Wisdom Comes With Age: 15 Things I Would Tell My 18-Year-Old Self

by Lauren Meili

There are some memories I wish I could replay every day for the rest of my life, like the week I spent in Cancun with my best friends, or getting my 20-page psychology paper back with a big “A” written across the top.

There are others I wish I could erase completely, like the time I fell down a flight of stairs in the middle of a party, or the utter heartbreak I felt when my boyfriend broke up with me.

All of my memories helped shaped me into who I am today.

I am thankful for my experiences, but I certainly could have used some guidance as I embarked on my journey that is young adulthood.

So, what would I tell my 18-year-old self if I could write her a letter today?

1. Forgive.

You won’t always be able to forget, but forgive for your own sake. There is no way for anyone to take back the past, even if he or she wants to, and you have to realize that.

Harboring resentment for the girl who kissed your boyfriend in high school will do nothing but hurt you. I’ve learned that holding grudges can eventually hinder your ability to function in everyday life; don’t let it control you, and leave the past in the past.

2. Your parents actually know what they’re talking about.

The nagging from your mom about how to properly wash your clothes and the lectures from your dad about trying your hardest and saving your money, quickly go from eye roll-worthy to words to live by.

I’ve too often brushed off their advice, and as I look back, it truly could have helped me.

This is the guidance I was too stubborn to accept, and if I had the opportunity, I would hit my 18-year-old self in the head like they do in the V8 juice commercials and make sure I listened to mom and dad.

3. Don’t be afraid to fall, literally or figuratively.

Sometimes, you’ll wear 6-inch heels. While wearing those heels, you’ll probably fall a few times on the concrete, in the dirt or on the floor of a party.

Other times, you’ll wear running shoes and drip over a rock in your yard. When you hit the ground, brush yourself off and get back up.

You’ll also fall in love. They call it "falling" because it literally feels like one of those dreams that wakes you up with a jolt, the ones where you feel like you’re free-falling off a cliff. Don’t shy away; it’s frightening, but it’s a beautiful part of life.

4. When you love someone, work at the relationship. Fight for it.

Finding love is so much rarer than you might believe. However, even at 18 years old, it’s real.

Hold on to who you love and don’t let any ridiculous circumstance change your mind, whether it be fully “experiencing” college or having a hard time with a long-distance relationship.

Always follow your heart and don’t allow anyone else to dictate who your significant other should be. Love hard, but if it isn’t reciprocated, know you tried your best.

5. Study, work hard and never dumb yourself down for a guy.

As my seventh-grade history teacher once told me, “smart is sexy.”

Back then, I thought that idea was dumb — just like I thought I had to be in order to be viewed as desirable. There is no substitution for a big brain and the confidence to use your intelligence.

From facts you learned on "Jeopardy!" to definitions you learned in class, it’s all important. The older you get, the more you’ll realize that intelligence is a quality you'll want in men and men will want in you. It’s a trait you should want for yourself as well. It’s okay to be smart; don’t ever give that up for anyone.

6. Females should stick together.

As Miss Norbury taught us in "Mean Girls, we “have got to stop calling each other sluts and whores. It just makes it okay for guys to call us sluts and whores.”

Yes, we can vote and we’re on our way to equal pay, but women have it hard enough in today’s society. There is no reason to turn on one another and bring each other down. Stop slut-shaming; dress as you please and let others do the same, but be careful.

7. Confidence is everything.

Why are you so afraid to take public speaking? Why won’t you ask that guy for his phone number? If you think you can do it, you often can.

Stop comparing yourself; resist the urge to focus on your flaws and instead focus on all of your redeeming qualities. Guys have told me that confidence radiates off a woman, often drawing them in. A confident woman is irresistible. Be confident in yourself and all else will come to you.

8. Your heart will break. Make the best of it.

Always know you’ll be okay, and that it’s okay to be hurt. Don’t set a deadline on when you can stop crying, and don’t let anyone tell you you’re not allowed to be upset.

Heartbreak can rule your life, but it’s so important to pick up the pieces at your own pace and move along. There is always someone who won’t make you cry and wants the best for you. Find that person.

9. Show emotions with your whole heart.

Love with every part of you. When you’re happy, jump for joy. When you’re angry, scream at the top of your lungs.

Laugh until you cry and cry until you laugh. Nothing in life is for certain, so there is no time but now to feel your emotions so intensely. There are few things in life as pure as your own feelings, and there is nothing wrong with being sensitive.

10. Hold your friends close because you will hold your memories closer.

This is real, though it may seem like a dream. It’s your first glimpse of freedom from high school and parents’ rules, and college is almost like a little village where all of your friends live.

It will end, and it will end in the blink of an eye. Tell your friends how much you love them now, spend your time running around and doing crazy things and live every moment with them to the absolute fullest. This time will come to an end quickly, and the memories will mean everything to you. Hold on to them.

11. A watched pot never boils.

So clichéd, I know. You want a boyfriend, so you go out with the best intentions to find one right way. Stop it. Situations like this make you blind to all else around you.

Those most deserving of our affection rarely get enough credit. The friends who listen to you complain about not getting a text back, the guy you friend-zoned, your parents who sat and listened to your tears fall from the other end of the receiver… focus on them.

In time, what you’re wishing for will manifest in your life; stop searching for happiness; instead create your own. That will guide the right person into your life.

12. Know when to put your phone away.

Social media can ruin your life, plain and simple, from top friends on Snapchat, to Facebook pokes to likes on Instagram. Our phones rule us, and we don’t know when to stop.

There have actually been instances when I’ve kept my phone ringer on loud so I could answer a text message in the middle of the night, and it’s destroyed my night’s sleep many times.

One of the hardest lessons is how important it is to live your experiences to the fullest, rather than through a camera or description via text message. Don’t let a little block of wires and radio waves rule your life.

13. Exercise, eat well, and take care of your body...

You only get one, and 40-year-old you will thank 18-year-old you for not being hard on yourself.

Think twice before you go out wearing shorts in December, or wearing heels on an icy sidewalk. Drink water instead of soda, don’t eat too late before you go to bed and go to the gym when you have time. It really is a great stress-reliever.

14. ...But some junk food won’t kill you.

Pizza is not poison, eating some chips won’t kill you and there are far more important things to worry about than having the most toned body.

You’re still beautiful if you’re not a size 2, and if your thighs touch, that’s alright. Don’t be so hard on yourself. Your metabolism will only slow down as you age, so take advantage of it now.

15. Keep your personal life personal.

If your business is plastered all over social media, it’s no longer just your business. A post can never be taken back, and it’s not always under your control.

So, be careful what you wear, how you act and how you pose.

Look out for yourself, and surround yourself with people you trust not to disclose your personal information to others.