Last month I celebrated my 18th birthday and felt like I had reached a milestone I’ve been waiting forever for: adulthood! I originally wanted to write an article titled “18 Lessons I Learned At 18” but then I realized how difficult it would be to come up with 18 lessons and act like I have all this wisdom (because I really don’t have much wisdom). So instead, I thought listing my top songs, poems, movies, books, and songs that I have grown up with and gotten me to where I am now would be fun! Here’s the list and the corresponding lessons:
I’m starting with the category that’s going to make me seem the most intelligent and wise, and so here are three poems I love:
This poem is a little out there but in the best possible way. I first read it during the eighth grade on one of the last few days of school as a graduation activity. The author offers lots of serious and silly advice to the readers, and it’s definitely a poem to make you think. Despite the silliness, I found it very profound and have tried to absorb the advice as much as possible. The lesson I’ve taken away from this poem is to enjoy all of life, not just the good or perfect parts of life (because those are too few and far between).
I think Gorman delivered with this inaugural poem — in a nation divided by so many things, she truly made it her mission to write a poem full of unity and hope. I’m sure many people have already heard this poem because they watched the inauguration, but I encourage you to go back to it and read it for yourself. Gorman wrote a poem that shouldn’t stay just an inaugural poem, but should be a poem for any occasion that wants to celebrate human endeavors! A big lesson I took away from this poem is to be more understanding of faults and flaws — they often don’t show shortcomings but rather works in progress.
I first read this poem during my freshman year of high school and it has stuck with me ever since. I just couldn’t seem to get it out of my head. This heart-wrenching poem tells the story of a young girl’s fascination with men that ends when she’s assaulted by one. It is a story of innocence and heartbreak, one I think a lot of young women can relate to. So in feminist fashion, the lesson I took away from this poem is that men aren’t all that; instead of obsessing over all men, try to find a good one and stay away from the bad ones.
Now on to movies. I’m not a huge movie fanatic but I’ve definitely watched quite a few that have stuck with me over the years so finding just two that have provided me with the biggest lessons was very difficult:
Good Will Hunting
It’s an amazing movie with an amazing cast. This movie is about a 20-year-old genius who is a janitor at MIT and gets convinced to undergo training and psychotherapy after getting in trouble. Throughout the movie, Will (the genius) is challenged to understand his past of abuse by his therapist Sean, and the two form a special bond. The lesson this movie taught me (besides the fact that Matt Damon can really act) is that pushing away other people’s help is a form of self-sabotage. If someone is offering you genuine help and they want to make you a better person, take it by all means.
This 1996 movie was one of my favorites growing up and I’ve watched it too many times to count. The movie centers on a young girl named Matilda who is neglected as a child, and forms superpowers as a result. She works with her friends and a kind teacher to get her mean principal kicked out of school. I think the reason why I loved this movie as a child was that I wanted superpowers just like Matilda — what child doesn’t want superpowers? But the main lesson I took away from the movie was not that superpowers would be really cool but that being kind can be really cool. The sheer difference between Matilda’s kind teacher Ms. Honey and her mean principal Ms. Trunchbull and her neglectful parents is astounding, and it shows just how far kindness can go.
I don’t read that many books anymore, but I used to love books as a kid and I would constantly be reading. I mostly stuck with fiction, but I would read anything I could get my hands on, so here are two inspirational books I’ve read:
The Secret Life of Bees
This is my favorite book of all time! The book, written by Sue Monk Kidd, details the story of a young girl Lily who escapes her abusive father and is taken in by three Black beekeeping sisters who are very eccentric and live according to their own rules. Although the main point of the book is to emphasize the irrationality of racism, there are also the themes of innocence, love, determination, and kindness. It’s a beautiful book, and the main lesson I took from it is how important nurturing and loving relationships can be. Although the book is probably for a middle school or high school level, I would say give it a shot — you won’t be upset you did!
Anne Frank’s Diary
I think most of us have read this book, maybe even for school, but it remains one of my favorites because of its vulnerability and innocence. For those who don’t know, the book is the diary of a young teenage girl named Anne Frank during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands. It was a reality check when I first read it. It made me so grateful for the life I have because Anne remained hopeful throughout one of the worst tragedies in history. Anne’s fears, worries, hopes, and dreams made me relate to her in so many ways even though our stories are very different. A lesson I learned from this diary is to remain hopeful no matter what — if a small girl facing life or death remained hopeful and kind throughout it all, then I can too.
I listen to music way more than I read or watch movies now so it was really hard picking just two songs out of the many I love. I believe music is such a simple but powerful way to connect people:
“Hunger” by Florence and the Machine
This song is featured on Florence and the Machine’s fourth studio album, High as Hope. Throughout the entire album, Florence is vulnerable as she explores some of the deepest parts of herself and life, but this song especially gets to me. Throughout the song, she touches upon her struggles with eating disorders and addiction and describes the hunger she has felt in parts of her life when she has looked for love in things that were not love. Even if we haven’t experienced the things Florence struggled with directly, her lyrics transfix the audience and help them relate. A lesson I learned from this song is that the things that harm us can never love us, and the hunger we all feel can’t be satisfied by anything addictive and harmful but rather by surrounding ourselves with the people we love.
“You’ll Never Walk Alone” by Gerry and the Pacemakers
This song couldn’t be more different than the last, but it is phenomenal nonetheless. The 1963 cover song (I know, throwback!) by a U.K. band was originally a show tune from the musical Carousel (which I had no idea about until now). The upbeat message combined with the upbeat tune makes me smile every time. Even if old music isn’t your thing, this timeless song still deserves a listen. The lesson I’ve taken away from this song is pretty simple — whether you have angels by your side or people in the flesh, you’ll never walk alone!
I hope you enjoyed my top poems, movies, books, and songs from my past 18 years! And I hope you decide to read a book or poem from this list, watch a movie from this list, or listen to a song from this list, and take away the lessons I did as well as find inspiration and learn new lessons!