Recently, I was asked by a dear friend from Colorado to contribute a few thoughts for a special scrapbook that she was creating for her soon-to-be 18-year-old daughter and recent high school graduate. I was deeply honored. I’ve known this delightful young woman since she was about five years old. And last summer, she served as an intern at our church in the Worship & Arts Ministries.
As I put pen to paper, I reflected upon what I wish I would have known when I was 18-years-old. Those things I wish someone would have told me in order to be better prepared to navigate this new journey called Adulthood. Now, there may be some points on this list for which you don’t agree, but that’s okay. Not to mention, I’m sure I missed a few things, here or there. What might you add to the list?
18 Things I Would Tell My 18-Year-Old Self
1. Set various types of goals: personal, spiritual, vocational, financial, travel, educational. Make them manageable. But at the same time, a little hard work is good for you, too!
2. If you don’t take anything away from these ramblings, please be sure to really understand and embrace this reality: You are and always will be enough, and you are absolutely never too much.
3. Begin now to establish healthy habits in order to take care of the temple that God gave you to steward: drink lots of water, eat fruits and veggies, get outdoors and enjoy physical movement, and go to bed at a reasonable and consistent time.
4. There’s a great big world out there: Go discover it! Seriously, take every opportunity that you can to see the world that God designed, meet the people He created, listen to their stories, eat their food, and take in the beauty of it all. It’s absolutely glorious!
5. Self-care is not selfish. No matter what season or stage of life, this is important. Doesn’t matter if you are a college student, a young adult, newly married, first-time mom, or a senior citizen, prioritize self-care. Take time for yourself, take care of yourself, and don’t feel guilty about it. (Check out Renewed by Lucille Zimmerman.)
6. Be purposeful about finding mentors: faith mentors, relationship mentors, even vocational mentors. One bit of advice: don’t ask folks to be your mentor. Usually, they’ll say no, because it sounds like too much work and/or incredibly time-consuming. Consider inviting them out for coffee to ask three pointed and specific questions. You might pose questions about their business/work practices; their successes and/or failures; their most trusted relationship advice or parenting tips; or their personal faith and spiritual formation practices. Depending upon their desired presence in your life, there’s many ways to engage in this type of connection. Face-to-face coffee chats are ideal. Conversely, much of my mentoring has happened via email or over Skype chats. Be respectful of their time, but learn all you can from them!
7. Establish and maintain healthy personal boundaries in all areas of your life. Trust me, there most definitely will be times when others can’t/don’t/won’t understand or respect yours. No worries. They are your boundaries. (There’s a great series of books by Henry Cloud & John Townsend on this very topic. Highly recommended reading.)
8. People over productivity. Period. People are always more important. Invest in what matters most.
9. Be an engaged listener. Actively listen to what people are saying. Not merely to respond with your own thoughts, ideas, or opinions, but to intentionally hear what they are sharing.
10. Don’t merely make God a priority, but realize that He is absolutely everything. Make Him the center of all that you do. And understand that your spiritual journey won’t look like anyone else’s. Intentionally practice various spiritual disciplines, not just reading the Bible and praying. Consider implementing times of silence and solitude into your life’s rhythms, as well as purposefully practicing Sabbath.
11. Don’t neglect friendships for dating relationships. No matter how much you love him or how amazing the dating relationship may be, make sure to maintain your friendships. Cultivating a tribe of female friends and creating time and space to engage and invest in those friendships is essential during every season and stage of your life.
12. Don’t allow various media outlets to determine your sense of style, beauty, or self-worth. Be the unique individual that God create you to be. Like wearing stripes with your polka dots? Well, then, go right ahead! Don’t allow a number on a scale to hold you hostage or determine your self-worth. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder and it’s reflected from the inside out.
13. Being married is not the ultimate goal for a Christian, male or female, following Jesus is. Pursue this relationship wholeheartedly and unapologetically. Unfortunately, the American church has not communicated an appropriate message regarding singleness. If many years down the road, you find yourself single, please understand there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you. You are not less-than, or second-class. And if this has been or ever is communicated to you, it is a lie from the pit of Hell.
14. In the same light, if it is God’s plan for you to get married, pursue someone who loves God more than you, makes you laugh, encourages you to dream big dreams, and definitely someone who views marriage through the lens of partnership and values teamwork.
15. Be a lifelong learner. No matter how much you know, you don’t know as much as you think you do. There’s always more to learn.
16. Financially, always live below your means. Even if you can afford more, bigger, or better, always ere on the side of frugality and generosity. Personally, I like how John Wesley puts it, “Gain all you can, save all you can, and give all you can.”
17. “NO” is a complete statement, a gracious response and a final answer. And it can be said without hesitation, explanation, or defensiveness–just a simple, “No.”
18. Learn from your mistakes, because there will be mistakes. Oftentimes, our greatest successes are borne out of our biggest failures. Don’t be afraid to try something new, to leap into the unknown. You don’t always have to have a plan. Take risks, even if they are more on the calculated side. But, mostly, enjoy life!