By the time you turn 18 you realize that there is little you can do to predict or control a) bad weather and b) bad hair days. Here are 17 other things you’ll probably have realized by the time the 18th year of your life comes around. My 18th birthday is one month away and here are some of the things I have learned along the way…
1. You realize that a smile is indeed a very powerful and contagious infection and that all of us benefit from catching it every now and then. By the end of 17, you’re thinking, if no one else wants to start this amazing virtuous circle of smiling that brightens up everyone’s day- too bad for them- I will begin, with my smile. (Even if you didn’t think about this by 17, you got it now. Smile!)
2. You’ve realized by now that your favorite childhood novels, movies and music are forever going to be your fairy godmother and fond-memory-bank occupants. (How can I ever forget Harry Potter and Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide?)
3. I’ll-pretend-like-I-don’t-know-you is a real phenomenon. People you said “Hi” to and who spoke so happily to you only yesterday may ignore your today like you’re a total stranger. In that case, 18 years of wisdom says, wave more to them more crazily and say a louder, ‘Hi!’, until they can’t pretend any longer to be straight-up strangers. (If they still want to ignore you, they’re just missing out on your awesomeness.)
4. By 18 you realize that life is really, really short and unfortunately people you care about actually do die. This just gives you a million more reasons to say ‘I love you’ whenever and however you can. It is important to take on the practice of saying ‘Thank you’ for every moment you breathe and every second that you are able to love and live in this world.
5. By the time you turn 18 you realize how important it is for you to turn 18 because you’re (more than mildly) frustrated with all the consent forms that you have to beg and plead your parents to sign before you’re permitted to do practically anything with your life.
6. Heartbreak has happened, and sadly, will happen. But there’s nothing that a mint chocolate chip cookie ice-cream can’t fix right? (Wrong. By 18 you have to digest that there are some things that neither pralines nor mint chocolate chip can fix.) But then not everything in life needs be fixed, its okay that some things are imperfect. Leave the unfixable pieces behind, and move on.
7. By now you have realized that humans aren’t as smart as we like to think. Though science and religion give us many explanations, neither legendary geniuses nor anyone else have been able to answer the actually important and totally confounding questions that dictate the world around us. These questions include: What happens after death? Why are we here? Why is there evil in the world? By now we’ve figured out how most adults handle these defeating questions: by pretending they don’t exist. Now comes our own turn to decide how we’re going to handle them.
8. If turning 18 (like me) and STILL haven’t gone out on a real date (like me) you might slightly despair (like me). Well, you’ll also realize you shouldn’t. By 18, you realize that 18 is not the end of the world (hopefully); you got your whole life ahead of you, for more awesomeness, for true love, and for everything else.
9. If you want to feel loved, you’ve got to first believe that you are worthy of love and happiness. And by 18, you should have realized: You are worthy!
10. It is tiring and totally not worth it to pretend to be someone you’re not. By the time you turn 18 you realize that life is hard, and sometimes intimidating, but if you just be yourself, you can handle it so much better and more easily. (Then of course, “just being yourself” does take a lot of courage)
11. Reaching out for help can be a difficult thing, but it isn’t wrong, and man, it does help tremendously. By 18, you might begin to realize that vulnerability is actually a beautiful thing and there’s nothing wrong in feeling insecure. You can make some of the best connections with others by reaching out for help when you need it.
12. By 18 you realize that success need not be just measured through the common standards of fame, money, power and popularity. You realize that there’s more to life, like enjoyment, like screaming at the top of your lungs in an open ground at 4 am, like baking cookies for a midnight breakfast, like speaking to your absolutely cute crush for the first time, like laughing awkwardly with your best friends. All of this counts as success too!
13. By 18 you understand that your drawbacks, awkwardness, and insecurities are completely normal and that everyone feels the same way. These characteristics make you the uniquely amazing person you are. You learn to embrace both your light and dark and be equally proud of them both. (Or at least try to begin on that incredible journey of self-love).
14. You are kind of missing your childhood, slightly apprehensive about taking the responsibilities of an adult, and sort of nostalgic about end of school days. Remember all the days spent learning to ride the bike and playing teacher to imaginary students? (Well, I still play imaginary teacher…but that would be for another article)
15. You know by now that there are some mean people in the world, or some who love bathing in negativity and pulling you down in that unproductive spiral of gossip and sulking. Of course these are fundamentally amazing people, so try to show them light if you can. If the task defeats you, shake off the cynicism and import your own sunshine into the world. That’s the simple recipe to make life happier for everyone.
16. You’ve realized that nobody ain’t goin’ anywhere if they are not ready to work hard. The odds of a person winning a lottery is pretty close to zero and by 18 you know how challenging yet totally possible it is to reach your dreams. Seventeen years of Earth has taught you life is no easy business; till now your parents may have sweated it out so that you could live well and now its your turn to take to the hard work and live all your dreams.
17. And finally, through all this accumulated wisdom, you might realize how difficult it is to practically implement things we know too well in theory and in our thoughts. What sounds great in theory is tough to gain the courage or wisdom to get going…from asking someone out to starting a small online business, taking the first step can sometimes be the most difficult.
But that’s the real challenge of life, right? To act on the wisdom and thoughts whose implementation terrifies us… or at least to try.
Featured photo credit: just1snap via flickr.com