18 things I learned at 18

Today, April 7th, is my 19th birthday. I thought 19 would be an unexciting age. After all, there is little to look forward to at 19, milestone-wise. It’s just like any old birthday. Right? Well, it’s only been one day, but I have to say that 19 has been the exact opposite of unexciting thus far.

Everyone always asks the question, “Do you feel older?” on my birthday each year. I never feel older, or any different, than I did the day before. But this year I did. I do! I feel more alive today, which has been both the best and the weirdest thing ever. 

The smallest things made me cry, the simplest thoughts and memories made me laugh out loud, and the everyday sights and sounds were a million times more beautiful today.

Perhaps this is simply what happens when one practices gratitude intensely (and on my birthdays I always try my best to do so). In that case, this day was a lesson in itself to practice gratitude more regularly. Or, maybe, this is a one-day thing — just a blip —and tomorrow I’ll be back to “normal.” The world will be a little less colorful, I will be a little less emotional.

I really hope not, though, because I’ve learned today that being alive is a magical thing when you can truly feel it in every way possible.

18 taught me a lot. I look back on who I was a year ago and am astounded. I have changed so much, and I have learned more than I could have dreamed, despite not even being in school. So, alas…

Here are 18 things I learned at 18. (I learned far more than 18 things, but these are the life lessons I felt the need to document, in case I un-learn them any time soon):

  1. Waking up late does not mean I wasted the day; I have the power to make it a good one regardless of the hours on a clock.
  2. Writing, generally, makes me a less angry person.
  3. Spending time alone becomes less significant the more I do it — and it becomes more comfortable, too.
  4. I only have the energy to show up for people who I know would show up for me.
  5. “It could always be worse” is true, but it doesn’t dismiss the validity of my feelings. (This was/is the hardest thing I’ve begun to learn this year.)
  6. If it doesn’t make me feel good, it’s not for me, no matter how much I may want it to be.
  7. Every. Single. Job. is essential, in one way or another.
  8. Dreams change, and sometimes they disappear completely, but that’s okay.
  9. I need to listen to my body and my intuition!
  10. Heartbreak is not easy, but lack of heartbreak prohibits growth.
  11. It is a privilege to be privileged, and it would be a waste to not use it for good.
  12. Letting go of something that is no longer serving you can be simultaneously the hardest and best decision.
  13. Therapy is magic.
  14. I will never get to do or see or hear or read or meet everything/everyone I want to, but I can’t let that stop me from trying.
  15. As depressing as it sounds, in the end, the only person you can rely on is yourself.
  16. Taking responsibility and apologizing sincerely is a tough but crucial skill to have.
  17. Improving existing relationships is often just as wonderful as beginning new ones.
  18. It’s okay to take breaks.

So there you have it. 18 lessons from a former 18-year-old. Next year there will be 19 things on this list, but until then, I look forward to another year of learning and growing.

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