing laundry or homework or going to school. I mean challenging, difficult things. You may have to end a relationship with someone. You may have to attend your grandfather’s funeral. You may have to give up a once in a lifetime opportunity because God has called you elsewhere. You may have to take an opportunity you never wanted because God has told you to. You may miss chances to do things you really wanted to do because of certain, usually unavoidable, circumstances like who you are, where you live, who your parents are, or where you’re from. But you will eventually get over these situations and become stronger. You’ll look back and realize some of them were the exact things you needed to do, or not do, in order to be who you are, where you are, and how you are now. You’ll realize it was all in His plan and will for your life.

18. At some point, you’ll stop living in the present and you’ll look regretfully into the past or hopefully into the future. You’ll miss out on being young because you’ll be too focused on your future. You’ll stop hanging out with family or talking to friends because you have too much work from your AP classes that you chose to take so you wouldn’t have to take them in college. You’ll miss events and opportunities because you’ll be doing homework so you can get ahead for the future. You’ll spend so much time dreaming about and imagining your future that you’ll neglect relationships and opportunities now. You’ll imagine what your life will be like in 10 years, or 20, or 30.You’ll dream about where you’ll be, who you’ll be with, or what you’ll be doing. You’ll spend time rereading your past. You’ll look back with regrets and wonder what you could have done differently. You’ll be in such a rush to grow up you’ll forget to be young. Because you are dreaming about your future and retracing your past, you’ll neglect to create a present for yourself and prepare yourself for your future. Slow down. Breath. Relax. Because one day, you’ll be 18. You’ll be preparing for college, terrified for the future, and completely confused. And you’ll wish you were young again and could go back and cherish those days. So live in the now. But never forget your past or neglect your future.

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