I turned 18 last week, and I think there are a few things that I know now that I wish I knew before. A lot of changes have happened in the past year–some good and some bad–but there are some tips that I would have appreciated a year ago. These are by no means all of the lessons I have learned, but this is a good sample of them:

  1. Family is forever. They are the only people that know absolutely everything about you and still love you. Your siblings will always be there for you, and so will your parents. Don't ever take them for granted.
  2. Being perfect is unattainable. I promise you are beautiful the way you are. Every scar, freckle, stretch mark, or birthmark is unique to your body, and it makes you who you are.
  3. Say “I love you” every chance you get. The people that are important to you deserve to know that you love them. Say it so many times you get sick of it, because one day you will wish you had said it a million times more.
  4. If they don’t put in the effort, let them go. No one is ever worth that much time. Whether it be a boy, a friend, or a peer, if they don’t care enough to make time for you, you should use that time to find a better fit.
  5. Eat the piece of pizza. It won’t change your life, but it might make the day a little brighter. Just don’t make it a habit.
  6. You can’t change the past. No matter how hard you try, it is what it is. You can, however, shape your future. Focus on that instead.
  7. Home is where the heart is. But never be afraid to let your heart wander to faraway places and see the world. Your home will always be there. Don't let homesickness hold you back from your dreams. Distance really does make the heart grow fonder. It just makes the homecoming that much more rewarding.
  8. Never let go of something that brings you joy. If it makes you happy, screw what anyone else thinks. Those little moments of happiness will keep you going when things get hard.
  9. The friends that truly care will be there, no matter what. When you are going through a rough time, the people that are there for you are the true friends. Anyone who leaves you in the dust doesn’t deserve a place in your life.
  10. Don’t let your pain turn you bitter. I know it might be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to go through, but don’t let it turn you cold. Your heart will make it through. Apathy towards anything isn’t healthy. Prove anyone who doubts you wrong, and make it out the other side.
  11. Spread positivity. Other people need it. And when you make others happy, it often changes your mood as well.
  12. You are allowed to make mistakes. It's encouraged, actually. Fail a test, miss a practice, choose the wrong thing. It teaches you a hard lesson in life. It is okay to feel bad about doing something wrong ,but don’t let it consume you. One bad thing does not change your good heart.
  13. It is okay to not be okay. If things keep going wrong and you feel yourself slipping, it’s okay to fall. Sometimes the only way to get better is to give in to the suffering. When you are done, just remember to climb back out better and stronger than before. It is also perfectly okay to go home and figure it out. There is no shame in needing to go back before you go forward.
  14. You don’t have to explain yourself. Or apologize. If you need a night out, then go for it. If you need to pass on the party and take care of yourself, do it. Doing what is best for you never warrants an explanation. Don’t feel guilty for doing what you need to do to be happy and healthy.
  15. Have goals, and make them a reality. Once you find a passion for something, don’t let it go. No matter who stands against you, determination always wins. You can do whatever you put your mind to, and if things don’t go the way you planned, change the plan. Not the goal.
  16. Live your best life, every day. Take every day as a blessing. Use it to further your learning, and let go of the past. Don’t give in to the numbness of routines, break out of the norm.
  17. Finally, love who you are becoming. No matter the process, or where you are right now, love the person you have become. Remind yourself of the strength it took to be here and use that strength to move forward. You are capable of anything that comes your way.