When we were growing up, our 18th birthday signified we became adults and were ready to take on the world. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and legally we were prepared for battle. Most of thought we had “figured out” life, and that mentality was actually very commonplace.
It’s easy to look back now and realize how naive and misguided that assumption was versus how much growing it took – and still takes – on a daily basis to claim the title of a bonafide “adult,” and have the stature, knowledge, and life experience to support that claim.
Here are 10 things we wish we knew on our 18th birthday about life and what it means to be an adult:
1) All advice is not created equal: be selective on what sources you receive advice. Some adults are simply not qualified to give you advice on certain topics. For example, never take advice from an unhealthy doctor, broke accountant, or skinny chef. If someone has never moved to New York City to become a fashion designer or moved to Los Angeles to become an actor or moved to San Fransisco to become a tech company founder, they don’t have the life experience to say you shouldn’t make the move. One of our favorite quotes is “don’t let someone convince you to give up on your dreams just because they gave up on their dreams.”
2) Follow your passions: this doesn’t mean eating a large pizza by yourself or staying up for two days straight. It means if you had a choose a career, activity, task, or adventure that won’t pay you a cent – but you would do it anyway – what would that be? The answer will fall close with what you are passionate about.
3) Skip the critics: the crew here at the Freckled Fellow have noticed a trend in that we get criticized daily. This comes from people close to us, complete strangers, and every person in between. The topics are the who, what, where, when, why, and how we approach life. We also noticed another trend: criticism doesn’t add value. This is why you should learn to tune it out, and tune in to when a trusted friend is trying to help you with valuable tidbits. The way to tell the difference is pure criticism sounds like “you suck,” “your project was horrible,” “that ABC decision was stupid,” etc., where the point is to put you down. Great advice is different because it lifts you up, noting “I was wicked impressed by how awesome you were talking to XYZ person / handled that situation. I just read this cool article that I want to share with you called (insert title) that fits in perfectly for this theme.”
4) Be weird and original and authentic: if you could see an image of your soul, that is what your inner core, being, person, and hard-wired persona would look like the day you were born. Over time (and as we grow up), crushing standards are placed on how you should look, act, and be in life. Unfortunately, many times this expectation is not consistent with what your soul defines as the happiest version of yourself. The further you get away from your core, the more unhappy you become. When you wake up tomorrow, be yourself, think for yourself, and don’t be afraid to get a little bit weird. You might actually like it.
5) It will take another decade before you find yourself: you will go through major life shifts from 18-22 (college), 22-26 (first job), 26-30 (second job, graduate school, get married) that will dramatically impact your way of thinking, value systems, and specific goals. Be open to change and experience as much culture, different people, and travel as possible. The person you are at 28 will be really different – or – even the complete opposite – as the 18 year-old that stared back at you in the mirror.
6) You’re 100% responsible for your own happiness, success, and challenges: so stop comparing yourself to others, and start focusing on the inner you. The reality is you don’t know the entire story behind people you read about today that are extremely successful or extremely sad. Life throws everyone curve balls, and sometimes you hit it out of the park, and sometimes you strike out. If you’re going through a rough patch, while friends might help you feel better or do you favors, it’s ultimately up to you to make a conscious decision that tomorrow will be better because today you are different.
7) Careers are not everything: when you graduate from college, you trade a classroom for a cubicle (or lab, field, car). It’s nice to actually get paid instead of having to pay for everything, and life is good. As you age and have a greater awareness of your limited time, you start doing the math (104,000 hours is the lower end of a career) and asking yourself “is what I’m doing what I want to spend the rest of my career doing?” For a lucky few, the answer could be Yes, but for most of us, it’s No. When you have kids of your own, find your passions, and have more life experience, you realize there are more important things than your career. It’s important to be professionally successful to pay the mortgage, college tuition, save for retirement, and take a nice vacation – but it’s not everything.
8) Read every day: the more you read, the more your realize you don’t know. The good news is reading can take you on adventures and expand your mind in ways you never thought possible. It can be fun and exciting. Don’t think about reading like a required book for a course that might be a bit dry – think of it as seeing a title or getting a “must read” recommendation from a friend. Curl up with a good book.
9) Tough times don’t last – tough people do: just like we hear “the only thing constant is change,” people will inevitably change, including your current social circle. We grow apart, we argue, we take different paths. The real people in your life that matter are those that are in it for the long haul, especially when you’re down on luck. Do as much as you can to stay in touch with these tough people. Don’t put up with those that sandbag your soul and bring you down. They won’t be around for long, anyways.
10) Giving back is the meaning of life: it’s nice being happy, healthy, and successful. It’s even more fun when you can give back and create that same state of being for others. The easiest way to do this is through community service, helping non-profit causes, and at volunteering at school events. However, you can also do it much more subtle ways, such as giving a compliment to a stranger, making a donation to a positive campaign, or allowing a struggling college student to smile because you let them know they have a bright future.