Dear 18 Year Old Me

Flickr/Carola Ferrero

Congratulations! You made it — gave the graduation speech as the president of your class before you head off to the Ivy League. Hats off to you about to become small fish in a big pond. I know you’re in a hurry to grow up and be cool. Don’t worry, you already are. Here are some other things to be aware of.

PrivacyFacebook was just created and you are ALL about connecting with new people and poking strangers, but..start limiting the pictures in which you’re tagged. Don’t post every lovey-dovey picture of you and your boo on vacation because you will probably break up then have to backtrack and de-tag or delete. I know one of your best qualities to be open and fun and honest but limiting your presence and your time on Facebook will keep things simple. This will help you stay sane post-college in terms of balance and not comparing yourself to others.

Money. You were great at math but never learned anything about real finances in high school. So, working through college for spending money that leaves your pocket as soon as it arrives is nice, but start forming a habit of depositing into a savings fund. Craft a real budget. Don’t buy things just because everyone else has it. Let’s be real: investing in luxury items is outside your budget.

Boys. Learn how to date. It is a skill. Learn how to communicate. It’s the most important skill in a relationship. Stop sticking to one type (basically the one who breaks your heart this summer) and see what happens. Don’t date beneath you or let men take advantage of you. Sure, you think you’re experimenting and being rebellious. But you deserve to be treated well. You simply deserve the best.

Personal Growth. Cultivate your identity, mind and persona. Figure out your likes and dislikes first. Keep asking and re-asking yourself, who are you? What do I stand for? What makes me happy?

Journal. Remember all those days in middle school when you were drawing hearts and doodling? You’ll find it fascinating to document and later read your innermost thoughts in these exciting years where change is happening all the time.

Meditate. This is a practice that will require careful observation and dedication throughout the years. Small steps. Sure you will start the physical practice of yoga, but the conscious awakening and focusing of the mind will provide a clearer picture and make you more compassionate as well as joyous in the long run.

Work. Figure out your added value: negotiate, negotiate, negotiate! Please lean in and think like a boss lady. You will come out of graduate school during the recession so any job will sound appealing. But at least start the practice of asking for more. If not the base salary, look for benefits or more vacation time, training opportunities. Think you’re reaching for the stars? Dream even bigger. And do it. Actually follow through without distraction. Build your net worth laterally. Okay, you’re great at networking and even mentoring. But what you’ll really need is a close, same-level industry circle of trust to bounce off ideas of, not your friends who won’t give you constructive truth bits. Why make enemies? Being competitive at work will not matter like high school. Lifting and supporting each other is greater. Create a writing circle or find your way into one.

Be open. To any opportunity, whether you initially think you’re not interested in or qualified for. Don’t have horse blinders on and get discouraged by being so single-minded. The universe sends you signals by opening doors. Listen for the knob to turn.

Friends & family. They are your support system that will not fail you. Build a strong foundation now because when you fall, they will serve to ground you and lift you up. Traveling to exotic places on your own is exciting but you’ll get fewer and fewer opportunities to see your mom, dad and brother. Hang out with the family. Holidays are not supposed to feel so lonely eating at the work cafeteria or constantly crashing at generous friends’ family’s basements.

Pinky promise. Organize an annual trip with your college girlfriends. Schedules will get more and more complicated. Make a pact to maybe do a girls’ weekend every Labor Day weekend or something. Maybe one day we can add husbands and babies and the distance is not shortened as much by Google Hangout.

You don’t need a million friends and followers. Numbers are nothing, really. Keep it real. Remember, you are so young. I know, it’s annoying when people tell you this. Life is much longer than you think. It’s just beginning. Enjoy the small moments. Also know that I am telling you all these things, but there are simply lessons you’ll have to learn the hard way, mistakes and all.

Good luck and God speed (and go to church).

Me (a decade later) Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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