I would like to think I have a lot more figured out now than I did four years ago. The world hasn’t become any easier to handle, but I’ve equipped myself with (some of) the skills necessary to handle it. Here are some things that would’ve made life a lot smoother if I had known them when I was 18:
1. Save your money.
I took for granted how cheap it was to live with my parents. When I was 18, I was going to community college (which my parents were paying for), living at home for free, and making even more money than I do now because my lighter class workload allowed me to spend a lot more time at work. How did I show my appreciation for all of the favor life was showing me back then? By eating out with friends constantly, buying way too many clothes and products, and taking lavish spring break trips. I wasn’t the most fiscally irresponsible young adult out there, but I really wish I had placed more importance on saving. Now, as a senior in college, classwork makes it nearly impossible to work more than 25 hours a week, and last I checked, staying alive hasn’t gotten any cheaper. Take advantage of fortunate periods in your life, and view them as an opportunity to save, not spend.
2. Sometimes it’s more important to be productive than to be social, and that doesn’t mean you are being antisocial.
I’ve always strived to be a productive citizen, but when I was younger, I dealt with a lot of mental stress in my daily life due to constantly being pulled between productivity and fun. It’s okay to say no to a night out because you have a homework assignment, or you have laundry to do, or you have a project next month that you just really want to get started on. You don’t have an obligation to hang out with other people, especially if your to-do list is out the door and into the next state. Making time to engage with others is definitely important, but do it at your discretion. Do it when you feel comfortable taking some time off.
3. Speeding tickets are expensive.
This might seem obvious, but I really had no idea. I thought, maybe $50? Of course, it depends on where you are, but I finally got pulled over for the first time last year and drove away with a $200 ticket! I literally couldn’t even afford to pay it by the time it was due, so my parents had to help me out. It’s not that I wasn’t scared of getting pulled over all those years, but I think after a certain point, you begin to feel this false sense of invincibility. “I will never get pulled over!” Yes, you will, and it will be expensive. Just don’t speed.
4. Social media does not equal real life.
I think when we’re young, we get so preoccupied with appearance and reputation that we think the success of our social media profiles actually has a connection to our success in real life. This is the case for some people (like professionals), but definitely not for young adults. I used to put so much time and energy into making sure my social media life was going perfectly. Organizing my night out so that I could get the right photo for Instagram. Waiting until the right time frame to post that photo so I could get more likes. Making sure I was responding to every person on Snapchat with something clever or impressive. If social media is fun for you, have at it. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that devoting hours of time to it is going to have any real effect on your real life.
5. It is not okay to sacrifice sleep. And that does not give you bragging rights.
If I had a tagline when I was eighteen, it was, “Oh no, I didn’t get any sleep again because I was out all night being cool, my life is so rough.” Guess what? It isn’t cool to not sleep. It might seem like 5 or 6 hours of sleep is sufficient, but making that a regular part of your lifestyle has an insane impact on your mental health. I can’t believe how often I used to sacrifice sleep for other things (that probably didn’t actually matter), because now I rarely budge from my eight-hour sleep routine.
6. Your parents are cool, and they often know what’s best for you.
I don’t speak for all situations, because every situation is different, and not everyone was blessed with good parents. I have amazing parents, whom I didn’t fully appreciate when I was 18. We definitely didn’t have a bad relationship, but I didn’t realize how great they actually were, and I didn’t go out of my way to empathize with them or understand their opinions and desires. Now, I love being with my parents. I would choose to hang out with them over a lot of people. Take the time to form a good relationship with your parents, because they’ll be there for you a lot longer than most of the people in your life.
7. Now is the time to focus on you.
Don’t get wrapped up in pleasing other people. Some struggle with this more than others. It seems like everyone I know has a chaotic schedule (especially college students), and we need to be respectful of each other’s routines. When I was younger, I would agree to so many favors for so many people that I didn’t have enough time for my own needs. Need your shift covered? Need help writing a paper? Need a free babysitter? I had it covered…but not really. I was miserable half the time, and it was no one’s fault but my own. I needed to learn where to draw the line. It’s okay to be a little selfish, especially at a time in your life when you should be exploring yourself and crafting a future.
Cover photo found here.