Thursday, March 25, 2010

Advice to a Younger Me

I work in a college publications office, and right now I'm working on a story in which a group of alumni offer advice to their 18-year-old selves. I'm asking alumni of various ages what they would have told themselves if they could go back in time to that moment when they were first heading off to college. As of today, I haven't received many responses. The alumni I've spoken to about it are having a hard time coming up with an answer to such an open-ended question. Several of them are enthusiastic about participating in the project, but they've asked for more time to ponder their responses.

It really is a hard question, and that's why I thought it might be interesting to try to answer it myself. What would I tell my 18-year-old self?
  • Everything that you love isn't going to be there forever, but that's OK. You're going to love so many people and places and things that the loss of one doesn't have to be devastating. Invest in what you love, and trust that as you make more of those investments, the risk of each one lowers.
  • You don't have to be naive to trust people. You can trust others knowing full-well that they will probably hurt you at some point. You're going to get hurt whether you trust people or not, so you might as well reap the benefits that come from trust.
  • Stop worrying about boys. Eventually you're going to find one who likes you the way you are. After you're married, even he will start to find things to criticize about you, but by then that sort of thing won't bother you quite so much anymore.
  • Don't be so shy. The more you smile at people, the better their impression of you will be. Just relax and don't be afraid to talk to people. 
  • Everything changes as you grow. Things you can't even imagine will come to pass, and problems that seem huge now will eventually fade. Don't freak out if you can't see what the future holds—the future will come and find you when the time is right.
  • It's OK to be a little adventurous. Do some things that feel a little crazy (although you should try to stick to fun-crazy and bizarre-crazy, not dangerous-crazy or harmful-crazy). Enjoy being free-spirited now, because it gets harder to get away with it as you get older.
  • Tough times are coming, but I promise you're going to make it through. You'll be a better and happier person on the other side.
  • God is with you, whether you can feel Him or not. Don't get scared when you don't know where He is or what He's doing. You'll be able to look back and see His hand in your life in retrospect. I promise He will never leave you.
The funny thing is that when I look back over this list, I realize that I haven't fully mastered these lessons yet. These are all things that I didn't really know when I was 18 years old, but they're still applicable advice for me today. I can celebrate all that I have learned since I entered college while still recognizing that I struggle with many of the same core challenges (although perhaps in different ways). In some ways, my 18-year-old self has some good advice to offer me. She can remind me not to repeat the mistakes of the past and to rediscover some of the vivacity and joy that I have lost as I've grown older.

A bonus challenge to my readers:
What advice would you give your 18-year-old self? Feel free to share by leaving a comment.

1 comment:

Mel Bowman said...

One day, you will have to learn to make your own way in life; the sooner you start, the better.

Don't depend on other people for your happiness, but don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

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