My little brother is graduating High School in a couple of days and it has me thinking about my own High School graduation and the years that followed. Like all 18 year olds, I made mistakes and didn't listen to those who were "old" and "didn't understand." In fact, I probably would have rolled my eyes, put my hand up ("talk to the hand") and walked away. After all, I was an adult, and I knew everything, right?
Mike, I know I'm just your crazy older sister, but I love you very much and I am proud of who you have become. I've seen you make mistakes and I've seen you accomplish some amazing things as well. I have no doubt that you will grow to be an amazing man, and a proud US Sailor. Not all of these tid bits of advice are directly aimed at you, they are just musings of my past, but I hope you can find some wisdom in them somewhere and know that I am always here for you no matter what this crazy world brings you. I love you!
Things I wish I had known when I was 18
1. A credit card is not free money! I got my first American Express right before I turned 19 and I think I am still working on paying off that $2 hairbrush I bought! Interest adds up and the bills don't go away if you ignore the bill you get in the mail (and the phone calls). It only gets worse and more expensive. If you can't pay for it with cash, don't get it. If it is worth having, it is worth saving for! Also, paying the minimum amount due isn't good either. It's better than not paying it at all, but if you don't want to pay 3 X's as much in interest, pay more than the minimum and pay it off as soon as you can.
2. Travel now! Don't think that because you are young you can't travel. Now is the time to travel while you aren't tied down to a house payment, kids, loans, etc. Not that having a house and a family is bad, just that you can't up and leave on an awesome trip without a lot of preplanning and getting things ready. Instead of packing a bag and heading out the door, you will have to arrange for bills to be paid, mail to be forwarded, kids/pets to be cared for, leases and contracts canceled, and convincing people that you haven't lost your mind.
3. Follow your dreams! Follow what your heart tells you, not what other people expect you to do with your life. Take that photography class, take up the drums, or train to run a marathon (trust me; doing it later in life is rough!). Sure, only one in a million starving artist ever become more than starving, but it's better to be a happy starving artist than a miserable corporate working stiff if an artist is what you want to try. The worst thing that can happen is that you realize your dreams aren't all they are cracked up to be and you start having new dreams. Knowing that you tried for your dream is better than living the rest of your life wondering "what if..."
4. Lose the safety net. As much as you love your parents, they won't always be there to hold your hand and clean up after you. You need to start taking your responsibilities seriously and learn how to do things and take care of things for yourself. Yes, the thought of being out there on your own, in the wild blue yonder without something to catch you if it all goes wrong may make you feel like your stomach is doing somersaults, but trust me, it will be OK.
5. Don't be afraid to make mistakes. Mistakes are how people learn the best lessons about life. You live, you learn, you get on with your life and are better for the lesson you learned. Just be careful not to repeat your mistakes.
6. Don't worry about finding Mr./Ms. Perfect. Instead of trying to find someone who is amazing, BE amazing. Do things to better yourself that makes you feel good. Don't try to be someone you aren't to make someone fall for you because it won't work. You always end up being yourself and if the person you are with didn't fall in love with the "real" you, the relationship isn't worth it anyway.
7. Sometimes life isn't fair – get over it! Yeah at 18 I thought "I'm an adult, no one can make me do anything I don't want to do." Yes, at 18 in the eyes of the government, you are an adult. But with the freedoms of being an adult come responsibilities too. You aren't a child anymore so don't act like one if you don't want to be treated like one.
8. Make your own path. Don't take the road someone else wants to take if it doesn't seem right for you, even if it is going to the same place. You may wish to take a longer, more scenic route instead of rushing straight to your destination on the highway. Make a few pit stops along the way if you want!
9. Don't stop swimming (or running or doing whatever activity you love to do). In High School, swimming was my life. I never felt freer than when I was in the pool. College came and I slowly found other things to do that filled up my time and I slowly stopped swimming. It wasn't until a few years ago that I really got back in the pool again and I have again found the thing that makes me happy, peaceful, and centered. Not to mention the health benefits of staying in shape!
10. My parents are not controlling, stupid old people. In fact they are all loving, caring, wonderful (although a little wacky) people. I am lucky enough to have not only one set of parents, but two. One set who gave birth to me and made the most difficult choice in their life for me, and my adopted parents who chose me and took me into their home when they didn't have to do so. They seemed controlling to me only because they were scared for me and wanted to see me on the right path. They may have been ignorant of a lot of things that was going on in my life, but that was only because I didn't tell them what was going on, and they are by no means stupid. And...uh...they weren't that old when I was 18! haha :)
PS...Tequila is bad bad bad haha :) I'll leave it at that! ;)