I remember it like it was yesterday. Three months ago, August 5th, I lay in my bed with blasting air conditioning as I watched the time tick until midnight of August 6th, when I would finally be 19. An adult for an entire year, already. My mom wasn’t lying when she said time goes by fast; it’s important to cherish the memories and reflect on how you’ve grown.
“Let me pull out my notes app,” I said. I never thought I would be sharing these mini-life lessons as I wrote them as a personal memo, but I think it’s important to share them with others so they can reflect on their own growth, too.
Here are my last raw thoughts of being 18, 18 life lessons I learned at 18 (and my first year at UCLA!):
1. Have fun, do new things, yolo.
Especially coming fresh out of high school, you might think you were limited to the person you were and feel scared to try new things. However, that was a kid thinking, and now you’re an adult. You need to have fun, so cherish your time filled with positivity and new experiences.
2. You are who you hang out with.
This is a major one. After some self-reflection, I realized that I make unconscious decisions influenced by the people I hang out with. This can be upbuilding or detrimental.
3. Stop caring or assuming what people think of you.
Personally, I think FOMO should be documented as a new disease (I’m kidding, but not really). Once you stop caring about what people think, you will be free.
It doesn’t matter if you’re eating at the dining hall by yourself because you’re stressed out about that epidemiology midterm tomorrow (I’m talking to you, nursing fam) and it doesn’t matter if you need to go to the library to study by yourself because you can only focus when you’re on your own (speaking from experience).
Don’t let all of this get to your head. Maintaining relationships and friendships is important, but learning to be independent is even more important. As my “brother” likes to say, “You need to be self-sufficient.”
4. How you dress affects your mood.
As someone who wore a uniform from middle school to high school, I realized that I lost a part of my identity and creativity during this time period. Expressing yourself through fashion allows you to be comfortable in your own skin and show the world who you really are.
5. Body language > verbal language.
What you say is important, but as they say, actions speak louder than words. More specifically, body language speaks louder than words. Try to be more open with body language and not closed off in order to become a better communicator.
6. Dedicate time to platonic relationships, not just romantic ones.
Romantic relationships are a wonderful addition to life, but you should dedicate and reciprocate energy into your friendly platonic relationships as well. Don’t ditch your besties for your new bae! (I mean you want lifelong besties as your bridesmaids at your wedding, right?)
7. if you think something nice, tell someone. It makes a difference.
Being genuinely nice costs absolutely nothing. You never know what someone is going through and how you can make a difference with a small compliment.
8. manifestation is real, so believe in yourself.
Having faith in yourself and determination is the key to success in life. This is true both academically and socially, so try your best to refrain from sitting in negative energy.
9. the music/entertainment you consume shapes you, so pick what you want to become.
Listening to new music and watching new shows are fun, but they can deeply impact you as a person. If you realize that you feel bad or sad when you consume a particular genre, maybe it’s time to try something else.
10. Love is a beautiful thing.
Just like Conrad spending hours on the phone with Belly at Brown, it’s important to make time for loved ones. Despite this, it’s filled with a roller coaster of emotions that can be exhilarating (and make you feel high on life) or it might feel like you’re on Kingda Ka, the world’s tallest rollercoaster (that I would never DARE go on). Regardless, you can learn so much more about life through love, even if it was just for a while.
11. don’t bottle your emotions, talk to someone.
Even if you don’t have a therapist, expressing your feelings to someone you trust makes a difference. It can be scary to do this, but based on my experience, it’s worth it.
12. self-care is important.
Especially with the stress of UCLA, it’s important to take the time to relax every once in a while (until your next midterm in a week). Do something that makes you feel zen! Try some yoga, take a sunset walk or maybe treat yourself to a fresh manicure. Unfortunately, I don’t think a bubble bath would be quite possible in a communal bathroom.
13. Learn when to let go, but don’t quit.
When a situation is toxic, whether it may be in your career or another aspect of your life, it is important to understand when you need to let go. However, you should not quit just because things get difficult. There is a difference between needing to leave a situation and giving up on a situation.
14. Speak up for others when they cannot.
When given the opportunity, try to speak up for others in situations when they cannot. Wouldn’t you want someone to do that for you? Answer: YES!
15. Even at the same age, everyone is at different places.
Everyone has different backgrounds and life experiences so even if you’re born on the exact same day at the exact same time, you could be at two completely different places.
One person may have their shhh together and their whole life planned out, while another person might still be depending on their parents to help them unpack their heavy mirror for their dorm and asking friends to help them loft their bed (that’s me). Nothing is wrong with either of these, but it’s important to understand that everyone is at different places in life, so you should not be comparing yourself to others.
16. Communicate your boundaries, despite the discomfort of the conversation.
This is a MAJOR one. My life motto is to make every day the best day for myself and those around me, but there are limits. You need to be able to communicate boundaries in order to live the life you want and deserve. If you don’t agree with something or don’t feel comfortable doing something, then don’t. You can’t take back something you already did.
17. Friendships can fade, respark and pop up out of nowhere. Expect the unexpected & enjoy the ride.
Friendships are beautiful and anything can happen. An acquaintance can turn into a bestie, an old friend can come back from “the dead” (or the pits of your undeleted messages from four years ago) and some may slowly fade. I really enjoy the friendship theory by Hello Hayes. She goes on to explain the roles that different friendships serve.
18. Put in the effort to make yourself feel confident; it’s contagious.
Just like Demi Lovato famously sang, confidence makes us feel ready to tackle the day. It makes us fearless and happier. This is contagious too, and can rub off on those around us!
Although I’m only 19 today, I value the experiences that I’ve had and all of the people that I’ve met. The crazy stories, all of the tears and an insane amount of laughter have all built me into the person that I am today. I think I’ll turn this late-night reflection into a tradition, so I can continue to grow each year.
Who knows, maybe you can expect 19 things I learned at 19 next year!