18 Things I Learned At 18

(I wrote these 18 things down between 12:00 a.m. and 12:10 a.m. on Tuesday, November 27th – my first ten minutes of being an adult)

1. You are not for everyone.

You know those things you do, believe in, or fight for? People aren’t always going to like them. In fact, it’s easier to assume nobody will stand by your side with that fire you have in your eyes. And that’s okay. Don’t change to fit the eyes of those who put your heart and mind down. You aren’t for everyone, but you will be for some people – these are your people.

2. Reach for the stars, but expect the clouds.

Because the clouds are still higher than the ground, but not as glorious as the stars. You should always reach as high as you possibly can, but don’t expect the world to hand you a place in the galaxy, or you will lose oxygen. You will get hurt. So expect the clouds, because those are soft and they don’t hurt so bad, and continue reaching as you were.

3. Dogs are the best emotional support system.

People are fine, sometimes they’re even really fine, but most of the time they suck because they can talk and they’re really (really) bad at emotions. Dogs can’t talk, they make great pillows, and they’ll listen to you without pitying you. Basically, dogs are to life as oxygen is to our lungs.

4. High school is not the real deal.

People will tell you this far before your entry into the 4-year subjective experience of high school. They’re right, except it won’t feel like it, not at first. That’s because we spend 7 hours, five days a week in an environment that can only consume our minds. High school is our world – for 4 years. 4 years out of an entire lifetime. Grasp that and you’ll be fine.

5. Hold onto the things that make you feel passionate and alive.

These things are your gold. You simply cannot fulfill your purpose without them. Why? Because when you find that thing, or things, that make your heart race to think about and that ignite your tongue on fire to speak about, you must notice the difference. Because there is a separation between all other things and the things that you were placed on this earth for – be it politics, art, traveling, love, you name it. Nothing is ridiculous if it has the power to grasp onto your heart like that.

6. You don’t need to have everything figured out by 18.

This one took time. In fact, I’m not sure I even believe it or follow it yet. At age 10, I had road mapped my entire life before me (I even had picked out what my husband would be named, because in my world I could do that). But now my vision of my future is entirely different, by every thread, from the one I had envisioned when I was 10, or 13, or 16, or even 17. And it will likely be different next week from what it is now. You cannot plan your life, try as you might.

7. Your feelings are always validated.

No matter what anyone says. And if you spill your heart out to someone you trust and they break you down and tell you that you’re being “over dramatic” or that you’re “wrong” or “difficult”….no. They’re wrong. Everything you feel is right, because each human is made from unique DNA. Nobody has the right to tell you what you can or cannot feel.

8. Keep your room clean, if nothing else.

Because when life feels like it’s crumbling to pieces, your bed will still be made and you’ll know where your favorite sleeping shirt is, and sometimes that’s enough to keep going.

9. The stuff you put into your body matters.

Apparently your greens are important (and this is the only time adults have proven to be right!). Cheeseburgers and nacho-cheese Doritos are all fun and games until you wake up one day and don’t fit into those jeans you wore everyday for seven years. Learn to love working out and put stuff into your system that will love you back. Oh, and become a vegan. Animals are our friends.

10. You do not have to go with the flow.

I mean, you can if you want to, and you might be happy for a while. I did; it felt great to be invited to all birthday parties and have snapchat streaks with people I barely knew. But then I realized that when I was alone, with nobody around me but myself, I didn’t know the person in my reflection. Even actors have to take five, so give your façade a break.

11. Write everything down.

I was exceptionally good at this – I still have a stack of old diaries, spiral notebook sheets, and printed notes that I’ve been collecting since third grade. Writing, even if you’re not good at it, is the best form of therapy. Think about it: you’re releasing your jumbled thoughts onto paper and then sealing them away between pages, never to be thought of again. Well, until you’re 18, reading through your fifth grade diary and wondering why you ever thought Jeremy would be the love of your life.

12. You will only ever experience each moment in this life one time.

So cheesy, but so true. I’ve spent a while now trying to learn the recipe for moments in my life that I wish to relive, and here’s the trick: there’s no recipe. Because unlike my mother’s cooking, every moment in our lives can only be made once; the feelings you remember cannot be duplicated. Don’t attempt to recreate something that happened – it already occurred and it was beautiful, congratulations. Just focus on creating more beauty in every moment.

13. You should take risks, but remember the value of comfort.

It’s all about balance. Should you go night swimming in jeans and a bodysuit with your best friend and two cute boys while all your peers drink heavily on the dry, boring beach? YES. But you should also come home to a warm bed and a sweater that smells like your laundry, because nothing else in the world smells quite the same.

14. If you feel like your voice isn’t being heard, speak louder.

You will probably get frequent negative reactions, but sometimes, just every now and then…you will reach someone to their core. Stand up for the things that make your mind burn with passion and don’t let a society that frowns upon independent young minds overtake the power to your own voice.

15. Let your mind get lost often.

Our subconscious is a crazy place and home to most of the world’s wildest ideas. Allow yourself to visit the depths of your mind, and find thoughts that would make a prepubescent boy say, “bro, that’s deep.” Your mind is your friend and there’s so much exploring to do there. Don’t remain in the shallows.

16. If you’re sad, hug Mom.

Or if you don’t have a mom, you can hug my mom. She gives the best hugs.

17. Sometimes you think it’s love, but it isn’t. And other times you try to convince yourself it can’t be, but it is.

A brief inquiry into teenage love: It’s either there, or it isn’t. I could spend an eternity trying to figure out what being in love should feel like, but I’m not sure I ever will. All I know is that there have been boys who I thought would be the end – and they weren’t. But then there was one, one boy who looked at me a little different, who made my heart beat in a different rhythm and made me smile bigger than normal. And I think that’s really just the difference. And maybe it won’t work out, because mine didn’t. You cannot beg someone to want you once they’ve hesitated. Only I’ve realized that maybe it’s okay, because I think we’re supposed to learn love from the people who cannot love us back. That’s how I know I didn’t love those boys before him, and haven’t loved one since.

18. Stop listening the second you hear the word “unrealistic.”

Because your dreams are going to be too big for small minds. Another person’s inability to understand your galaxy of a mind does not mean anything. Your dreams will save you from this harsh world; keep going little rocket. Besides, didn’t someone once say that the moon was an unreachable place? Bet that person feels foolish now.

(Pictured above: me, at approximately 18. Do I look wiser?)